Friday, April 29, 2011

Rocky Mountain High

Have you ever seen the movie, “Snowbound” where the family makes a big error by getting off the highway and gets stranded in the snow for a few days? We are experiencing our version, albeit a little more populated and hopefully way shorter and less dramatic. As we were heading out of Denver on I-70, snow began to fall. We saw a sign advising that I-70 had been shut down around Vail due to accidents. There was no forecast of reopening the road, and it had already been closed for 3 hours. They gave another route as a possibility. As we approached the exit where the road was closed, there were plenty of people waiting alongside the road for the road to reopen. Here, we made the fatal decision. We decided to take the suggested detour, which was on two state roads through the mountains. The first road of 24 miles took us up and down a mountain reaching 11,315 feet in elevation. While it was slow going, it was manageable. We saw on my phone that they had now reopened I-70, but we decided to continue on our path.

Then, we turned on the second road of 32 miles heading back toward I-70, 24 miles down the interstate. The snow really began to pick up. This was much scarier. But, we made it to 10,500 ft, the peak of the road, and thought that we were home free. But, the road was twisty as we descended the mountain. Dave spun out once, which was terribly scary for us. Fortunately, the kids hardly noticed because they were so engrossed in their video games and DVD. We began hitting traffic about 11 miles to I-70. Then, it came to a halt. We sat there for 30 minutes or so. Matthew had to pee out the side of the car. Rachel and I had to trudge through the snow to a rock to go behind. Finally, traffic began coming in the other direction. We thought that was a good sign. Ten minutes or so later, we discovered that it was just traffic turning around because a couple semis had jack-knifed ahead. We turned around to head back the way we had come. Dave could barely see out of the windshield. Ice had formed on the wipers, and it was not coming off. It looked blizzard-like at times. It was now dark. We fortunately had a car in front of us that we followed very slowly for 20 miles. I finally got cell service, and I was checking the weather. It said we were in Leadville, CO. I checked for hotels and was ecstatic to see that there were a few choices, including a Super 8. We had already decided we were camping out in the parking lot of the Shell we saw when we turned. We had jackets and a couple sleeping bags. But, it wouldn’t have been fun with these near record low temperatures.

Let me just say that Dave has on shorts because the weather was so nice in Denver, just a couple hours away. We did not know this was coming. But, I am just thankful that we had gas, food we had bought at Target, the kids were preoccupied and super good, and that we made it out of that. We still have to get over the mountains in snowstorms tomorrow, but I think there will be a break in the morning and at least in the light of day, we can see the road. Lesson of the day - never, ever get off the highway in a snowstorm!

Change of plans

My original plan had been to go to Indianapolis Children's Museum, one of the best in the country and then head to St. Louis.  Sunday night I decided to check to make sure they were open, and sure enough, they were closed on Mondays.  So, we needed to make a quick change of plans.  Abby suggested the Louisville Sluggler Museum and Factory, which was on the way to St. Louis.  This turned out to be a great, little stop off.  The tour of the factory was a short, informative 30 minute tour.  It was a good day to be there because they were making the major league pink bats that they use on Mother's Day.  We saw some of the bats for the Boston Red Sox players that we had seen at our game.  That was kind of cool, and we are planning to watch a game on Mother's Day to see those pink bats. 

We were trying to find the place, looking around at the numbers on the buildings.  Then, I pointed to the kids saying maybe it was the one with the big bat.  Hard to miss.

They had a batting cage there, which was great fun!  The kids did well hitting the ball.  I had fun!  There is nothing quite like the feel of a ball coming off the sweet spot of a bat for a good hit.  Made all of us want to play some ball!

Matthew was disappointed that he was not the 6 years old that you are required to hit in the cages.  But, they had a pipsqueak area, where he wailed on some of the balls.  The other kids wanted their turn, so I guess he didn't miss out too much.

On to a casino in St. Louis in the middle of a tornado warning.  When we got to the hotel, we turned on the TV to see that one of the biggest tornadoes on record had just hit somewhere in the St. Louis area.  So, what do we do?  We head out about 10 blocks in the rain and storms to find a good place to eat.  Alex, our concerned child, was pretty nervous that we were going to get hit by a tornado.  We actually saw the destruction as we headed out of St. Louis.  It was pretty dramatic!  Houses were destroyed, trees ripped out of the ground, road signs were crunched.  Glad it missed us!

Some brotherly love at the hotel.  I definitely have to catch moments of these.  I'll try to forget the fighting, but I think it might be etched on my brain since it happens way more often. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Good friends

Good Friday was a long day. We definitely sacrificed that day. We had hoped to make it to Stations of the Cross, but the 2.5 hour delay getting into the US made that not possible. We made the kids wait until after 3 to eat or play video games. They were distraught by this, but it was only ½ hour after they started asking for food. Since we were fasting, we weren’t feeling too sorry for them. We drove though more rain on our way to Cincinnati. We finally made to Abby and Matt’s house around 9, I think.
I met Abby my first year at UVA. She was in my suite. We got along pretty well from the beginning and spent all 4 years there together. We lived together 3 or the 4 years and worked at the same place. She and Dave got along great, so we all hung out together a lot. Abby is one of those friends that you just know you can count on no matter how little we keep in touch. Because of her efforts to get to DC or UVA, we do get to see each other every year or two. When we began planning our trip, getting to Cincinnati was one of those must do’s. Fortunately, it worked really well that we got to go over Easter. I was glad to spend the holiday with friends rather than in a hotel somewhere. Abby and her husband, Matt, who is amazing with my kids, graciously allowed us to stay with them for 3 nights. We completely destroyed their house, seemingly did laundry non-stop, and gave their Wii more use than is reasonable. They took it all in stride, but I’m sure they were glad when we left this morning.

