Race recap for the @azdistance Valley of Gold Half Marathon

I'm a little late in getting this done, but better late than never. We drove up to Tucson on Saturday and got checked in at the Hilton El Conquistador Resort, the official race hotel. AWESOME place!!! Since I got the VIP upgrade by staying at the hotel, my race bag, shirt, number, and race JACKET (another perk of being a VIP!!) were waiting for me at check in. How cool is that!! And my name was on my race number – that's a first for me. After settling into our room for a bit, we got suited up and headed to the pool area. That was really nice, too – outdoor pools, but it was 80+ degrees out so it was nice. They had a kiddie pool area and a slide and even a little kids pool where the water didn't get deep than 1 1/2 feet. We all had a great time, Thomas included, and then we headed back and relaxed in the hot tub near our room for a while. We went to Red Robin for dinner and then spent the evening relaxing in our room.

Sunday morning was race day, and my alarm went off at 4:15, but I snuggled under the blankets until about 4:35 and then I got up and ready. Shortly after 5:30 I headed up to the hotel lobby to catch the shuttle to the race start. I had a VIP pass, and they had some breakfast stuff and private porta-potties, so that was kind of nice. There was pre-race yoga/stretching, so I went and did that – partly to warmup/stretch and partly to warm up – it was about 55 degrees out and I only had my t-shirt and skirt on. After yoga, I hit the porta-potty and then headed to the start area.

The course was a little hilly, but definitely nothing I couldn't handle. The race was at 2000 feet elevation less than what I train at, and I've got some good hills here to run on. I passed A LOT of people on the uphills!!! Yay for all my training runs into the wind uphill. The course was BEAUTIFUL and the volunteers and police support was awesome! They had police officers at EVERY intersection along the course. The water stops were well placed, although they could maybe have had a few more. I hit the turn-around point and started back. I was getting a little tired at this point, but still doing well. I grabbed fluids at every water stop and had 2 GU – need to find something else for the later stages of races/long runs. I didn't even attempt my 3rd one as I'm pretty sure my stomach couldn't handle it. About the last 1/2 mile I was starting to think I wasn't going to make it – my mouth was SOOOO dry and I knew that I needed some salt. But I did make it to the finish line, and of course my husband and sons were right near the finish waiting for me!! I love seeing them and it helps me finish strong.

I finished in 2:29:13, an 11:23 pace!!! I'm loving how I'm getting faster, even over long distances. My run 9 minutes/walk 1 minute seems to work really well, so I'll keep doing that for now. This race was a new Personal Record (PR) for me by almost 4 minutes and I'm really excited that I'm finally under 2:30! Someday I will be under 2:20 – maybe this year. I have 3 more possible half marathons planned for this year, so we'll see.

Here are a few pictures of race stuff:
My goodies from my race bag.

My race outfit

My medal from half marathon #7

Home Sweet Home!!

Our vacation has come to an end. We slept in the morning before heading to the Cafe one last time for breakfast. We got to watch the train depart for the day, and Robert saw one of the friends he made and got to say goodbye to her. We let Thomas gnaw on a chunk of watermelon to celebrate his 6 month birthday. I think he wasn't quite sure of it, but he seemed to like it despite a few faces. After we were done eating, we headed back to our room to finish getting packed and then we got a luggage cart, brought everything out to the car, and got checked out. The roads were wonderful on our drive home and the drive itself was pretty uneventful. We stopped a few times – for gas, a potty stop for us/snack stop for Thomas at a rest area. About 1/2 hour after the rest stop, Thomas started crying. And crying. And crying. It sounded like his hungry cry, which was odd since he had just eaten. So Ryan finally found a place to get off the freeway and we got Thomas out and changed his barely wet diaper and I tried to feed him. Nope. He wasn't hungry. All that fussing was from the barely wet diaper. So we got back on the road again, and after another gas stop (we didn't fill up the first time since it was so expensive cuz it was a little gas station in the middle of nowhere) and dinner stop (McDonald's), we made it home! Our kitty cat was glad to see us. We got the van all unloaded and had a nice relaxing evening. Both boys had baths and Ryan and I watched the NASCAR race from Sunday.

Time for bed now. I have to go back to work tomorrow.

