Life is A Journey...Come Follow Our's

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Marathon Madness

Well...I made it and I did it well!  On Sunday, January 15th, I completed 26.2 miles and my first marathon.  That same weekend last year I raced the half marathon in Phoenix and this year decided to up the ante and run the full.  Let me not get ahead of myself though and start from the beginning.

Brad, Quinn, and I headed out to Phoenix on Thursday and even though we were flying through Minneapolis in the dead of winter, we had no delays and got in early!  AMAZING.  We quickly gathered our belongings and our rental car and headed to Janelle and Nate's house where we were lucky enough to be staying for the weekend.  We spent an awesome evening with them and their daughter Katelyn.  Quinn and Katelyn really hit it off playing well together and "loving on" each other as well.

Janelle and I met back in graduate school and have been best friends ever since.  It's amazing to me how time can pass and distance can separate us, but our friendship somehow always remains strong.  Her friendship is one of the greatest blessings in my life and I'm so happy our families are now a part of this awesome friendship.

Katelyn and Quinn's Blooming Relationship

Innocent?  You Decide :)

Best Friends

The weather in Phoenix was absolutely amazing...low 70s and sunny.  We went up to Nonna and Papa's house on Friday and spent the day with them there.  They absolutely LOVED Quinn and he loved them as well.  His cuteness and persistent "Nonna, Nonna" even was enough to persuade Nonna to come out of her house and play in the garden alongside Quinn.  We all had a blast and spent such special moments making memories that we will keep forever.

Quinn and Nonna Gardening Together

True Love Across the Generations

Made Nonna's Day/Week/Month

Italians Only

Now the real reason we came to Arizona was for me to run in my first marathon - though getting to visit so many important people sweetened the deal.  The big day started just before 5am with some time for me to prep, eat some breakfast, and take care of a few other crucial facts :)  Brad and Quinn dropped me off downtown Phoenix around 6:30 leaving me with an hour before race start.  I wandered around amongst the other racers, visited the bathrooms 5 times (yes...5 times), and was in my corral ready to run minutes before 7:30.  It was at this point they announced the race had been delayed.  By the time we actually started, it was 8:05 and close to 60 perfect degrees.

The gun went off and 20,000 people started the pre-race shuffle toward the starting line under the slightly overcast beautiful morning.  I hit my stride and felt really good.  It had been over a month since I had run my longest run of 20 miles and I was wondering how my body would do, but once I crossed that starting line, I knew I was ready to go.

I kept repeating my race plan in my head - 9:05s the first 10 miles (this would allow for a bathroom break if need be), race pace the next 10 miles, and just run the last 10k knowing that once you got to the 5k I could lay it all down on the line and just go -- eat every 20-25 miles, hit every aid station for water, and gatorade every 2nd or 3rd station.  I was set.

The first 10 miles were amazing.  As per usual, I spent the first hour of my run going through the alphabet naming everything I was thankful for.  It makes the time pass so quickly and warms my heart to do so.  At this point, I was running 9:02s and feeling good about them.  I was so excited to show Brad that I had stuck with my plan when I came upon him at mile 13.3.  Brad, Quinn, Kristie, and Mel were all on the side of the road cheering when I entered the out and back loop portion of the course.  I was really looking forward to the next 6 miles because Brad had planned to run them with me.  It was really fun to have him by my side keeping me company.

After a 2 minute bathroom stop for me, at mile 19, Brad dropped off and I was on my own.  My pace had slowed slightly, but I was still averaging 9:07s with the bathroom stop.  Brad and I had discussed my plan.  I was now going to hold my pace (I only had to average 9:09s to make my goal time of 4 hours) until mile 23 then slowly start speeding up until I got to mile 25 which at that point there would be no more holding back.  I was confident.  I was set.  But then...mile 23 reared its ugly head and I cramped up so badly that I didn't even know if I could walk.  Thinking back to conversations I had overheard about cramping, I decided I better get some salt.  I walked the miserable 2/10th of a mile to the medical center, grabbed a packet of salt and dumped it down my throat.  It was the BEST tasting thing ever and somehow, my cramps immediately disappeared.

I started running sub-9s again and was feeling good when just before mile 24, my pace slowed to 10+ minutes/mile.  It was horrible.  I kept yelling at myself not to stop, to keep going, to put one foot in front of the other, that I wasn't going to let all these people see me walking.  And so I kept running (probably looking more like a pregnant 3-legged elephant than a gazelle).  I made it across the finish line in 4:05:58 (my watch said 4:04 - it had probably stopped at the bathroom break) dizzy, only able to walk slowly, and depleted, but I had finished.  While I didn't make my goal of sub-4 hours, I did finish in my goal window of 4 hours +/- 10 minutes so I was pleased.  I learned a lot about myself and about my body's needs.  1)  I have very salty sweat and need to be replenishing my salt stores and 2) I cannot possibly eat too much during a race and in future races, I must refuel better.  Though the first thing I told Brad when I finished was "I'll never do that again," by the time I got off the ground and had enough energy to walk again, I had changed my tune.
Quinn's Look Sums Up How I Felt

The best parts of the day were 1) accomplishing something most people only dream of or maybe would never dream of, 2) having my family on the course and at the finish line cheering for me, 3) having Brad, his encouragement, and his wealth of knowledge to run with me for 6 miles, 4) Quinn not wanting to let go of me after they met up with me at the finish line ,and 5) Jamba Juice and a nice warm shower.

