Monday, December 26, 2011

Spandex Doesn't Lie

Shakira may sing that the Hips Don't Lie, but let me tell you that spandex doesn't lie either! I had gotten lax about exercising during December due to a pulled hamstring. While babying that muscle, I pretty much turned into a bowl full of jello. Today, after a 2-month hiatus, I returned to spinning. When I packed in my jello into the spandex cycling shorts, it was quite evident that I'd been packing a lot more than fruits and vegetables into me lately! Yikes - time to get back to business.

Here's to hoping that you were less indulgent during the holidays!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I know, right?! Who doesn't want this under their tree?! I'm pretty sure Meg wrote to Santa and asked for this very thing!

May you and your family have a very Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Last of the 24 Days of Christmas

Alternate title: How I Wore Myself Out Over Christmas!

Seriously, this was so much fun, but I did learn that it's ok to have a super simple activity like coloring in a coloring book. A few projects took too much time and it was difficult to plan around the trips that I had scheduled on the fly. But we had fun and I will definitely do this again next year - with modifications, since Meg will be on college (cue the tears!).

December 22: Make a gift for the squirrels and hang it outside. We found pinecones, tied a string at one end, coated the pinecone in peanut butter, then rolled it in bird seed. Very easy project.

December 23: Have a candlelight dinner with family and name one thing you love best about each person. Today was also 11 years since my first date with the hubs. The date last 11 hours - 5 of those hours being spent in an Irish pub :)

December 24: Wrap all the presents and put them under the tree. Off to bed so Santa can visit!

Friday, December 23, 2011

24 Days of Christmas: Week 3

This has been so much fun enjoying a different activity each day with my girls.

December 15: Sing Christmas carols in the car and drive around. I must polish up on the lyrics next time!

December 16: Bake Cookies. We made sugar cookies and gingerbreak cookies. Now don't think I've gone all Martha Stewart over here. They were prepared mixes which required adding 2 ingredients and they were shaped into circles. Yep, couldn't find the cookie cutters.

December 17: Christmas Scavenger Hunt. So much fun! The hunt started with a story of how Santa needed Bridget and Megan's help to find Rudolph. Both girls had to solve a series of clues, leading them to Rudolph (a stuffed animal that plays music). I'm not sure which one had more fun!

December 18: Bridget and Megan made a beautiful gingerbread house (scroll down to see how wonderful it turned out!).

December 19: Make a Christmas drawing using glitter pens to make the picture twinkle with instructions to hang the pictures up for me to see when I got home from my race. I came home to pictures of a snowman and a Christmas tree that were absolutely perfect masterpieces!

December 20: Dance class recital, then ice cream with family. We were lucky enough that Grandma, Aunt Kim, Uncle George, Ben, Maeve and Quinn were able to join us and see ballerina Bridget. Meg had a swim meet and had a great performance!

December 21: We made ornaments out of pre-made Crayola clay. I couldn't believe how much fun.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ole Man River Half Marathon Race Report

As I've said numerous times, I truly do prefer smaller races. This race was just awesome in every way. I'll make the race report short, but the race was big on fun and a good overall race experience.

First, and most importantly, ALL body parts worked! Since Vegas, I had not completed a single run - nope, nada, not a single mile. I was jonesing for a run like a crack addict needing a fix. But I held off because my right hamstring was sending me daily nastigrams that first week after the Las Vegas Rock n Roll half marathon. But more on this later.

Race morning, we had a taxi pick us up at the hotel. The trolley wasn't running at 7am on a Sunday morning - go figure, right?! When we got into the taxi, we ended up having a seriously sketchy experience, but comical in the end. I am so grateful that I have a bright, plan-ahead kind of husband. The cab driver asks us where we want to go. We tell him Tad Gormley Stadium at City Park. He asks US how WE would like to get there. Wtf? He's the cab driver living in New Orleans and he asks two Clevelanders how to get to a park we've never been to. We tell him to go whichever way is fastest. He says, "No, you tell me. I drive where you want me to take you." Dude, we want to go to the f-ing park and we'd like to get there BEFORE the race begins. Greg pulls out his iPhone and google mapped us there. Talk about a little stress. Then he goes all Evangelical on us and talks about religion. I actually pondered jumping out of the car and tried to remember if I'm supposed to land on my arm, tucking in the shoulder and just keep rolling or was there another way to bail! Too damn funny.

We made it with a little time to spare for a quick potty trip. Phew!

