Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My Alabama Marathon

Outside the U.S. Space & Rocket Center
     My 25th Marathon overall, also my 18th state on my goal.  Was the Rocket City Marathon in Alabama.
First off, I love visiting the south!  There is just something different about the people who live there, I don't know why but I find them to be some of the nicest and friendliest people in the country.  Maybe it's the cute southern belle accent, whatever it is, I just enjoy visiting them!
Alabama kept my southerners friendliest people theory going, because they were just that!

The race course was relatively flat, in other words just small rolling hills throughout the 26.2 miles of the course.
The one thing I was looking forward to in this race was hearing the song "Sweet Home Alabama" play on the course.  Thanks to the Community Volunteers around mile 8.5, I didn't have to leave disappointed!
Fun course through cute neighborhoods, continuously turning corners and meandering through different areas.  This kept the course from getting boring.  The straightway portions between miles 10-14 were within view of some of Alabama's beautiful forested mountains.

     As for me, this was my 3rd Marathon in 36 days, and my body felt it.  I don't really recommend anyone try that unless of course you okay with being in a lot of pain and a healthy addiction to running helps:)
My current injury, hip bursitis screamed in pain for a lot of the course.  Imagine having several needles stuck in through the side of your hip and shoot in through your quad, that is how I felt step after step for a good portion of the race and then pretty much constant the last 8 miles.
     However, despite the pain and fatigue I did actually have a few really great miles that felt near effortless miles 11-14 particularly:)
I also had my 2nd best marathon time of the year, which was pretty cool since with this goal I can't worry about my time too much!  I knew I was going to finish and within the qualifying time (because I had already told myself that I refused not to) and I just dug deep and figured it was going to hurt regardless.  So I might as well see if I can run it a little faster and not prolong the pain any longer than I had too.
I may write of the pain, but don't get me wrong I loved the course and really enjoyed running my race!  If I didn't really enjoy it, I probably wouldn't continuously put myself through this.

     This was the first race that as I crossed the finish line a volunteer walked with me for a ways down the chute to make sure I didn't fall over or collapse (his words).  Granted because of my hip I was limping pretty bad, and my smile was probably replaced by a grimace from me telling myself to just accept the pain, you'll get to a bed shortly...  However, I choose to believe they did that for each runner who crossed the finish line, although I don't remember too much about it and I didn't think to look around to see if they sent a volunteer along with everyone else.
I was kind of one track minded at that point, I knew I had a mile more to walk to get to my rental car, and I was just SOOO looking forward to getting off my legs for a bit.

U.S. Space & Rocket Center
     This was a full Marathon only race (which I loved) and it's also a smaller town race.  I believe there were around 1,500 runners.  However, the organization and volunteers were above and beyond what you would expect from a smaller marathon race.  Everything ran smoothly from the friendly and helpful volunteers at the expo, to the many who stood the long hours on the course providing snacks and drinks.  I also have to give a shout out to their police department who also spent several hours of their day standing and blocking and directing traffic so that the runners could have full right away.  You would think with the stress of dealing with drivers who wanted to get through the closed streets they would be grumpy, but they were not.  Every officer was just as friendly and cheered us on as much as the volunteers.  At no point did I ever feel that I wasn't completely welcome in their state and on the course.

     That night after the marathon I went out sightseeing, I had seen signs about a luminary tour through the historic Twickenham during the race.  Here there are actually more historic late 1800's Antebellum homes than any other area's in Alabama.  They do this for one night each year, and lucky for me it happened to be when I was visiting.
     Plantation, Federal Style, Victorian, Carpenter Gothic style homes and more.  Picture miles and miles of 100's of candle lit bags every five or so feet lining up and down an entire historic city.  Beautiful homes some literally dripping with the money that the owners evidently had plenty off.  Very classy Christmas decorations, statues and large black fire lit lanterns.  Pine garlands wrapping pillars, wreaths, and lots of professionally done yard lighting with small touches of white Christmas lights to decorated their homes and yards.
     One of the most amazing and largest Christmas light exhibits I've ever seen.  You could tour by foot too, I saw butlers dressed up fancy to invite passersby into the gorgeous historic homes probably to tell the homes story.  I swear some of them looked like they had 30 or more rooms just from the front.
I was too tired to go by foot and I could see more from my rental car:)  All the homeowners had all their curtains drawn wide open so you could see right into their magnificent homes.  It took me almost 2 hours driving around to see the majority of the historic city.
One fun thing was many of the owners had convertibles fancy porches, BMW's that they each decorate up in Christmas lights and other displays.  (You almost have to see it to understand) But they drove around as a train, tops down and all wishing everyone a Merry Christmas to show off their lite up convertibles.  One lady in the tour told me "Y'all hop on the back and we'll show you some real fun."  It was fun, I followed for a little while.
Absolutely beautiful and aside from the race the next most favorite thing I did in Alabama.  Sadly I didn't take pictures, I'll be kicking my self for a while for not doing so...
U.S. Space & Rocket Center
     Overall this past year has been more than I could have imagined I would accomplish.  In one year I have ran 14 Marathon's.  I can't believe my body let me get away with all of those to be honest!
I've met several GREAT new running friends on my travels.  I have visited some amazing places, and seen some beautiful country, America really is a beautiful place to explore with a lot of great people! 
My marathon travels this year have taken me through several lush beautiful pine and maple forests, granite cliff side coastal views, Smoky Mountains, Magnificent Waterfalls, Sandy Beaches at Sunset, a view from the top of the tallest mountain in the USA (Mt. McKinley), Desert Plains, Rolling Green Acres, Walking on Glaciers over 4000 feet deep in ice, NY Time Square to Amish Country.  Wildlife galore, Grizzly & Black Bear, Wild Orca's, Humpbacks, Seals, Buffalo, Caribou, Desert Bighorn, Armadillo's, Eagles just to name a few of what I saw.
This year alone I have visited 14 National Parks and loved the beauty of each and everyone of them!