Spring Break Surprise Vacation – Day 3

This morning we got up about 7, got ready and head to the Cafe for breakfast. It was buffet, just like dinner last night. I had a made-to-order omelet and YUM!!!!! They have some GOOD food at this place. But, oh, the prices! We would never eat here if it weren't part of our package deal I got. $30 for the 3 of us for breakfast, and dinner is $50 for the 3 of us!!!!  Ack! After we ate breakfast, we headed next door to the train depot and after a short wait, boarded the train to the Grand Canyon. It was a really fun ride and there were very few people on board so we all had lots of room. There's a cafe car, so of course we had to get snacks. The countryside was beautiful with all the snow.

The train ride is 2 hours and 15 minutes and near the end we saw lots of deer laying under trees really close to the tracks. We got to the Grand Canyon and had about 3 hours to see the Canyon and the buildings and everything. The first place we went was to the Visitors' Center to get Robert his Junior Ranger booklet. There are different activities for kids of various ages and if the child completes at least 4 activities and listens to a Ranger talk and gets the Ranger's signature, the child becomes a Junior Ranger. They have this at all the National Parks, and we did it at Mt. Rushmore and Wind Cave as well. After we got Robert's JR book, we took some pictures by/of the Canyon, checked out the Hopi House, bought a couple of souvenirs, and the headed back for the Ranger Talk. The lady that did today's talked about split twig figures that they have found in some of the caves, and then the kids (there were maybe 8 or 10) and parents got to make their own, not from twigs, but from REALLY long twist-ties. I didn't get to make one because Thomas decided he was hungry, but the Ranger did send home twist-ties with everyone so we could do more at home. Then she did a little ceremony where the kids were "sworn in" as Junior Rangers and got their badges. She even gave us a sticker for Thomas – that will be going in his baby book.

We headed back to the train depot and were able to board right away. We had a nice ride back – it sure looked different this afternoon as the sun had come out and the snow had stopped. We did have a little excitement on the way back, though, as some "train robbers" got on board and came through the cars. But the Marshall got them. They have some guys that portray wild west cowboys and they usually do a gun fight show before the train leaves in the morning, but the set is under 2 feet of snow so they couldn't do that. But they also portray the train robbers and meet the train at 5:00 each day and put on a show for everyone. It was pretty neat – I knew it was going to happen because I read about it online, but a lot of people had no idea what was going on.

After we got back to the depot in Williams, we headed back to the Cafe for dinner and then to the hotel room to change to go to the pool/hot tub. Thomas continued to be a hit with everyone – he was on the train both ways, he was at the Canyon, and he was at the pool. Everyone comments about how wide his eyes are and how much he's always smiling. I'm glad I have a happy baby!! Thomas and I left the hot tub about 15 minutes before Ryan and Robert, but I could tell Thomas was getting sleepy. We came up to the room and he was just finishing up his bedtime snack when Daddy and big brother came up. I'm about to head to bed as well – long drive home tomorrow.

I got a lot of pictures today, but you'll have to wait a bit to see them.

Spring Break Surprise Vacation – Day 2

Today was a travel day. We had about a 3 hour drive from hotel A in Casa Grande to hotel B in Williams. Yeah. Sure. On a good day. Today was NOT that day. We're under a winter storm warning and had the pleasure of driving on crappy roads, sometimes moving only 5-10 miles an hour. There were many spots where we were stopped for a while and just crept along – usually where there were cars in the ditch. We saw one good samaritan – he had a good vehicle and had just helped one car out of the ditch and headed over to the other side of the road to help another car. We gave him a thumbs up. We had planned on eating lunch in Flagstaff, but about 20 or so miles south of there Thomas was so hungry and crying so hard that we got off on an exit that had a Shell station and I nursed him there and we just got chips/snacks for "lunch". We *FINALLY* made it to the interchange from I-17 N onto I-40 W and we ended up at a standstill for probably 20-30 minutes. Robert and I traded seats and I changed Thomas' diaper with him on my lap in the back seat. I was about to nurse him again to get him to sleep, but we finally started moving again.