The start was outside the stadium and the first three miles was outlined by someone who obviously was a fan of etch-a-sketches. Oddly enough, it was so much fun weaving in and out of the park for the first three miles. We passed the art museum, wove around little ponds, over bridges...just a nice view overall. The spanish moss dripping from the trees really made you feel like you were in the south.

I felt good for the first 5 miles and kept my effort pretty consistent knocking out the miles at 10:44, 10:28, 10:43, 11:03 (water stop walk), 10:45. I continued on clocking in the next 4 miles at 10:49, 10:53, 10:38, and 10:56. I started to get tired as I was heading toward mile 10. I stopped to liberally apply some Biofreeze and, would you believe, my right side was fine - my left side was angry this time. The problem with taking 2 weeks off and no running is that you start to lose a little endurance. I had been running fairly conservatively for the first 9 miles trying to keep the pace even. Mile 10 came in at 11:49 - yikes. I manage to pick it up a bit to 11:03 for mile 11, but mile 12 barked at me and brough 11:46 thanks to run/walk breaks. I scooted in mile 13 at 11:19 and finished overall in 2:24:07 - just 37 seconds slower than Vegas two weeks earlier. My Garmin measured the course at 13.21 miles.

The finish line was on the track/football field of the stadium, which was pretty cool. A kids football game was being played at the same time as the race finish. I have no idea how those kids managed to concentrate on a football game when hundreds of people are dragging in at various times!

Afterwards, we got to hand out around the edge of the field and watch the game while hydrating. Kind of cool, if you ask me.

The weather was great. It was low 50s with sunshine and an occasional wind. Couldn't have asked for better weather - and seriously, how better to spend a weekend in December?!

Greg had an even better story. He was sitting in the stands for the last hour before I finished sitting near some parents watching the game. This larger than life mother stood up and started complaining that she couldn't see her son playing because something was blocking her view. She yelled back to her husband to pull his gun out and take care of the obstacle. Now, don't get me wrong. The park is in a pretty nice neighborhood in New Orleans, yet I'm pretty sure Greg was ready to run far away from those parents after hearing that comment!

We then hopped on to the trolley and rode it the length of Canal Street. Got off, headed straight to Cafe DuMonde and enjoyed ourselves with some amazing beignets and cafe au lait.

And the 40th state was knocked out just like that :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ten Years Later, He Still Loves Me

Back in September 2001, Greg had promised me a trip to New Orleans. Everything was booked - flights, hotel. Then 9/11 happened and our trip was cancelled. He promised me a raincheck. Ten years later, I cashed in that raincheck and even managed to knock out another state while doing so.

This was a great weekend to a great town. And it was worth the wait.

Just the two of us. Bourbon Street. Loads of window shopping. More food than I thought a hungry truck driver could eat. And a half marathon around scenic City Park. Damn fine coffee and beignets at the famed Cafe Dumonde post-race. Listening to carolers in the historic french market district where they passed out sheet music and candles. Perfect.

Cafe Dumond post-race for beignets piled high with powdered sugar and cafe au laits. Mmmm!

Christmas card-worthy picture at The Roosevelt Hotel. Wow, what a beautiful place!

Bourbon Street lit up at night - just magical!

Race report will follow soon!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

24 Days of Christmas: Week 2

The girls and I have enjoyed doing this little project. Every morning Bridget gets excited to open the day's activity before going to school and then repeats it to me on the drive home. I was clearly a bit too ambitious when I started this project as I didn't factor in how tired I might be after a long day at work! So I've had to substitute a couple of days with silly, little things. Oh well, it's still been a blast!

December 8: We were supposed to make an ornament, but instead we just colored in a coloring book. I forgot to buy supplies and this one sneaked up on me way too fast! Thank goodness, substitutions are allowed.

December 9: Write your letter to Santa and mail it to the North Pole. I used parchment paper and let Bridget stamp Santa's picture on the top of card, then write inside. Easy project!

December 10: This was a travel day to see my brother and his family, so the girls just received a small piece of candy.

December 11: Spend time doing a family activity. We visited the Children's Museum with my brother's family and had a great day. Check out the fun photos!

December 12: Make snowflakes and hang them up. Thanks, Aunt Char, for the wonderful craft project! I even had a blast making snowflakes.