I already can't wait for 2012, I already know it will be amazing and I am really looking forward to seeing more of America as I work on my goal of running a full marathon in each 50 state plus D.C.
Now, I need to put a little effort in getting my novel ready to go to a publisher, fingers crossed that I will be able to get it ready to go before the end of January:)

Hope all of my readers have a Very Merry Christmas, and I hope you are all enjoying everything life has to offer!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Book Review of: Her Dear & Loving Husband

     I was really excited when I won this book through a blog hop last month.  Her Dear & Loving Husband by Meredith Allard.
I took it with me to read while flying back to New York.  The storyline grabbed my attention right from the beginning and I literally only put it down when I had to switch flights.

     NOTE: This review is by NO means a spoiler, so please read on!

Sarah Alexander recently divorced and ready to start a new life, is drawn to seek something less complicated than a big city and decides to moves to Salem Massachusetts.  Where she obtains a college librarian position, and immediately become friends with none other than a woman who claims to be a real live Witch.
James Wentworth a night college professor has never been able to move on since his wife died.  However, when he see's Sarah who looks exactly like his deceased wife his quiet his secretive life is never to be the same again.
The longer Sarah stays in Salem the more frequently and vividly she is haunted by nightmares and visions of the Salem Witch Trials.  At the same time she finds herself falling for James.  James also finds himself falling for Sarah, but he has been hiding a big secret from her and isn't quite sure how to tell her who he really is.  But when a reporter starts digging around James is thrown into circumstances beyond his control.  To prevent a modern day hunt in Salem, he is forced to make choices that may not only effect his own life, but also the lives of those whom he cares for most...

     Meredith Allards's story is filled with just enough twists to keep you wanting to turn the pages faster and faster.  The author has also done an excellent job in researching the history of the Salem Witch Trials, I enjoyed learning more about something that I have always had a bit of a curiosity about. 
On a side note, this story has also made me really want to go and visit Salem Massachusetts during October for their Halloween celebrations, I have already added this area to my must do travel trips one day.
If you are looking for story with a different spin on things and a storyline to keep you guessing. And if you like to learn a little bit of new history with a fiction spin, you'll LOVE Her Dear & Loving Husband!

This is the first book in a trilogy and I can't wait for next spring to read book two!
You can CLICK HERE to go to Meredith's blog to learn more.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Philadelphia Marathon

Philadelphia City Hall
     It was a beautiful semi warm Philadelphia morning, I took the 1 mile early 6 a.m. walk from my hotel to the race start.  On my way to my corral I walked past the famous "Rocky" museum steps from the movie, making a mental note to go back later and do the famous run up them.
From the gun start to my corral it took me about 30 more minutes before I actually made it to the start line, there were about 27,000 runners, both marathon and half marathon.

     Going into this race my mind was 100% on board and mentally ready to give another marathon a go.  However, my body only a few miles into it was screaming "Really, you're seriously going to make me run 26.2 miles again..."  My mind won that battle and I forced my legs and injured hip to try to forget they weren't done healing from the NYC Marathon 2 weeks prior.
     The race started through the beautiful downtown streets of Philadelphia, running past lots and lots of red brick buildings, likely most of them built in the late 1700"s, since Philly is one of the oldest cities in America.  Bricks and Columns you could tell they were old, but still had lots of character to them.
Betsy Ross House

     We came out of the city and then ran next to the beautiful and massive Delaware River for a bit before heading back into the city, and running through the historic district.  Passing Independence Hall and the Liberty bell and back up into different city streets.

     Crossing the Schullykill River, and heading into University City, passing quite a few college students and different fraternities.
I am going to mention I wasn't exactly loving running with all the half marathoners at this point.  There seemed to be quite a few first timers out there and in large groups.  It's great they were so many out for their first big race!   But when you have so many runners, and you have so few paying attention to where they are going.  In their large groups suddenly stopping when one of their group members things he/she has a cramp or wants to stop the group to complain about how it's so much harder than they thought it would be.  Well it get's a little annoying if you happen to be behind them and have to keep from running into them as they suddenly stop in the middle of the road. 

