I Finished, and I Didn’t Die!!!

What a weekend!  Buckle up, because I have a feeling this is going to be a long post….

We’ll start with Thursday.  Thursday after work, I picked A up from school at 5.  We then wandered around some antique shops downtown, went to dinner (Thai food…I tried something new.  Tofu RED curry.  Not as good as green, but still tasty).  We then went to her art school’s open house.  It was nice…but LONG.  We finally left around 845, got home just after 9, and I frantically started packing.  I got to bed around 1130, slept like poo, and then was up at 330am.

Friday was a day of travel and exhaustion and drinking.  I left home at 415am for the drive to Richmond (my plane ticket was several hundred dollars cheaper to fly from there…but had to live with the nearly 2 hr drive).  I got there at 6am, checked into my flight, made it through security, and proceeded to my departure gate.

They board by calling what zone you’re in.  I was in zone 4 (the very last), so I kept sitting while they boarded everyone else.  They board families traveling with small children, elderly or handicapped, then zone 1, zone 2, and zone 3.  It’s all proceeding very smoothly…until they stop with zone 3.  Meanwhile, there are about 20 or so of us still waiting to be called forth to get on the big plane.  After 5 minutes or so, 6 people come storming off the plane, approach the counter, and start yelling.  I’m not sure what all the ruckus was about, but my guess it had to do with people wanting to switch seats….which they announced several times that our flight was full and there would be no seat assignment changes.  After 10 minutes or so, those 6 people re-boarded, and then our lonely little zone 4 was called.

I get to my seat (an aisle seat near the front of the plane) and I’m put next to Paul Bunyan.  This man was HUGE.  Both tall and wide, he made for a less than ideal travel companion.  It didn’t help that he was a jerk too….through most of the flight between Richmond and Atlanta, he kept elbowing me in the head as well as encroaching on nearly half of my seat.  I’m miserable, he’s a putz, and I eventually lost my cool.  After the millionth time of being smacked in the head, I glared at him.  He very nastily said “What?!?!  I can’t help it…I’m tall!”.  To which I respond…also quite angrily “Are you kidding me??  You don’t think you can be tall and still manage to NOT hit me constantly…in the HEAD?!?!”.  He said a few more nasty things, to which I finally replied, “Listen, I paid for my seat, NOT you, so kindly get out of it and stay out of it.  I don’t care how uncomfortable you may be.  Next time…buy 2 seats or drive to your destination.”.  It was embarrassingly nice to see him try and squish up on himself to stay in the middle seat.  I imagine he was also encroaching on the person in the window seat.  I frankly don’t care.  All the blows to the head (coupled with the long drive and little sleep) gave me a headache and made me less than civil by the end of the flight.

I got to Atlanta and slowly wandered to my gate.  I was wicked early, but didn’t want to pay the Internet access fee, so I listened to my iPod and texted with my husband a bit.  The plane was on time, and boarding was a breeze.  Only problem…smelly, rude, old guy was my traveling companion this time.  Ewww. 

On a nice note, the woman sitting across the aisle from me was wearing a Chicago Marathon fleece vest, so I asked her about it.   She’s a marathon veteran, and this was going to be her 4th time doing Chicago, though she’s done many all over the world.  It was also her first one many years ago – and her favorite.  She was giving me some advice about not going out too fast, etc.  She was really nice and encouraging, and told me that I wouldn’t even notice the first 10 miles because the atmosphere is so groovy.  At that comment I thought her nuts (she’s obviously in running shape and probably thinks these things are easy anyway!).  I smiled, said thanks and good luck, and we deplaned and went our separate ways.

I landed in Chicago around 1130am as planned, got my luggage with no problems, and took the bus to the car rental place.  After nearly an hour long wait in line (they were busy and grossly understaffed), I got up to the counter.  It’s not the employee’s fault that things were going so slowly, and I noticed how rude some of my fellow travelers were, so I made a point of being extra nice to the woman behind the counter.  It doesn’t cost me anything, and just may make her day a little less awful.  To my intense surprise, she gave me a free upgrade to a nice car with a sunroof and everything.  Good karma!