December 13: Movie night! Make popcorn and watch a movie with family. We watched Beauty and the Beast Christmas. What's not to love about Belle!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Family Fun During the Holidays

Another wonderful trip visiting my brother and his family. It was awesome to see how much Meg and Bridget enjoyed spending time with their cousins. Zoe and Bridget were inseparable and we couldn't believe how much Marcus is growing up. And Megan and I enjoyed catching up with Scott and Char!

These pictures taken at the Children's Museum. So much fun!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

HBBC Weeks 3 and 4

Coming off Vegas with a pulled hamstring, Week 3 of HBBC didn't result in cardio points. Instead, I focused on eating more fruits and veggies and strength training, resulting in 5 points. Week 4 points totaled 18 for a half marathon, eating better and mini yoga sessions.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Holiday Interview with My Girls

One of my favorite bloggers interviewed her friend, asking several holiday/winter-related questions. I thought what a great idea and a neat way to journal from year to year about what my girls enjoy about the holiday season.

If you could go anywhere this winter where would you go?Meg: Rockefeller Center to go ice skating. 
Bridget: To go ice skating with Megan. 

What is your favorite holiday food treat?Megan: peanut butter/reese cups thumbprint cookies. 
Bridget: candy canes and lots of them. 

What gift are you asking Santa for this holiday season?Megan: to get into Miami University and endless Q'doba meals.  
Bridget: Rapunzel baby and the Soothing Spa. 

What is your favorite holiday tradition or thing to do?Megan: going to Arlo's house on Christmas Eve. 
Bridget: going to the town tree lighting and seeing Santa. 

I can't wait to ask these same questions next year!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

24 Days of Christmas

A few years ago I bought a new Advent Calendar for the girls. It's a giant stocking with 24 little pockets for treats or notes. This year, I decided to mix it up with fun stuff (treats/jokes), family activities and giving/spreading goodwill. Below is from our first week:

December 1: decorate the Christmas tree.

December 2: go to the town gathering for the lighting of the tree and meet Santa afterwards.

December 3: what do Santa's elves learn at the North Pole school? The ELFabet! Reese's trees as a treat for each daughter.

December 4: what do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire? Frostbite! Small Activity/coloring book for Bridget and Vogue magazine for Megan.

December 5: what do snowmen eat for breakfast? Snowflakes! Santa bubble gum tape (both my girls love it!).

December 6: drive around enjoying the Christmas lights while enjoying Mitchell's ice cream. Mmmm!

December 7: gather two used toys and two good books to donate to a shelter.

So far the first week has been so much fun! Love the holidays and I love my girls!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Rock n Roll Vegas Race Report

Quick 2-day trip in and out of Las Vegas, Nevada to complete the Rock n Roll Vegas half marathon and to check off our 39th state. Isn't it dangerous to spend longer than that in Sin City?!

After landing, we checked into the chic Aria hotel. I would highly recommend staying at Aria - spacious, clean, nicely-furnished rooms with state-of-art technology. Grabbed lunch while waiting for Kim's plane to land, then headed over to the expo extravaganza for packet pick-up.

The gratuitous showgirl picture!

I only had two things on my expo checklist - a sparkly headband and a Clif Bar for pre-race fuel. I hadn't been to a gigantic expo in quite some time and quickly realized that BIG isn't always BETTER. The take home stuff included a Brooks tech shirt (nice), a headlamp provided by Everready Battery, and Gu chomps. Cab line at the Venetian was more than a 30 minute wait so we walked back - probably too much walking the day before a long race. But we'll see. When a town has 44,000 runners and their families and/or friends descend upon it for the weekend, cabs are at a premium.

Kim and George headed to Garth Brooks afterwards while Greg and I enjoyed a slow, leisurely dinner at Firefly, a tapas bar and restaurant off the strip. Outstanding food and probably the best Sangria I've had. Highly recommend this restaurant for your next Vegas trip.

Sunday morning required the standard buffet trip. We figured brunch was a smarter choice since the race was at 5:30pm and lunch can be dicey on the stomach. I loved having an omelet with a side of broccoli and carrots and a peanut butter blonde brownie. Mmmm!

Here's where an evening race gets complicated. What do you do with yourself in Vegas that doesn't require walking or drinking. I couldn't go window shopping at the Palazzo shops or the Forum Shops at Ceasar's. I know, right?! We were bored out of our minds. So we hung out in the room, watched a movie and relaxed. I so prefer morning races where you knock out the event and then have the rest of the day to be dangerous!