Benjamin Franklin Parkway Fountain
I am all for making your race fun, but I like to think of myself as a pretty courteous runner.  I see little bits of this happen here and there as I am running around the country.  But I'm not sure if it was bad luck or what, but I was REALLY thrilled when the half parted to finished and the full carried on.  I could finally relax and enjoy the race and not have to constantly pay attention so I didn't get slammed into:)

     By the half way point we had crossed another bridge over the river, and ran in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Famous by the Rocky Movie).
Up until this point I hadn't heard the movie soundtrack song, that I hear in almost every race, and I was really expecting it.
Luckily right past the museum near the bronzed Rocky statue I heard a guy playing it on his Trumpet, then again several times through the next few miles of the course.
Liberty Bell

     We were running right along side the Schulykill River and I must say it was beautiful.  Philadelphia loves arch bridges made of (of course) brick.  So pretty, some of them so old they are a blackish color with lots of green moss intertwined through them.
The river although large was pretty quiet for the most part, just a massive slow moving river lined by a trail way and road.  Beautiful maples and other tree's adorned in their fall colors, many still had most of their multi colored leaves.

     The course was fairly flat with gentle rolling hills that I probably wouldn't have even noticed if I hadn't been having to force my tired legs to run up them.
I knew running so many marathon's a year would not be without their problems, and I knew that some would be more tiring than others since I don't really give myself time to recover.  But I was really struggling at this point.  I can honestly say this was the most tired I have ever been.  By mile 18 my hip bursitis was aching and I felt like my legs were carrying 50 pound weights, and my lungs were really, really tired at this point.
     Luckily I prepare mentally ahead of time for problems.  At this point in my running, being trained for

Independence Hall
the races isn't really an issue.  It's become a mostly mental racing now and I am getting pretty good with what I call self hypnosis.  I take all the pain and try to channel it into the back of my mind concentrating on other things or things around me so intently that the pain is buried back a bit further. Although I will admit the pain surfaces quite often, its just a matter of having enough things in my brain to concentrate on.  Maybe it's the wanna be writer in me, but I seem to be able to come up with plenty to think about.

     The last half of the Marathon was basically an out and back course.  Yup this is the time I look to the runners on the other side of the road from me and wish I was a 3 hour finisher:)
Then when it is my turn to be on the return, I look at the others and am very grateful I am not still on the outbound.
We made a turn in a small town ManaYuck, I remember the name because it was so odd.  But the town had lots and lots of cheer support out everyone was so friendly.
Actually the out and back, had lots of support along the way.  Great volunteers who were so friendly and more than willing to do anything they could to help that day.
     There were a several water stops that ran out of cups, my theory was the stop was for one side of the road but both sides were drinking.  This wasn't a problem when I was heading outbound, but when I was on the inbound toward the finish I was wishing that I could have had at least one more stop with water.
I did at one point let them just pour water into my hands and used my hands to cup it into my mouth.  It's one thing to be running tired, it's completely different to be dehydrated and I didn't want that to happen:)
Covered Bridge near Lancaster
AKA Kissing Bridge

     Passing a few fall's on the way back and back under some beautiful rocky and bridge archways, then to the parkway to the finish line.
I can't tell you how glad I was to see that finish line.  Normally the last .2 of the race is the worst.   But I was just so excited that I was able to finish and suffer through the pain (even if self inflicted) that the last stretch didn't seem to take as long as it normally does.
     I didn't hang around at the finish, I rarely do.  I still had a mile walk back to the hotel so I could take a shower and start working on some of the injuries.

     See because of the bursitis I had to keep my hip warm earlier in the race, because cold makes it a sheer pain that I almost can't run through.  I had bought a different brand of heat warmers and stuck them with their self adhesive to my hip and thigh.  BIG MISTAKE although I pulled them off around mile 10, the damage was done.  The tape was too sticky and it had already taken off most of my skin.  I hate open wounds, they are the most painful to clean up afterwards, especially in large area's...
Oh, well I amaze myself with the fact that even after 24 marathons I still make stupid mistakes...
Amish Horse and Buggy

     I had a great trip though!  Before the race I went to Lancaster, PA and took a few days visiting Amish Country.  Eating Dutch foods and touring some of the Amish communities.  It was beautiful just rolling green acre hills, beautiful large Amish farm houses.  Buggies and carriages being pulled by beautiful horses going right down the road, I saw dozens of them.  I enjoyed learning a bit more about the Amish culture too.
In Philadelphia visited Independence Hall and stood where the Constitution was signed, and next to the Liberty Bell and toured Betsy Ross's House.  I enjoyed learning and re-learning a little more about American History.
Despite the tired body, I had a GREAT race and enjoyed seeing parts of Pennsylvania, it is a beautiful state rich with early American history.
The room where the Constitution was signed
     Then of course because I didn't already inflict enough pain on myself during the race.  A shower and a few short hours after the marathon I went and ran (yes ran) up the famous Philadelphia Art Museum steps as Sylvester Stallone did in the movie "Rocky".  Then at the top I had to do the same victory pose for a picture:)
Philadelphia Art Museum Steps
I am in this picture, at the top although you can probably not see me as it was taken from the bottom looking up the stairs.

     I do have one more race planned for this year so time to relax and recover as much as possible before the next race in a few weeks:)

Monday, November 14, 2011

My New York City Marathon

Statue of Liberty
     When I applied for the New York City Marathon this year on the very last day to enter, I honestly never thought I'd get in.  After all less than 10% of all the people in the world who enter the race ever get into it (so I've read).  But I was accepted and THRILLED!  I had never been to NYC and I had excitement all year while I waited to run the worlds largest marathon.
     A week before the race I was in a lot of pain and the Dr. diagnosed me with hip bursitis.  Things weren't looking good for me, I could barely stand the pain I would get running just a few miles, how I was going to finish a marathon?  I got 3 cortisone shots and then took a week off of running and did a lot of praying and mental preparation.  Bursitis usually takes 6 weeks off of running to begin the healing process, I had less than 5 days just to be able to take the pain...