I drove up to WI to pick up my parents.  We took a side trip to drop their car off at the train station, pick up some Starbucks (I was totally wiped by this time), and made our way SLOWLY back to Chicago.  I took off my shoes since I now know there is no law against it after all!

I need to interject here and introduce Darla.  Darla is my GPS unit, and I never travel without her.  My friend S had gotten mad at me last February when I got lost trying to find the rental house in Nags Head because my printed google directions had the wrong address.  Anyway, she admonished me for not having GPS, and got me one!  The first time I used it, it was telling me to turn right ahead…but what it didn’t know, is that it was a 4 lane road in rush hour, and I couldn’t get over to turn.  It kept yelling at me, and I finally yelled back “Shut up Darla, I’m trying!”.  Every since, it has had a name and a personality.  And EVERYONE (friends and family alike), refer to her as Darla.  She generally gets me where I need to go….sometimes in a circuitous route…but I pretty much always get there.

So anyway, after fighting a ton of traffic, Darla got us to the Hilton in Chicago.  We pile out of the car, grab our bags, go to the counter, to find we’re at the wrong one!  Not Darla’s fault…D programmed the wrong Hilton into her before we left, though he meant well and was only trying to help me by pre-programming Darla with all my known destinations in Chicago.  My Dad is cursing my husband and my parents and I repack up the car, pile back in, and start hunting for the correct Hilton…which was actually attached to the airport.  Darla fritzed out a bit, but we eventually got there.  The girl at the hotel was nice, put us in rooms next to each other and close to the elevator.

By this time, it’s 530pm, and I’m starving and exhausted.  The three of us head to the Italian restaurant in the hotel for dinner.  Tony – the Sous Chef – made me a special vegan off-menu delight of wide rice noodles, tomatoes, and veggies.  He also made a cheese-less bruschetta appetizer.  Yum!  I ordered some red wine, my dad a Grey Goose martini, and my mom a brandy old fashioned.  After dinner, my dad and I decide to stay a bit, and my mom goes back to the room.  So here my dad and I sit in the hotel restaurant just talking and telling stories and drinking and having fun.  After several martini’s, he switches to Jack Daniels, and I’m not sure how much wine I drank….but it was a lot.  The bill was obscene, but alas…we had fun.  We apparently got back to the room around midnight.  I’m astounded I’m still awake, my father has no recollection of leaving the restaurant, and needless to say, we both spent Saturday very hung over.  Probably not the wisest thing to do just before my race, huh?

On Saturday, I HAD to go to the marathon Expo in order to pick up my race bib and gear.  Of course, I fully LOVE expo’s anyway, so was really looking forward to it.  However, it was nearly 1pm before my body was in any way capable of being out of bed.  My dad was still incapable of getting out of bed, so it was just my mom and I who went to the expo!  Here are some pictures of that…..


           The McCormick Place that held the Expo                                                                                           

Part of the shopping and product expo vendors.            


VW was one of the sponsors, and this is their Doodle Bug…so everyone took markers and signed it.  Kinda neat.

The Little Rock Marathon race promoters dressed up as Greek Goddesses!

Hot Chocolate 15K race promoters dressed as umpa loompas!