Once we were on 40, the roads were a little better than on 17, but we still saw plenty of cars in the ditch, jack-knifed semis (one spot there were like 3 all together), rear-ended vehicles, etc. We were lucky to have even gotten there as both 17 and 40 were closed earlier in the day. We finally were about 10 miles from our exit and there was NO other traffic in either direction. I thought that was very odd given the amount we had been seeing. So I got back on Twitter on my phone to see if there were any more update from the AZ Dept of Transportation (I started following them this morning to get updates on the highway closures) and sure enough, I-40 was closed. Including the part we were on. Oops! But we figure that when they close a highway, traffic that is already past the point where they close it when they close it is allowed to continue until they exit. But anyway, we finally made it to the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel. It's a beautiful place and all the staff is very friendly. We got settled in our room and then headed to the Depot to pick up our train tickets for tomorrow and meal passes for the Cafe – it was a package deal with 2 nights at the hotel, 2 dinners, 2 breakfasts, and round trip on the train to the Grand Canyon. The Cafe is really nice and it's a buffet with LOTS of yummy food! Ryan and I each had a salad and build-your-own pasta. They have a chef and you tell him what kind of pasta, what veggies/meats, and what sauce and it's made fresh for you! I had linguine with marinara sauce with mushrooms, broccoli, and onions. It was really good! Robert had chicken tenders and BBQ chicken, but didn't really eat too much. The altitude (nearly 7000 feet) is affecting him and he wasn't feeling very good.

After dinner we walked back to the hotel and I got super-sleepy Thomas ready for bed and nursed him while Ryan took Robert down to the pool/hot tub for a little while. There were some other kids there and Robert had fun playing with them. Hopefully tomorrow evening after we get back from the Grand Canyon I'll be able to take Thomas down there as well. I think I'm going to read my Runners World magazine for a bit and then go to bed.

Here's a pic from along I-17 when were about 50 miles south of Flagstaff.

Spring Break Surprise Vacation – Day 1

After mommy/sons snuggles in bed this morning, we all enjoyed a very good breakfast at the hotel. Comfort Inns and Comfort Suites don't have the usual hotel continental breakfast of just pastries/breads, cereal, maybe yogurt, and beverages. No sir-ee. They have those things plus fresh hot eggs, sausage, make-your-own waffles, etc. It's nice being able to actually get a decent breakfast at a hotel – and free besides! We always try and stay at Comfort Inns (like this trip) or Comfort Suites. And our hotel has probably one of the best outdoor pools/hot tubs that we've encountered during our travels as well. After we arrived yesterday, we all go changed and headed to the pool. Thomas did really well for his first time in the pool and the hot tub (which really isn't super hot – maybe nice bath temp). He laughed and giggled and kicked and splashed and had fun watching big brother play with his pool toys and jumping in and splashing.

This morning after breakfast, we headed north to Phoenix for our first surprise for Robert. We went to the Phoenix Zoo and spent the day there. I wore my Garmin and during the almost 4 hours we were there, we walked about 3.75 miles. Robert and I petted stingrays and rode a camel. I figured that since I was wearing Thomas, he'd be able to ride the camel, too, but they said no, he was too little. And then later when we were on the carousel, I had to sit on a bench instead of riding an animal because I was wearing Thomas. Basically when I'm wearing him, he's a part of me, but people don't get that. So Ryan held Thomas during the camel ride, and I sat on a bench during the carousel ride. You should have seen the look on his face when the carousel started up! But it soon turned to a big smile. Despite almost 4 hours of walking at the zoo, we still didn't see everything. The Phoenix Zoo is rated as one of the top 5 zoos in the country for kids, and we definitely could see why today. The exhibits were awesome – lots of space for the animals, and many had more than one kind of animal in them, all the zookeepers and other staff were very friendly and courteous. After spending the day walking around, we hit the gift shop for a few souvenirs (Robert Dr. and Thomas Dr. signs for the boys, a shot glass for me and Ryan's collection, and a stuffed lion for Robert and a stuffed monkey for Thomas (Robert picked it out for him).

We drove the 45 minutes back to the hotel and got changed and hit the pool again, despite the fact that the wind was really starting to pick up. It wasn't too bad as the hotel building sheltered the pool from most of the wind. We remembered the camera this time and got some pictures of Thomas in the pool. I'll share them (and pictures from the zoo) soon. After a half hour or so in the pool, we got changed and headed to dinner at Culver's and I ate way too much. Once back in our hotel room for the evening, Robert had a bath and now both boys are asleep and I'm about to head to bed myself. We have a 3+ hour drive tomorrow to get to our next destination. Stay tuned for surprise number 2. . .

Five Things Friday

Aack. I guess I'll cover the whole week again. Must. Get. Better. At writing daily.

1 – Once again I didn't work a full week. Tuesday I had an appointment with the allergist in Tucson and Ryan had his weekly PTSD therapy group so we went together. Ryan brought Robert to school and Thomas to daycare and then came home to switch vehicles. We took the Harley to Tucson! It was a beautiful day and a great day of riding with my Sweetie! I had planned on having allergy testing done again (new allergist that Post is working with), but since we're moving in 2 months, the allergist said that I might as well just wait until we get to Alabama. That left us time to hit Waffle House for lunch – yum! I got some stitching done while Ryan was in his group and then we had a nice ride home via the scenic route.