View of Manhattan from Brooklyn
(In my opinion the best place to view)
     I arrived in New York and checked into the Brooklyn Marriott.  (I decided to book the marathon portion of my trip with Anthony Travel, because not knowing the area and being alone they guaranteed me transportation to the expo and to the race start along with my hotel stay.)  Took a shuttle bus the next day to the huge expo at the Javits Center.  I had a bus driver who on the way took us on a sight seeing tour of parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan which was cool.
     The expo was huge, but unlike others from all other races I have ran.  It was more of a shopping mall for runners, Asics was the sponsor, and literally anything a runner could want in several colors, I could have gone broke with all the cute shades of pink running gear options available.  Several other big running gear names were there as well, races from around the world just a bit more high priced commercialized than most race expo's.  But full of lots of energy and pre-race excitement.
My hip ached a bit just walking through the expo and it kept my worrying up.

Famous Brooklyn Bridge
     Usually the day before a marathon in rural area's I love to go for a hike, but being in New York I decided to just go for a city walk.  Starting in Brooklyn originally the plan was to just walk to the famous Brooklyn Bridge and then back, but curiosity got the best of me when I crossed to the other side in Manhattan and I decided to walk around the city a bit (turned into several miles).
I had no idea where I was going, but figured if I got lost I could just grab a taxi to take me back to Brooklyn, so I just walked around eventually ending up at the 9-11 Memorial Site, which wasn't much to see since it was still under construction.  But had a good view of the new WTC tower they are half way through building. (Didn't get lost.)
New World Trade Center
It's half built
That night I took a locals tip and enjoyed some great New York pizza from a small Brooklyn Pizzeria. (Yummy)
That night I had another problem, I during the day discovered a new muscle pull behind my knee, it was bad I was limping while walking. (Not good!)  Worried about a hamstring pull, I spent most the night icing it off and on.

     Marathon Morning, mine started at 4:20 a.m.  The back of my knee was really hurting me, but when jogging across my hotel room I discovered it only really hurt while walking, not so much while running.  This was good news to me!  I skipped my regular routine and just had a bagel and got dressed and headed downstairs for the bus. 
Had fun talking to a runner from North Dakota along the way, and arrived at the race start on Staten Island at 6:30 a.m.  Normally this would be fine, but I was in the 3rd Wave, and my green corral line up start wasn't going to start until 10:40 a.m.
I had A LOT of time to spend waiting...  I put on my ear covers, gloves and garbage bag, and found a good place to sit and try to keep warm.  I was keeping my hip and thigh injuries warm using those peel and stick heat warmers, and then I just sat and waited wishing I had a book or a comfy spot to lay down and take a nap.  Instead I people watched and talked to runners around the world.
     Things started going a little faster when I heard the gunshot in the distance for the elite women runners, then a few hours later I loaded for my corral.
I didn't actually get across the start until a little after 11 a.m.   (Yes I had to wait almost 6 hours before I could start the race.  A VERY long morning!!!)

Verrazano Narrows Bridge
Longest Bridge in the world
     There were 47,000+ Marathon runners that morning and broken into 3 Wave starts, and each wave had 3 color start lines.  By the time we were in the corrals we were like packed sardines.  Each wave got their own star spangled banner song, and gun start (which was cool).  Then as we walked to get to the start to begin our race on the longest bridge in the world the Verrazano Narrows Bridge which connects Staten Island to Brooklyn.  They played Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" and every one sang along "Start Spreading the News, I am leaving today, I want to be a part of it, New York, New York..."
Immediately the energy of the race went up, and everyone came alive. 
I knew right then that this was going to be a GREAT race to be a part of!!!

     The bridge was long, and yes I can honestly say with the thousands of footsteps pounding on it, it did feel like it moved a little.  Other bridge, fire boats spraying water up, down below from the bay.  Clear beautiful blue sky and perfect temperatures in the 50's for running.
Thousands of runners on the top and bottom sections of the bridge, I was on the bottom.  There were actually 3 courses with the different wave colors and we all were on different sections and courses until later on around mile 8 on the course when we all combined.  Mostly it was running on different sides of the freeway, or different sections of the bridge.
Central Park
     Soon as the bridge ended the spectators began, at first there were only a few hundred, and then when we hit the Brooklyn neighborhoods WOW they were out in the 10's of thousands if not 100's of thousands.  They weren't just standing around watching, they were cheering, singing, playing music, dancing...  You would have thought us running through Brooklyn was a national holiday, everyone from families, gangs, heck even a few groups that looked like mafia were there enjoying it.
We went through old neighborhoods, to places that I would probably never venture into any other time even with a police escort.  Some area's were nice and clean, others plastered with graffiti everywhere except on the churches and schools.
Unbelievable energy running through Brooklyn, I was so caught up in watching and listening to the spectators I literally forgot all about my hip injury at times.  It was great!
Passed a group of kids playing music with metal garbage can's and lids, AMAZING they were unbelievably good, you would have never guessed the musical instruments were metal trash cans.