I picked up several cool things (t-shirts, etc) and then we made our way back to the hotel.  Still not feeling wonderful, we headed down for dinner around 530.  I wanted to go to bed REALLY early since the next day was race day!                                                                                             
We went to the other hotel restaurant – a steak place – and this time I had a different take on pasta with tomato basil sauce.  And a salad.  And some Italian bread.  It was pretty good, and I went up to bed pretty much as soon as I was done eating.  I was feeling mostly human, but knew I needed to get up at 330 am again to get the car down to the Grant Parking garage before traffic hell started, and then walk to Union Station to meet my sister’s 6am train.                            
I slept fairly well, woke up, took a quick shower, and left around 4am.  I had laid out all my running gear and dry bag the night before, so I wouldn’t have to worry about it in the morning.  After I parked the car at 436 (according to my parking garage ticket), I walked the mile to Union Station.  I passed a 7-11 on the way and picked up my standard pre-race Clif bar and some Gatorade, which made me intensely happy.  I had brought one with me, but I think I left it in my car in Richmond’s airport, so I was freaking out a bit.  Clif bar’s before a race are my tried and true breakfast, and I get very superstitious about it.  I made it to the station, and just hung out until 6.  Her train was on time, and we walked and talked on the way back to Millennium park where the race start was.  By this time, I was getting really, really nervous!  Fortunately, the energy of the crowd was invigorating, and by the time the race actually started, I was feeling pretty good!  C took a pre-race picture of me (when I was still actually smiling), and I made my way to the open corral where I was allowed to go before the run started.
The National Anthem was sung, and then at 720 am, the wheelchair start began.  At 730, the elite group went, and then the rest of us slowly made our way to the front.  It was 750am when I crossed the start line. 
As usual, the first mile was a bit of a struggle, but then I hit a happy groove and was just enjoying the crowds (both runners and spectators) and the scenery.  I stopped around mile 4 to pee – which was about a 10 minutes pit stop – and then took off again.  And what do you know??  Nice Airplane Lady wasn’t nuts after all.  Before I knew it, I had hit the 10 mile mark, and barely noticed anything at all. 
I had debated about wearing my water bottle fuel belt.  I had thought I would since I was afraid I hadn’t trained well for not needing to hydrate only every 2 miles, it would be nice to have something other than pockets to hold my Gu energy gels, and it was supposed to be uncharacteristically hot (over 85 degrees), so that scared me too.  In the end, I decided I was more worried about the belt causing chafing, and skipped it.  I loaded my running pants pockets with Gu and my iPhone instead. 
The race itself was amazing.  The people both in the race and spectating were so wonderful.  The race organizers did a great job of providing plenty of water and Gatorade stops, that I was glad about my decision to skip the belt.  Every time I stopped, said thank you to whomever was giving me fluids, all I could hear were all the volunteers congratulating and encouraging the runners with “great job”, “keep it up”, “you’re doing wonderfully”, that it was hard to NOT get an extra pep in your step.  One of my favorite moments was this little girl – no more than 14 months old – who was on the edge of the race course with her dad, and giving high-fives to the runners.  Each time she got one, she’d giggle hysterically and it just made me smile.  I gave her a high-five for sure!
There were people there obviously cheering for a friend or loved one, and tons of people just out to support us.  I saw some great signs…like “Beer at the finish”….”Runners have balls…other sports just play with theirs”…and “Beat Oprah”, just to name a few.  There’s an Elvis impersonator around mile 11.  I stopped to take his picture, and he gave me a fist pump!
I don’t think I can articulate all the feelings that went through me.  It was fun.  It sucked.  It was emotional (I started getting weepy around mile 22)…and I cried each time I saw my sister.  Her being there was my favorite part.  I’d text her where I was at…she’d text me where she’d be, and I’d get so excited to hit that mile marker because I knew she’d be there, hug me, and cheer.  I also have to mention all the encouraging text messages S sent me throughout it.  She was my own personal cheerleader from 1800 miles away.  I also had great friends and cousins on Facebook giving me positive messages, which kept my spirits up through the entire event.
I crossed the finish line around 145pm.  According to the Chicago Marathon site, it was 6hrs and 25 minutes.  According to my Garmin GPS unit and stop watch, it was 6hrs and 17 minutes.  I know it’s only the difference of 8 minutes, but I believe my watch.  I spoke to and read posts from several hundred runners who don’t feel the open corral runners were timed right.  Either way, I’m proud.  Sure, it wasn’t a great time by any stretch of the imagination, and so far off my original goal of 4 hrs that it’s pathetic, but I finished.  I crossed the finish line and traversed all 26.2 miles on my own two feet.  I broke down right afterwards (though only for about a minute).  When one of the volunteers put my finishers medal around my neck, I started to cry.  Then he hugged me, which made me cry even more.  I love the volunteers.  They are really the backbone of these things, and I’m going to have to remember to volunteer at the races I don’t do in my area, just to give the support to runners that I’ve gotten. 
Oh, and just to put it out there..I had my new iPod the entire time (the new little clip on Nano) and I listed to FOURTEEN chapters of my True Blood 8 book.  HA.  That’s a LOT of the book in one run!
The race starting line!  Here we go!!! 
Elvis!!  His singing really spurred us on.
One of the parts of the city welcoming us to their neighborhood.
The Hispanic part of town was probably my favorite!  The energy was intense, the crowd was just amazing.  It seemed like the whole neighborhood was out, banging drums, playing music, dressing up (like this 16 foot character) in their cultural best.  They really did a great job of representing their city.