At The Finish Line With My Family

Never Letting Go

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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Our Holidays...Part 2

The holidays always seem to pass by so fast. Before we knew it, we were re-packing the car and heading even further north to Wisconsin.  Unlike in years past, the weather in Wisconsin was beyond pleasant...nice enough to run that's unheard of at this time of year.

We got up to Wisconsin on the 27th and went straight to meet Quinn's newest cousin, the four month old Teagan.  Although he wasn't exactly sure what to think of her at first, he did find a friend in his older cousin Grant right away.  It was so fun to see Quinn giving him his toys and to watch and listen to Grant read to him.  As the week progressed, Quinn became even closer with his cousins trying to feed Baby Teagan chocolate and oranges and playing with Grant and Reagan for hours at a time.

Grant reading to Quinn

On the 28th, Kristie made a wonderful dinner and we celebrated the Pope Christmas.  Of course there were tons of presents, lots of gift wrap to tear, and lots of fun to be had.  Quinn spent the better part of his day throwing sheep and other stuffed animals down the stairs only to retrieve them, place them in a laundry basket, give them a quick ride and repeat.  He especially loved that his cousins Grant and Reagan thought his game was as amusing as he did.

As always, the time passed way too fast.  Like the say, time flies when you're having fun.  The next thing we knew, it was the 30th and time to make our trek back south to Arkansas.

Of the 7 Christmases Brad and I have spent together, this was probably our favorite one yet.  We had the perfect blend of high-energy times with family and relaxation, good weather and a little snow, good food and not gluttonously full bellies, and the ability to see Christmas through someone else's eyes...Quinn's.

Kristie and Teagan

Reagan, Grant, and Quinn waiting at the top of the stairs for the game to start again

Grandpa, Great-Grandma Betty, Grandma Krisite, Grant, Teagan, Quinn, and Reagan

The Pope Family

Just enough snow to make us remember that it was Christmas time 


Friday, January 6, 2012

Our Holidays...Part 1

WARNING...This Blog Contains A LOT of Pictures...

Aren't the holidays just fabulous?  I mean seriously, when else does the entire world come to an almost stop (or extreme slow down) all at once?  When else can you go on vacation and know you're really not missing anything because everyone else is on vacation too?  When else can you blame good meals and good times with family and friends for your 7 pound weight gain and the rest of the world understand?  They're fabulous.  To top it all off, this was the first year in as long as I can remember that our trip up North to Wisconsin and Illinois did not have sub-zero temperatures.  It made our trip that much better!

This year was our year to spend Christmas in Illinois with my family.  We started our trip at my dad's house in Mendota (you might remember from previous posts...the Sweet Corn Capital of the Universe where they worship the sweet corn goddesses and the mayor gets on stage drunk at the annual Sweet Corn's classic).  Typically, Mendota is not a place you can stand to sit around in for more than a few hours, but this year, it was quite enjoyable.  Quinn entertained us all, Anthony played the guitar (with Quinn's assistance), and we were able to truly relax.  We did make it out to the Lodge at Starved Rock...enjoy a few pics (okay, maybe a few too many)...

Dad, Quinn, and Me

Brad, Maria, Quinn, Anthony, Judy, and Dad

Quinn Loves his Grandpa Cotton

My Favorite 19 month old and me

So interested in the reindeer

Oh the laughs and giggles at the dinner table

Our Happy Little Family

We then headed up to La Grange where I was raised and my mom still lives for Christmas Eve.  In the Italian tradition of the Seven Fishes where you indulge in 7 different fish dishes on Christmas Eve, Mom prepared an amazing meal of seafood.  It was ridiculous to make 7 courses for the 4 of us who were eating Christmas Eve dinner, but we did manage to have shrimp cocktail (1), scallops (2), shrimp scampi (3), and my favorite, linguine with calamari, langstino (baby lobsters), scallops, clams, and shrimp (4 or more depending on how you count it).  AMAZING!  Best part was all of us (we missed Lisa and Ryan until Christmas morning) just sitting around the dinner table.  Christmas Eve has always been my favorite day of the year and this year was no different.  Great food, great company, great excitement for the BIGGEST day of the year...Christmas!

Even Quinn Loved His Christmas Eve Dinner

Mom, Maria, and Anthony

Christmas Day is always somewhat anti-climactic for me after all the build-up to Christmas, but this year, having Quinn around changed all that.  It was so fun to have all the presents under the tree and for all the excitement that surrounded the day.  Okay, let's be honest, Quinn couldn't have cared less except for the fact that he had lots of paper that he could tear into hundreds of tiny little shreds.  I, on the other hand, was so excited to see him get excited over Christmas (there's always next year).

Daddy and Quinn Christmas Morning

Quinn opening his loudest Christmas present...a keyboard

Quinn's favorite toy...the resale shop $3 ice cream truck :)

Uncle Anthony with his new slide whistle

Mommy excited about Quinn's last present of the day


One Happy Little Boy with his new Elmo

So enamoured with Elmo

Our Family...Ryan, Anthony, Brad, Lisa, Maria, Mom (Gigi), and Quinn