Brooklyn Visitors Center at Night
     Brooklyn was the area I'd say that had the most spectators, I would even guess possibly close to a million of them, by far the most energy and some of the best music.  Who would have thought I'd enjoy listening to gangsta rap & Jamaican music while running...  Heck one group was even singing Beastie Boys songs, haven't heard that in a while.  But I really did enjoy it all, and the singers were mostly great!  Even the gospel rock singers at an old church that they had put up huge speakers and just sang and danced.  Lot's of fun!
I was told there were 130 bands along the course, and I believe it, other than when on the different bridges, (the only places spectators weren't allowed) all you heard was cheers and music.
I personally no longer run with headphones in Marathon's just to experience it all.  But in this race particularly, anyone with them turned on was really missing out on the experience.

Fountain in Central Park
     The fun didn't end in Brooklyn, we entered Queen's next, and although not as many in the crowds I'd still say it was a safe bet to say it was still in the 10's of thousands range.  Good music, and still lots & lots of energy!  I was surprised Queen's was a really unique place.  I wish I could have enjoyed it a little more, it turned out this is where a lot of my problems starting to occur, so I was sidetracked a little at times with my own issues.  But I loved seeing all the people, and at one point at the city basketball courts just playing ball and cheering and having fun at the same time.
     I started having some running problems around mile 11, I mentally prepared for them in advance, but it was still discouraging when it happened.  But I wasn't about to let it get me down, even if it slowed me down a bit and put me into a slower group of runners.

"The Lake" at Central Park
By the time I started feeling good again, after crossing the Queensboro Bridge it was too late I was already stuck in a crowd of runners that were going much slower than my normal pace and it would have added more miles to the race weaving in and around them, not to mention the energy to do so to bother so I just shrugged my shoulders.  Unless you are an elite runner, this isn't a race that in my opinion you can really go for a PR in, so I just accepted the fact that this was going to be my slowest marathon ever and I just concentrated on the original goal, to finish regardless of my injuries.

     Entering the Bronx was fun too, we were only in there less than 2 miles, but boy did they have a lot of energy and fun.  Their gangsta rap stuff was re-written for marathon runners (like those in Brooklyn did) and it was raps of all about running.  Fun stuff!!!
View from Empire State Building
Then back into Manhattan, the Harlem area first, then past the rich area near some "Trump" hotels a few miles later entered the Central Park area.  The crowds in Manhattan were still out in the thousands, although I am sure several had already gone home by the time I got into the area.  It was still more spectators than I had ever seen in a race.
Central Park is not like any park I ever would have imagined.  Not only is is huge, several miles in length and at least a mile across in width.  Had a reservoir and several lakes.  Lots of hills and I swear mountains, trails and beautiful fall tree's.  I can't believe I was so lucky to be there before all the fall foliage had gone away.  It was so beautiful!
The last few miles of the race in my opinion had more spectators out cheering than if you combined all the spectators from the last 10 marathon's I've run.
It was really incredible and indescribable!
I should also mention all the jumbo trons along the course, I almost want to say there were at least 6 throughout the race before the one at the finish.  It was so fun to look up and see myself running on on the screen, it just picks up the energy a little.

Red, White & Blue
Empire State Building
     After spending 6 hours waiting around, then another 5+ running lets just say it was a long day!  I was tired (actually words cannot explain how exhausted I was.) I felt pretty hungry by the time I reached the last miles of the course too, after all I was living on 1 and a half bagel and water and Gatorade all day. 
Because of daylight savings the sun was already starting to drop by the time I reached the finish area, and it was starting to get cold, really cold even got a sore throat at mile 25 from it.
But their is so much energy from that race that it carries you to the finish.
When I did finally reach the finish area I was thrilled, I just finished running the worlds biggest and greatest marathon.  Less than 1% of runners ever run a marathon, let a lone the small percentage of those that actually get in to run New York.  It was one of the most expensive races to enter ($200 entry fee alone) not to mention hotels are well over $300 a night.

Picture I took after the Finish Line
Lots and lots of tired runners
I can honestly say when I approached the finish I thought about how it was worth every penny of it!  All the hype was true, this really is one of the best marathon's ever!!!  (I should know this was my 23rd and 16th state.)

After I crossed the finish and received my medal, and was handed a heavy bag of recovery drinks and food, I made my way through the finish corrals and past all the UPS baggage pick up trucks...  It took me over an hour, there were thousands of runners no chance of getting through it sooner. By now it was full on dark, I was told that no taxi's were allowed in the area, (how I had planned to get back to my hotel) so I was going to have to take the Subway for the first time. 
Looking back at my fear now I laugh, but at the time I was worried, at night in NY and having to take the Subway alone...  Not what you hear is the smart thing to do, but I had no other choice.
I followed other runners who seemed to know where they were going, I asked a few volunteers for help, which they gave me but they all gave me different Subway directions to take, all it did was confuse me and make me almost want to cry.  After all I was cold, exhausted and just wanted to get back to my hotel take a bath, eat something and collapse on my bed.
Mary Poppins
Amsterdam Theatre
     I just walked underground, and decided to follow the last ladies advise, however she ran up to me just as I was going down and changed her directions once again... (Yikes, apparently not many knew the best way to get to Brooklyn..)
I bought a ticket easy enough and then went through the gates and waited and just decided to climb on the first train...  There were others around, but they were all just as clueless as me, and none going to Brooklyn.
    Luckily after getting on the Subway about half way into my ride when others were getting off and it was starting to empty, a nice older couple came over and sat with me.
Turns out they were from Brooklyn and were more than willing to help me out.  I will be forever grateful for their help, because turns out the directions I had previously been given were wrong, and the nice couple got me to the correct stop I needed to get off on.
In all after the race it took me 2 more hours to get back to Brooklyn, and I walked around another 2 miles to get out of the finish and to the trains.  It was almost 7 p.m. when I got back to my room that night.