China Town!  Oh boy, did I want to stop for an egg roll.  It smelled wonderful!  There were two men dressed and dancing as Chinese Dragons.  I wish I had a picture, but couldn’t get to that side of the street.  It was just amazing!

Bless the Chicago Fire Department!  All throughout the race, they were posted and spraying us in the icky heat with their huge hoses. 

My finishers medal!

After the race, I made my way to the finishers exit, met up with my awesome sister, and we walked to the Hilton downtown to meet up with my parents for a little post-marathon celebration.  I’m glad I walked and didn’t collapse immediately.  I think it made it easier for me to get up once I DID sit down!  We had some sweet potato fries and a beer.  The whole of downtown was crowded and celebrating, and I am very glad I chose Chicago as the venue for my first marathon.  Sure, not everyone was kind and thoughtful…but most people were.  The city welcomed us with open arms, and I will never, ever forget this experience.  It was intoxicating and inspiring.  My dad told us how he saw a blind runner, I saw men and women with prosthetic legs, runners of all ages, shapes, and sizes, and what is amazing, is we all look in awe at each other.  There is no judgement – only encouragement.  While for some it is truly a competition and how they make a living, for the vast majority of us it’s simply an accomplishment.  My heart broke for all the people I saw dropping out of the race in the medical tent.  I hope they don’t feel disappointed in themselves.  It takes a lot of courage to start something like this. 

My sister and I walked back to the parking garage where we said our good-byes.  She went back to Union Station to begin her train ride back home for her, and I drove my rental car and picked up my parents.  We headed back to the hotel, and I don’t think the fries sat well with me!  After relaxing for a bit, talking to D and the kids, taking probably the most awesome shower of my life (except for the part where I hit the hot water and learned which parts of my body I missed with the Body Glide!), we headed to Chili’s for dinner.  I had half of a black bean burger, some onion strings (because onion rings are a food group), and some broccoli.  We got back to the hotel, and I went to bed.  Sure, I was hurting quite a bit, walking funny, but very, very happy.

Monday morning I woke up early to pack, and we left the hotel at 815am.  I took my parents to Union Station so they could catch their train home, and I headed to the airport.  I grabbed a bite to eat while there, and hopped my plane to Cincinnati.  It was a nice flight (no icky companions), and I met 4 other girls who had been there for the race – 3 who ran, and 1 sister who came to support (just like mine did!).  We were all on the same flight to VA and were seated together, so we all had a great time talking about the run.  The sisters were both marathon veterans, and the others of us were first timers.  We talked about why we picked Chicago, and what our experiences were like.  It was nice to sit and talk to a bunch of strangers about a shared experience.  As we left the baggage claim, we all hugged, said congrats to each other and left.  I realized after, that we never even exchanged names, but talked animatedly for hours about our weekend.  Kinda cool.

My drive home was relaxing and traffic was good.  I stopped to grab a wrap and smoothie on my way, and when I pulled into the driveway, D and the kids were standing there waving and ready to hug me and welcome me home.  It was totally awesome.

So now I’m home and thinking about what comes next.  First, I can’t workout until my body stops being sore.  That can take 2 days to 2 weeks.  I feel pretty good all things considered, but my muscles are sore.  Nothing wrong with the knees or anything like that, so I escaped the marathon injury free!  I also have NO blisters.  I think I need to send a letter to Brooks Running (who makes my shoes – the Ravenna) about how amazing their shoes are.  I saw some poor people after the race with torn up feet.  Thankfully (to brooks and to Final Kick sports who fit them on me), I had great shoes!

Yesterday on the trip home I kept thinking about what I want to do next.  I do know that I want to run another marathon for sure.  I wasn’t sure how I would feel about that (especially at mile 23 where I was walking and thinking about how much this sucked!), but after a day, I realized that I’m hooked.  I don’t know if it’ll be Disney (which sounds totally awesome), Richmond, or Philly (always wanted to go, and my youngest is obsessed with the Liberty Bell).  But I know it’ll be one of them.  Or all of them!  I can tell you right now though…for the next couple of weeks, I’m sticking to swimming 🙂

My Bags Are (Almost) Packed and I’m Ready To Go!!