We left the hotel a little before 4:00pm to take the shuttle from Aria to Mandalay Bay. We stood in a ridiculously long line that wrapped around and around feeling like it was never-ending. We were glad we made the choice to leave a little early and not cut it close for this very reason - 44,000 people were trying to get to the same start line during the same period. Several buses showed up and we didn't quite make it. Rats! We were a bit concerned about having to wait till the next group of buses come back. But wait. Three limos provided by Aria magically appeared. Can this really be true? That's right - we traveled to the start line in VIP style! The limo dropped us off right next to the port-o-potties, which had short lines. Bonus! This was appreciated considering how cold it was (low 40s). We ambled over to our corrals and tried to keep close to our new friends in Corral 15 to maintain some warmth.

Trying to stay warm!

Mike McCready, Pearl Jam's lead guitarist, played the National Anthem. And then we were released by corrals to start the race. Just another reason I don't like big races - the long wait to cross the start line. For us, it was about 20 minutes. That's 20 minutes standing in the cold. Let me tell you, that does NOT help race day performance. We both commented how stiff and heavy our legs felt.

Cool light show pre-race.

And we were off! I spent the entire race dodging people and being hit, bumped, pushed or stepped on. This race was larger than even the Marine Corps Marathon and much larger than Grandma's marathon. As I've said, BIG is not BETTER, except with my husband (TWSS).

The first 4 miles were on the newer part of the strip. The lights were exciting, although at times hard on the eyes. I remember thinking the Christmas tree outside the Venetian was simply spectacular.

At mile 4, we veered off into the seedier side of Vegas. As Greg pointed out, people cheering you on in new Vegas were different socio-economically than those in old Vegas. We all agreed that we didn't like this part of the course since it was uneventful, full of potholes, cambered, and, unfortunately, this section lasted for about 5 miles.

I enjoyed passing the Wynn and the Venetian on the way back. However, it was outside the Palazzo/Venetian that my right hamstring started talking Russian to me, a language I do not understand. Next thing I know, my hips were the kind of sore I've not experienced before. Thank goodness I carry trial size packets of Biofreeze with me or I would have had to walk it in. After the race, all three of us compared course notes and we all had aching hips, which was odd because none of us had experienced that kind of pain or ache before. The only thing we could attribute it to is all the starting, stopping, and abrupt turns of dealing with so many runners. It was a frustrating obstacle course, to say the least. This must be how Josh Cribbs feels when he's running down the field trying to avoid being tackled.

As I was wallowing in my broken lower body, I caught the beautiful water and light show at the Bellagio. Just a wonderful sight to see. I would have enjoyed it more if I didn't have to dodge so many camera-wielding runners who came to sudden, abrupt stops.

Crossing the finish line was typical at a large-scale race. I'll be surprised if the Photographers can pick me out of the crowd of 50 of us crossing the line at the same time. As a result, the crowd of runners was too tight and people weren't moving forward to keep the flow going (in spite of volunteers yelling to keep moving). Medals were given out (cute nightime skyline of Vegas) and volunteers threw out in the air the space blankets. I felt like I was at a CAVS show hoping to catch a t-shirt thrown in the crowd. Seriously?!

So glad to cross off the 39th state!

We got a bottle of Cytomax (both Greg and I thought it was yucky), a bottled water, a FROZEN banana (I kid you not), and a Marathon bar. They had go-gurt yogurt, but my stomach told me that would not be a wise choice. We finished at different times and found each other post-race at the Family Reunion area. And then began the cattle call trek back to our hotel. We couldn't find the shuttles (no markings or signs) so we walked through Mandalay Bay to the tram. Took the tram to Excaliber, then walked back to Aria.

We reunited with Kim and George at the Todd English Pub at our hotel for some grub and good beer as well as post-race commiserating and cheers. It's always good to have a destination race, especially one where you were part of making history by being in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest nighttime race, but I'll gladly take my small town races.

2:23:30 (5 minutes faster than Wichita just 6 weeks ago!)
14,298 out of 33,123 half marathoners (crazy!)
7296 out of 21051 in gender (top third-woohoo!)
719 out of 2238 in my division

Had a great little escape with the husband, but it's always nice to be back home!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

HBBC Week 2

Loving this program and how it motivates me to focus more on building points and less on piling on pounds. This week consisted of a 3 mile run on Tuesday (where I experienced major hamstring issues) and the Vegas half marathon on Sunday. I only had one day of strength training. Total points for the week = 17 points.