Inside Grand Central Terminal
     I have to mention that this race had some of the best race organization I have ever seen.  I guess it would have to be, to accommodate 47,000+ runners.   I also need to mention the volunteers, especially those in the ING orange raincoats who helped at the water stations.  I never needed to wait for a cup, and they were extremely friendly and supportive.
Which is surprising after how drenched in sticky Gatorade they were. 

I didn't enjoy going through all the water stops, they were at every mile on the course after mile 3.  I just stopped every 2-3 miles for water.  When I didn't want any I tried to stay in the middle of the road, keeping my eyes on the mountains of water cups and watch out for the thousands of slippery banana peels. (That was all I wanted to have to come back and say, yes I broke my tailbone again slipping on a banana peel in the race, LOL..  Thankfully I never fell when I slipped:)
Near Wall Street
Trinity Church down Center
The other annoying thing about the water/Gatorade stops was the sticky ground.  It was sticky for almost 200 meters past the pick up point.  Your shoes would literally stick to the ground, I laughed and thought of it as resistance.

A few more interesting things about running in a big race like this, I ran elbow's out at the beginning until the crowds thinned and I wasn't getting pushed into so much.   I got punched in the back of my ribs a lot.  Because runners behind me would move over because someone pushed them, and then their hand/fist would get shoved into my back.  I seriously thought I'd have some bruises from it...
Also, you really had to pay attention to the runners in front of you.  If the guy in front decided to stop or slow if you weren't paying attention you'd run right into them.  It took some getting used to in the beginning, especially after I started paying attention to the spectators.  But eventually you get the hang of using the peripheral vision and it works out okay.

Time Square

I wasn't expecting New Yorkers to be so friendly, but they were, and went above and beyond really!
I am glad I booked with the travel agency, because it was one less thing I had to worry about that weekend.
I lucked out the shot I got really did help, and so did keeping my leg heated before and during the race, I know I was being watched out for and helped because I was expecting the worst.  I honestly prepared to be in tearing horrible pain every time my right leg hit the pavement and the sheer constant pain never came, and what did come I was able to mentally push aside, it helped with all the excitement on the sidelines I used it to detour my mind at times.

The race was huge, running through all of the boroughs was amazing, I still can't believe it.  I finished the New York City Marathon. 
I only shared a little of it above, but I have hundred's of other memories from it that I'll be talking about it for the rest of my life I am sure!
     People kept asking me which celebrities did I see, well I didn't see any while running.  But on the rest of the trip I did run into a few.  I met Ann Curry, Adam Sandler and Talor Lautner.  Yes I am bad with the camera, I didn't ask for a picture with them, and I decided to take pictures before or right after I met them.

Ann Curry, just before I met her


Adam Sandler, just before I met him
Taylor Lautner

Al, Ann & Natalie giving a morning broadcast on the Today Show
     To re-cap the rest of the trip in short.  After the race weekend, I transferred over to another hotel in Time Square, and spend a week sightseeing and experiencing NYC.  I saw a couple of fabulous Broadway plays, Mary Poppins, and Adam's Family (with Brooke Shields).  I saw the famous sites, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Tiffany & Co., Grand Central Station, Central Park, Empire State Building, Macy's on 34th Street, Time Square, was on the Today show, Rockefeller Center, ate NY Cheesecake, NY Pizza and so much, much more... 
I mentioned earlier I laughed at my original fear of riding the NY Subway system, well it turned out to be a financial saver...  I saved what I believe was hundreds from taking the trains instead of Taxi's...  I found it to be perfectly safe and after the original trip quite easy to navigate and much faster than driving.  I consider myself a pro now:)
I had a great trip, a fabulous marathon and memories to last a lifetime!
Tiffany & Co.

Inside Macy's on 34th Street
One of their Christmas Displays
Bryant Park Ice Rink
Time Square, Ball they Drop at New Years

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Country Western Wedding

We have done a lot of Western Weddings this past month, here are a few pictures from them, to showcase some of the different designs or options we created for the brides.
Fall Western Wedding

Fountain and Western Layered Picture Area
Western Room View
Glass boot and Rusted Lantern on Piled Organza
Western Wedding with Pines




Saturday, October 29, 2011

My Recent Reads - An Amish Series


        I just finished a series of books that have been on the market for years.  Probably most who love to read, have already read them.  But since I can be a bit behind on a good read at times, I am happy to say better late than never.
Beverly Lewis, The Shunning, The Confession & The Reckoning.

       I have to be honest I actually read all 3 of them in about 2 days, sometimes I have a tendency to get caught up in a good book and if it is a series I just want to read through to see how it all ends.  Lucky for me these were all easy fast reads.