(…sung to the Peter, Paul, & Mary song, Leaving on a Jet Plane)….

Wow.  I decided yesterday that I need to revisit my decision making paradigm.  10 months ago when I first made the decision to run a marathon, it seemed brilliant.  Honestly, I only did it because my husband (very snarkily) asked me when I was going to run a full marathon now that I’ve done several half-marathons (I was in the middle of training with the J&A Racing team for the March Shamrock).  Of course I took that as a personal challenge, and I shot back “this year”.  I immediately went onto Active.com to see which marathons were in the fall/winter to give myself plenty of time to train.  After debating between Richmond, DC, and Chicago, I decided Chicago would be perfect – October weather is typically cooler and more conducive to running, and I have family close by who could come see me.  And I probably had a few glasses of wine, so when registration opened up on February 1st, I was signing up just after I woke up that morning. 

I decided to do my last workout before the big day yesterday morning before work.  So off to the Y I went to do my strength training.  From there, I went to work for the day where I really focused on things I had to get done…probably because I was too afraid to actually think about the weekend coming up.

I ran into a couple people who know of my training, and got some very encouraging comments.  As one friend put it….it’s not like I’ve done this before, so it’s going to be a PR (personal record) even if I finish last!  Woo hoo 🙂 

Last night was swim lessons for R, so I went BACK to the Y (how’s THAT for dedication!?!).  M came with, and after lessons were over, the three of us went swimming for a while, hung out in the hot tub, and then headed home around 730pm.

Breakfast was coffee before the gym, and some veggie soup after.  Lunch was the Thai food I’ve been craving (Tofu Green Curry of course!).  I didn’t eat dinner (I know…but my lunch was just so filling!). 

I tried thinking about packing yesterday, but that was too challenging.  I decided that I usually pack at the last possible moment anyway, so why break the streak.

I knew today was an early day, so I made lunches for school last night, and planned a crock pot meal for today just to ease the stress levels a bit.  I’m glad I did, because work today has raised those levels to epic proportions anyway. 

I actually opened my suitcase this morning and put in a sweater.  Then the cat jumped in and decided she wanted to sleep on my sweater.  I couldn’t disturb her because it was really cute, so that’s pretty much the extent of my packing.  I can at least say I’ve STARTED.  I did print out all my itineraries and check into my flight (and pay the stupid bag fee – even though I only have ONE, they still charge).

Tonight is A’s open house for her art school, so I’m picking her up at school at 5, doing some shopping, and then going to her open house from 7-830pm.  I anticipate getting home around 9 tonight, where I’ll have to actually finish packing.  Then it’s up at 330 am so I can get up to Richmond in plenty of time to catch my 7am flight.  I land in Chicago at noon, and then the weekend fun begins. 

My sister and I have been doing more planning of logistics this week.  Okay really, she has been doing all of that.  I just know that I’m totally excited about the Expo.  There’s also a Vegan festival on Saturday, but not sure about that.  I want my parents to have fun too, as they are forgoing their typical yearly trip to Door County in order to go to Chicago instead.  I want them to have fun too.

So here it is.  3.  More.  Days.  Holy cow, where did the time go??  Am I ready?  Will I get enough sleep the night before?  What should I eat??  Will I finish??  Will my family who’s coming get to see me, or will it be so crowded, that it’ll be impossible?  Will the adrenaline of the moment carry me through a ridiculous distance of 26 miles???

So, not sure if I’ll have another post until after the race.  I leave bright and early tomorrow morning, so depending on how the next 2 days go, I may not have a chance to get online.  Provided I survive the experience, you all know I’ll be taking many pictures and will post them along with a summary of the event.

WISH ME LUCK (I need it)!!!!