2 – The days that I was at work were pretty uneventful, but I actually got to play my trombone! We had concert band rehearsal on Wednesday and Stage Band rehearsal on Thursday! Yay for getting to do my job, especially concert band! Monday in supply I got a task done that I've been putting off for way too long. Once I got started, it didn't really take me all that long.

3 – I actually made it to choir practice on Wednesday evening. It was nice to be back with my choir family and singing again, but I felt naked while there. In the past, I've always taken Thomas to choir practice with me and worn him during rehearsal. But he was in his crib sleeping while I was rehearsal.

4 – Thursday evening Thomas sort of had a play date. We babysat for K & D so they could go out for their anniversary. S is a wonderful baby, 3 months to the day older than Thomas. S napped when he first arrived and then after we had dinner, S and Thomas were both up for a little while but S was kind of fussy because he missed his mommy and daddy. Then Thomas started getting fussy because it was his bedtime, so Ryan took care of S and I went and nursed Thomas and got him to bed. Then K & D got back and S went home. Some day the boys will have a play date when they're both awake and not fussy.

5 – Robert had a half day of school today as they start spring break on Monday. Ryan picked him up from school and I picked Thomas up from daycare on my way home from work at lunch (half day for us, too!!). After we got the car packed and Thomas and I had lunch, we headed out. It only took 3 tries to finally get going. We left and got the mail, realized we forgot the diaper bag. Went back and got it. Got 1/2 mile from home and Ryan remembered he forgot his sneakers. Went back and got them and then we were on our way. Tonight and tomorrow night we're staying in Casa Grande. You'll have to wait and see what our plans our for the rest of our vacation. 🙂

Weekend recap

We had a really good and productive weekend. Yesterday, after sleeping in, Ryan and Robert worked on getting the trailer ready for our move the end of May. They got the tire things in the correct places for the bikes – Robert was a BIG help and did a lot of the tightening of the bolts and stuff. This task required one person in the trailer and one under the trailer, so Ryan went under and Robert worked inside. Ryan put the bikes in the trailer to make sure they would both fit. They do, but we had to switch where we were going to put them. The original plan was for my sporty to go in first and then Ryan's big bike, but they actually fit better the other way. When Ryan was putting the bikes in, though, they bottomed out a little on the edge of the trailer going from the ramp/back door into the main part of the trailer. The guy we bought the trailer from had a piece of 1/2" plywood on the door, but we figured a 3/4" piece would work better. So Ryan and Robert went to Lowe's for plywood and a few other things and Thomas and I went for a walk. I put him in his ERGObaby carrier and we walked to Lowe's and back. I was a nice almost 4 mile walk! The Ergo is so much more comfy for both Thomas and I than the old Snugli. Ryan grilled hamburgers for dinner in the evening, and thus ended a great day.

This morning we finally got to church again, after missing the last 2 weeks due to us being sick. It's nice we're all finally getting better! Everyone at church was glad to see us, especially Thomas! With my family so far away, it's nice that my boys have honorary grandmas, grandpas, aunts, and uncles with my church family. After the service, we took our Intern Pastor (aka pastor-in-training – she's still in seminary, but does a year as an intern) out to lunch at one of our favorite places. Each week a different family takes her out somewhere. We had a really nice lunch and great conversation with C. Thomas sure ate a lot. I think he's hit his 6 month growth spurt – he nursed 6 times between midnight and 10 a.m. this morning, nursed again during the sermon about 1130, and then had green beans with a little rice cereal at lunch followed by more milk. Then he passed out while the rest of us ate.

After lunch, we brought C back to the church and then headed out to post to do our weekly grocery shopping. Then it was home to put groceries away, finish the laundry, and relax. I made my weekly phone call home to Mom & Dad and was able to participate in #runchat on Twitter. It's the 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month, and we answer questions posed by the moderators about running. It's a great time getting to chat with other runners, and see their insights on various topics. Thomas had some applesauce-oatmeal and then a bath and his breathing treatment before bed. Robert had waffles, a banana, yogurt, and an ice cream up for dinner, and after I had Thomas in bed, I had peanut butter and jelly. Sunday evening dinners are usually whatever since we usually have a big lunch somewhere and aren't really hungry for a regular dinner. I even got some stitching done, and now I'm heading to bed.