If you are looking for a great series I highly recommend these, I know she has several other Amish series out and I look forward to tracking them down and reading them as well.  I enjoyed not only the story line but learning about the Amish.  It not only sparked my reading interest it also sparked a desire to go and visit Pennsylvania, Lancaster and venture out into the Amish area's and do a little shopping around their stores.

Lucky for me I am planning on a race near there in a few weeks, so I have decided to extend my trip and arrive a little early so I can go out and visit the area before heading to Philly for the race.

       If you haven't already guessed with my previous state race blogs.  This is one of my favorite things to do along with running a Marathon in each state.  Finding new and interesting things to do and see while I am in each state.  I am so glad I took a friends advise to read these books when I did.  Because if I had read them after the Pennsylvania trip I would have regrets of not venturing out to see the Lancaster area as well.
(I just hope the recent weather they have been receiving changes back from snow to nice regular fall temps by the time I get there.)


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Royal Blue Wedding

One color you don't see at weddings very often, but when done correctly can actually be quite beautiful is Royal Blue.

On this particular day the brides colors were Royal Blue and Light Pink.  I've placed a few pictures below, so you can view me and my companies decorating work for their wedding day.  We actually used only the most subtle hints of pink, as not to clash too much with the Royal Blue.



Wedding Gazebo

We wrapped the gazebo in white tulle with lights underneath to give it an icy looking glow.


We went with a lighted tulle cross backdrop that matched the gazebo. As you can see below the only hints of pink we used were in the centerpieces, which are hard to see in this picture but we had royal blue flowers floating in water.




Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Running Through History, My West Virginia Marathon


Antietam Battlefield
I picked the Freedom Run in West Virginia because of the great opportunity to run through 4 National Parks and experience a bit of American History that I haven't seen before.  This Marathon didn't let me down, not a bit. 
     I decided to walk to the start, so I had about a 1 mile warm up walk in the dark, through what I was told was a forest haunted by civil war ghosts, it was dark and I was alone walking through it, but no ghosts, maybe it was the light rain falling that was keeping them away:)

C&O Canal Way
The race started at the Harpers Ferry National Park Visitor Center.  A few rolling hills in the first few miles, the opportunity to run through Murphy's Farm, and then about a mile down a steep paved incline which was lined by a beautiful green lush forest and the Shenandoah River.
The incline was steep, I was glad it was early on because a hill like that at the end, my legs would be like rubber.  However, little did I know what was coming...

Historic Harpers Ferry
The race then ran through part of the old reconstructed town of Harpers Ferry.  (The National Park Service, had the buildings & shops restored so you can have an idea of what it was like both pre and post civil war.  The original buildings were mostly all burned down or destroyed during the war.
The town is also famous for it's haunted hotel's and ghosts that walk the streets in the night.)  I was bummed I didn't see them on my trip!
After the town, we headed up a bridge walkway.  The walkway is famous for a couple of things.  Once upon it you ran side by side with the famous tracks of the B&O Railroad.  (I was just thinking about the Monopoly game though as I ran over it.)
Merge of Potomac & Shenandoah
It's also where the large Shenandoah & Potomac Rivers merge together.  It's a beautiful canyon merge, rock wall mountains with lots and lots of tree's and foliage.  That is not all, it's also part of the famous Appalachian Trail and the beginning of the Potomac Heritage Trail which is also a National Park.
The rain had semi stopped until this point but when I got to the end of the bridge the rain started up again, and I got a running first.  We had to run down steep spiral metal staircase and of course the rain decided to start back up and make things a little more slippery.
From this point on, it rained steadily.  Not a heavy downpour, but just a medium steady rain throughout the entire rest of my race.

Historic Trail
Things leveled off from miles 6-13, just gentle rolling slopes but fairly flat.  We ran right next to the Potomac River, for this stretch of the trail.  Lot's of beautiful tree's mostly green, with the beginnings of fall in them.  The trail was packed dirt.  But with the rain and all the runners, it made a few spots a little bit muddy slippery.  There were also some sharp rocks poking out of the trail, probably made worse from the rain.  Covered in fall leaves, it really was beautiful, the perfect running  temperature, the tree's keeping the rain falling on me to a minimum.  I really enjoyed this stretch!  The only problem was because the colored fall leaves on the path blocked my view of the surprise rocks and holes.  I took a little too much caution and slowed my pace much more than I should have to avoid hurting my injured ankle or foot more than they already were.  That is the only thing I would change I wish I hadn't of slowed so much.

     Miles 14-18 things started to get pretty interesting!
If you don't already know, I DON'T like to view the courses beforehand too much, and I like to be surprised instead of knowing exactly what lay ahead.
HILLS, HILLS, and more HILLS.   We are not talking small 7-8% grade hills either.  Possibly it was because my hip was killing me and wanting to give out on me because of how I had ran to protect my foot from further injury.  Or maybe it was because it was the miles of the second half of the race.  But some of those hills I remember seeing them ahead and when I got to them looking up, and wondering how on earth I was going to get up these long walls!
Lower Bridge (Burnside Bridge)
A few in particular were just insane! (But fun too!)
However, after a little struggles around mile 15 something happened and I got what I call a 2nd wind.  (Might have had something to do with the Tylenol I took at mile 14 to help with my hip pain.  That and the hip pain was working it's way out or numb, sometimes you can't tell the difference:)
Plus, there was this really annoying guy who was giving step by step instructions on how to run to his friend (who was actually doing better than him.)  It was beyond annoying, and I needed to get away from it.  It gave me the energy to charge up the next few hills, although I swear his voice carried forever...  Finally the voice disappeared and I got a few more bursts of energy.