I Have Symmetry Issues

Definition of SYMMETRY (per the Merriam-Webster website)…

1: balanced proportions; also : beauty of form arising from balanced proportions

2: the property of being symmetrical; especially : correspondence in size, shape, and relative position of parts on opposite sides of a dividing line or median plane or about a center or axis — compare bilateral symmetry, radial symmetry

3: a rigid motion of a geometric figure that determines a one-to-one mapping onto itself

4: the property of remaining invariant under certain changes (as of orientation in space, of the sign of the electric charge, of parity, or of the direction of time flow) —used of physical phenomena and of equations describing them
For example….if D rubs my shoulders, they have to be rubbed equally in pressure and duration.  If I have one sleeve pushed up on my sweater, they both have to be.  I think I am the only one afflicted with this in my family as I just witnessed my 7 year old running through the house wearing one sock.  I asked her why, and she said she spilled something on one of them so took it off.  It’s actually driving me nuts right now because my sense of symmetry is being upset and I think SHE shouldn’t be comfortable wearing just one sock.
Today was another day for not wanting to get out of bed.  It got down in the 50’s overnight, and we had all the windows open.  Before bed last night, we threw another big comforter on the bed, and it was so snuggly and warm this morning, that neither D nor I wanted to get up.  We played more rounds of snooze tag than normal, just to stay warm a bit longer.
As usual, we woke up, D made coffee, I made breakfasts and lunches (fancier today…ravioli’s for lunches for M and A, and cracker sandwiches for R; which are ritz crackers, squares of cheese, and some pepperoni).  Then it was off to work.
I must say, I felt a bit of a rebel today.  After my 10am meeting was finished (right at 11…on time for once!), I did my 4 mile run in the middle of the day!!!  For some reason it felt like I was skipping school, although I put way more than my allotted 40 hrs per week in…
Anyway, it was nice to get outside in decent running weather (about 70).  I took a quick shower, and back to work.
Breakfast was a mango/orange/banana juice blend and then some lentil soup (about an hour or so apart).  I really wanted Thai food for lunch, but ended up with a smoothie and veggie wrap from Tropical Smoothie Cafe
After work, I picked A up from school and we went to the mall to hit the Halloween super store.  She’s creating a panda costume from various things, and needed something for that venture.  Then we met up with D, M, and R at Frank’s II Italian restaurant, where I had eggplant parmesan with no cheese.  I guess that’s just eggplant then, since doesn’t the parmesan part imply cheese?  Whatever…too deep of a thought this close to bed.
So now, it’s off to bed.  Only 2 more work days before I fly to Chicago!!!  According to the Chicago Marathon’s facebook page, they’re putting up huge signs everywhere – including the airport with their slogan 10.10.10, The Date to Motivate!!!!  Enough said 🙂

Monday, Schmunday

Ugh.  It was really a Monday today!  I was sleeping well – no birds chirping at me an an unholy hour – and really didn’t want to get up.  The bedroom windows were open, and it was just chilly enough to want to stay buried under the covers.  Alas, it’s a work and school day, so only a couple rounds of snooze-tag before getting up. 

While D was making coffee, I started making breakfasts and lunches for everyone.  Omelets and toast for everyone else, and leftover pasta primavera for me.  Lunches were very basic…nothing fancy on this dragging Monday. 

I had several meetings, and once the work day got into full swing, I didn’t feel exhausted anymore.  A couple of us finalized an RFP (Request for Proposal) for a new Cardiac IT system, I had a hardware meeting to determine what type of servers I need, how many, etc, then a (very exasperating) conference call with one of my vendors, a quick discussion with one of the technical managers, and then ended the day in a meeting with one of the hospital administrators.  Whew….busy day.  Lunch was a yummy lettuce and chickpea salad, so that was pretty much the highlight.

My sister and I talked a bit about the upcoming weekend in Chicago.  I realized that I have absolutely no plans other than flying in and running.  Guess I better get on that…

I went to pick R up from school and head to the gym.  She has swim lessons on Monday’s and Wednesday’s at 6, so we got to the Y at 5, she played in the PlayZone while I did my Fitlinxx strength training workout.  I got through 12 of the 13 machines before I ran out of time.  I forget how busy the gym is that time of the evening!  Anyhow, we scrambled into the locker room, and she changed into her bathing suit.  She was so paranoid that she was late, that she jumped into the pool – with the last class still in there – and started swimming laps.  She was very confused when I told her to get out of the pool, that we weren’t late!

As R and I were finishing up at the gym, D was heading to martial arts with A and M.  I went home, worked with R on her homework, and made dinner.  I had tofu/veggie egg rolls.  Yum.

M is running for class president this year, so he and D worked on his campaign flyer.  M did a great job, so I hope he does well in the election Friday.

So some cool news….

I have the single most awesome kitchen appliance in creation.  It’s called a VitaMix, and it’s absolutely incredible.  Anyway, I have had it for about 2 1/2 years, and I follow their Twitter feed and Facebook pages.  A couple weeks ago, they started advertising to VitaMix owners to submit an essay about their machine and how it’s benefited their lives to be in a 90th anniversary book.  So I wrote one…and found out on Friday that my essay was selected for the book!  The essence of the essay was about R’s nut allergy – and how with my VitaMix, one of the things I can do is make my own flours and dessert treats that she may otherwise be denied because of her severe allergy.  When I was notified of my winning submission…they asked for a photo.  So D and I took the ones below…of R holding a plate of cookies, next to our VitaMix, and wearing her I Have Food Allergies t-shirt!

So that’s my day.  Long, but productive! 

Zombie Birds

This has been an incredibly wet week.  I have more than gotten my money’s worth out of umbrellas and ponchos.  I’m pretty sure it rained for 5 days straight, had one day of sun, and then started raining again.
A couple of days ago, D rescued a baby turtle from near his office.  Granted…he works near several “lakes” (growing up in WI, we’d call them lagoons), and rather than walking the poor baby BACK to the water, he brought him home.  Everyone fell for him, and after A and I went aquarium shopping, we have a new family member.  His name is Kiko, which I guess means tortoise shell in Japanese (according to the kids).  Anyway, he’s a wee baby – only about an inch and a half long.  He’s cute, but small, and I worry that he’ll do okay.  His picture is below, and so far, Sammie (the lab) and Bumble (the cat) have paid him no heed at all.  I imagine for Kiko’s nerves, that’s a good thing.  His picture is below. 
For the past few weeks, D and I have spent a lot of time talking to the kids about martial arts.  They started Tae Kwon Do about 6-7 months ago, and it has met with mixed reviews.  They attended an American Tae Kwon Do studio, and while we really liked the athletic aspect, we weren’t thrilled otherwise.  After 6 months, the kids couldn’t explain what they’ve learned about the discipline or the history of the sport.  And from a parent’s perspective – they seemed more interested in our wallets than our kids.  They were never forthright with the true cost of the sport ($188 per month for the VERY basic of courses – no advanced sparring gear – that would be another $400 per kid – and if they wanted the “true” development experience, then it would be at least $250 per month, plus $120 per each belt advancement).  Every few weeks after we signed up, the head of the studio would pitch yet another “level” that the kids could attain if we would just pay the additional $100+, etc, etc.  This was not what we signed up for.  We signed up for discipline, athleticism, and focus.  Not some guy who was obviously stuffed into his locker so many times in high school that he decided to become a martial arts black belt and bully every one he ever came into contact with.  And that was the experience we came away with.
Anyway, we started researching different martial arts (since we were brand new to it this year), and D found a local Brazilian Ju Jitsu studio.  He called, talked to the owner, and we went to observe a class on Friday night.  Right away, the kids were pretty excited.  It seemed to be much more fun, and more hands on (not to mention practical in a true self defense situation).  I think A was excited about the chance to throw people around, so after an hour of watching, we decided to let them try out a class on Monday.  Wish them luck – I want them to find something they find exciting, challenging, and useful. 
I got my bday present a little early – it’s the new iPod Nano (in Red!!).  It’s totally awesome, and the reason I got it early is because of the marathon NEXT WEEK.  I don’t have to worry about an armband holder chaffing my arm, etc.  I spent most of Friday night loading it up with music and audio books, and gave A my older purple nano.  It also has an FM tuner, which is awesome.  I love it.