Now the 1/2 marathon merged with the full near this area, I only past a few of the 1/2 runners they were mostly off the course by this point.  The marathon had an extra out and back up to the bridge (pictured above).  I remember when I saw the HUGE hill that I was instructed to pass and go down the road I was slightly glad I wasn't having to go up it, it looked like a monster.
However, the out and back had several of it's own monsters.  Gave me an opportunity to see how far I had sped up and past the (annoying man) which I was almost a mile ahead of him at this point now.
Of course when I finished the out and back I then had to go up the massive hill I had previously thought I was going to get to avoid:)

Now this will sound gross, but I am running through Antietam Battlefield area now (The single most worst day in battle in American history.  Over 23,000 were killed on Sept. 17th 1862.)
My mind likes to run wild with imagination, and I saw what was likely the bloody remains of someone who had hit a deer on the road.  This made my imagination go and as I was approaching what is called "Bloody Lane" I thought that back on that bloody day in history the brownish/red stain on the ground was likely what covered this land, not to mention all the dead soldiers.
Sherrick Farmhouse - Civil War Ruins
While my imagination was running, I heard a single rifle shot.  I seriously thought I was losing my mind, or that I was beginning delirium...  But just as I was trying to decide if I had just imagined it.  I heard a few more shots.  Then a bunch of pistol shots, and a few miss-fires.  As I climbed to the top of the next hill, I looked to my left and there was a bunch of Civil War dressed soldiers out marching on the field, firing shots.  They were doing a reenactment for the visitors center up at the top of the hill.  This was seriously cool to hear while running through the battlefield.  Of course my imagination was really going now.  I figured what I was hearing timesd by thousands and that was likely what was going on that day back in history.

     One of the last what I called Monster Hills, there was a sign that said "Smile there is a photographer at the top".  So for the last 50 feet of the hill, I put a smile on my face and pretended to run pain free so that in case that was the picture I decided to order for this race it would be a good one. :)

Antietam Battlefield
Antietam Civil War Marker
Once up on top of the battlefield, near the cornfields of where the battles of Antietam began early one morning long ago.  The rain was still coming, and the wind kicked it up a notch, probably from lack of tree's or hills to block it.  I was really starting to get cold.  But with less than 6 miles to go, there wasn't much I could do about it.  So I ran on. 

There were still hills, but they were just large to moderate, nothing like before.  Which was good because I was really starting to get tired and my legs were just burning in pain from all the climbing.  I forgot to mention that all those crazy hills, also came a lot of steep crazy downhill.  I have strong legs because of all the running I do, but even my legs were getting tired and it was becoming harder and harder to keep them strong.
Potomac River newr Shepherdstown
We came out of the park and into Sharpsburg, and then past more parts of C&O National Parks.  Then finally the bridge to cross back over the Potomac came, and finally I was on the homestretch.  I could almost see Shepards University in the distance.
Finally the last .2 of the race came, and the stadium was within reach.  One last steep downhill and then a sharp left and down the football field to finish on the 50 yard line.
GREAT RACE!!!  The course was just beautiful and I loved it, the volunteers and race organizers were great!

A bus ride back to an area near the start and then I was told if I walked up a steep hill (wall) I would reach my hotel about a mile up.  I seriously cringed as I looked up, my legs were exhausted, I was freezing and shivering now.
So when a nice guy from North Carolina offered me a ride to the hotel, I looked up at the hill and said yes.  Now I am not one who normally gets into a car with a man I don't know.  But he was walking worse than I was, and I didn't want to freeze my tush off more with a tiring uphill walk.  So I decided to take my chances and accepted the ride. 

The race was great!  I spent 5 vacation days touring the area and visiting all the National Parks on foot.
The day after the race I drove up to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  I was very sore from the previous days ordeal, but in case I never make it to this part of the country again I just had to visit Gettysburg!!!
I took the 24 mile Auto tour, got out and stretched my sore legs at a few stops and walked the visitor trails.  Climbed the castle looking overlook tower, just about killing myself coming back down the stone spiral
steps.  Decided to climb one more overlook 98 stairs up, and 98 back down (Ouchy on my sore legs).  But if you are going to see history, you can't let some sore legs hold you back from seeing it all:)
I stood where Lincoln, gave the famous Gettysburg Address in what is now the Soldiers National Cemetery and viewed all the different battlefield areas and the really cool monuments they have constructed around the area.
On Right: Place where Lincoln gave Gettysburg address
On Left: Little Round Top Overlook Marker
Center: Lincoln Monument
        
I could write ton's more because it was a great Marathon trip, but I think you get the just of it.
If you love to run and like history, try the Freedom Run Marathon.  However, if you just like history you should try to take a trip to this part of the country.  West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania are all completely beautiful states full of lot's of places to see and learn more about Americans past.
Warfield Ridge
Now, the big questions.  How long is it going to take me to recover from all the muscle tears and soreness of this race?  Will I be okay if I run another one in a few days?  Time will tell....  Or a few days will tell :)