Saturday was a fun day.  It was cool and sunny and pretty much the first time since April that we turned off the air conditioner and opened up the house.  I woke up, had some java and oatmeal with blueberries, and hit the gym for a Fitlinxx workout.  M and R came with me – M to workout and R to play in the kids Interactive Zone.  We stayed for just over an hour.  We stopped at Harris Teeter (grocery) on the way home, picked up some salads from the salad bar, and some driving snacks.  Got home, took a shower, and then the 5 of us took off for Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream fun.  It finally was a gorgeous day; only about 70 degrees, so it was perfect.  We got to Williamsburg around 3, and had a great time.  Before 6, the park is “kidsiderate”, which means all the scary haunted stuff is a little kid friendly.  We went through one haunted house, and while A, M and I screamed, R (the 7 year old) declared that nothing scared her at all!  We wandered around the park and went on several rides.  We did some roller coasters and bumper cars.  At one point, I was crawling around some rope bridges and ladders and thought it was a Survivor Challenge!  After it got dark around 7, we went on a few other scary things.  What’s funny is that they made me go first (and I’m a wuss), M gripped on to  me (he’s 13), A held tight to him (she’s 15), and the three of us screamed like crazy.  R (who’s 7) walked through like it was nothing and declared it totally un-scary.  Too funny.  We left around 9, and all crashed asleep when we got home.  Oh, and I used my groovy new iPod as a pedometer.  I walked 14,000 steps.  Cool.
Imagine my surprise this morning when the stupid birds started chirping at 630 am in my newly opened windows…right after I had dreams all night about zombies and other scary things.  In my semi-conscious state, I was dreaming about killer zombie birds, so when I finally rolled out of bed near 7 am this morning, I was NOT going to fall back asleep.
Today I was really excited about going for a run.  Between my trip to WI, getting sick, and working crazy hours, I hadn’t been running and I’m nervous about my marathon next weekend.  When I checked the weather all week, I was so excited to learn that the entire weekend was supposed to be sunny.  All weathermen should be fired.  Basing the weather off of people with bad knees is more accurate than any meteorologist can come up with.  It was raining when I woke up.  Hard.  And it did so all day.  I have no raining running gear, so I had some coffee and pouted for awhile.  I decided to go workout at the the gym, but had a different dilemma.  S and I had plans for today, and I wanted to get my workout done early.  Unfortunately, all of my YMCA’s don’t open until 11, so I decided to go to Bally’s, where I’ve had a membership since I was about 16 ish.  I haven’t been in one in quite a long time (not a kid friendly place), so it was a little bit of an adventure for me.  It was gross.  It’s nothing like the Bally’s I grew up around, and it was no surprise that Yelp rated them so poorly.  I was really just going to a cardio workout, so I figured it would be fine.  The plan was 45 minutes of running, 20 minutes of biking, and maybe 20 minutes on an elliptical.  No big deal, right?  All the equipment was old and breaking down.  There were NO sanitary towels to wipe the nasty sweat off the equipment when you’re done working out (which made me wish I brought my mini-Lysol with me), and there were no fans…so no airflow…so the entire place smelled like stale sweaty body odor.  I did my treadmill and bike workout and decided to hit the showers.  UGH.  The showers were SO nasty!  A picture is below.  So..imagine this.  The tile is some nasty peach color with cracks everywhere.  The “on” button on the bottom only provides 30 seconds of water when pushed…and then it turns off.  Reminds me of what the ships were like in the Navy!  But WORSE!!!  Anyway….I only got about 10 seconds of real warm water and decent water pressure when it starts to turn itself off.  That’s not enough to soap up, much less rinse off my hair!  So after pushing the stupid button for 10 minutes, I got out of there as quickly as I could.  Thinking I’ll cancel my membership.  Ewwww.
After the workout, I picked S up and we headed to the Chrysler Scope Arena for India Fest.  It was nice enough, and the food was wonderful!  I had some samosas, chat papri (a cold chickpea salad) and some spicy vegan thing I took a picture of an posted below that was awesome.  The shopping was so-so, and we both felt that they didn’t need to rent out an entire arena for the occasion.  I ran into one of my hospital administrators, said hi, and then we left.  We went back to S’s house for some of her homemade mojito concoctions, watched some Jersey Shore (strange show), and the rest of a movie called I Love You Beth Cooper.  I swung by Moe’s on my way home for a personal trainer veggie salad, and to update my blog!
Tomorrow is a full meeting day, some Fitlinxx, and then ju jitsu for the kids.  Hope it’s a fun day!
 Kiko, the Wonder Turtle
  Bally’s Nasty Shower
  Indian Vegan Awesomeness