It rained most of the time we were there, but we were able to get to the park to see the overflowing Ohio River and geocache a little. We had a travel bug that wanted to stay on the Eastern US. Because it had been raining pretty much our entire trip, we had not geocached yet. So, we finally found a place for it before we got too far west. But, we had to cut our park visiting short as the rain was coming back. We ate at Skyline Chili to get a taste of Cincinnati.  It was very yummy!  Saturday evening, we decorated some eggs.  Not sure Abby and Matt were ready for the amount of mess 4 kids can make decorating 3 dozen eggs.

On Easter morning, the kids needed to find their Easter baskets. That Easter bunny gets trickier and trickier every year. Rachel’s was in a pot way up on the cabinet. She found it without too much looking, though.

 Zack actually found Alex’s because he was pouting about not finding his. He fell down on the couch and noticed something under the slipcover. He checked and realized it was Alex’s. Of course, he went to give Alex some super obvious clue that led him right to it.

Zack found his next while he was eating breakfast. It was actually hidden in plain sight right from the pot rack. There were a couple pots around it, but I noticed it right away. I was surprised the kids had missed it. But, he was getting upset that he didn't know where it was.

 Matthew’s was pretty easy, but he was too busy playing ball with one of the dogs. I thought he was going to be the kid that cried over not finding their Easter basket, but Alex gave him a clue about what room it was in. After that, he found it in one of the baskets under some magazines.

Not too bad finding. In fact, it was way better than Abby and Matt. I had hidden a basket for them in one of their laundry baskets under some laundry. It took them all day and a clue from Rachel after they sneaked her a dollar to find it.
On Easter, Abby’s parents and one of her sisters and her family came for lunch. It was fun. We had an Easter egg hunt and a piƱata. The kids had a great time and got lots of candy by the end of the day. It was a great weekend. My kids had a blast and did not want to leave this morning. Abby and Matt, I cannot thank you enough for opening your house to my crazy crew. We love you and can’t wait to come back and visit.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Niagara Falls

Blogging seems to be much more difficult than I anticipated. My cell phone has internet access, but it is a pain to type on and the pictures get put on Dave’s computer. But, we are having difficulty getting internet access at our hotels. Most of them charge for it, which annoys me, or there are problems with it, which seems to be the case tonight. We are in St. Louis. Today, we got in early and walked to dinner. It is only 8:30, and the kids are in bed. Dave was heading to the casino, and I was going to blog. But, of course, the internet is not working. So, I am typing in Word and will hopefully find a WiFi in the morning to post this. We also were at Abby’s in Cincinnati for 3 days. Even though blogging would have been easy, I didn’t want to spend our time together doing it. So, therefore, nothing was done there either.

So, I need to backtrack quite a few days. On Wednesday, we had reservations for a show in Niagara at 6:15, so we needed to make good time on our trip. The weather was horrible. Dave was driving through rain and horrible winds. The car kept jerking as we caught a stiff crosswind. It made the drive more difficult. But, we made it into Canada and to the hotel with a little time to spare. We got dressed to go out and checked out the wonderful hotel. We had gotten a suite at the Embassy Suites. I had found a great deal. The room was large with a bedroom and enough beds for all of us (a luxury, for sure). It had free buffet breakfast for all of us, a pool, views of the falls, an arcade. We were very pleased with the hotel.

We headed out to see this dinner show about Canada. I had read about it on the internet. The reviews said it was good and entertaining. I knew that it would be kind of cheesy, but I hoped that it would give us an overview of things Canadian. Well, the food was just OK and I thought the show was pretty bad. They sang a lot of songs and really told us nothing about Canada. They had Canadian things like hockey players and Mounties, but they didn’t tell us anything about them or do anything interesting. It was a real waste of time and money.

The tour desk guy talked us into their tour of the attractions around the Falls. I knew that the costs were steep, but he gave us an extra kid free and it seemed nice to have someone else take care of everything. I couldn’t use my phone in Canada without paying ridiculous prices, so I would have had to do everything old school – find brochures, get maps, etc. Seemed more trouble than I wanted. So, we paid for the tour. The Maid of the Mist, which is the boat tour at the bottom of the Falls was not going yet because of the ice still in the river. They substituted another attraction for that one.

We started by doing this 4-D attraction. First, it showed a cartoon of how the falls were created years ago. I actually thought that was really well done. Then, we donned ponchos and headed into a room where they rained on us, the wind blew, lights flashed like lightning, etc. Matthew and Zack were scared, but it was actually pretty poor. The idea was great, but the execution was bad.

Next, we did the Journey behind the Falls. This is an elevator that takes you down into these caves behind the falls. You can walk out to a space to get a close-up view of the falls. But, we couldn’t walk out on to the platform they have outside, so we couldn’t really appreciate the falls very well. They also had little windows that are actually behind the falls. Those were interesting but not all that great.

We had a few moments to look at the Falls from the lookout point before we headed out. The mist was heavy and the lighting poor to get a good look and/or picture of the Falls.

We ate lunch at a cheesy cafeteria and headed to our substitute attraction. This is the Whirlpool Aero Car. It is a little skyride like car that goes over the whirlpool area of the Falls. We thought when they were talking about it that we would be able to see the falls, but you cannot see them at all. It is downstream a ways. We did see the gorge and the rapids. But, I’m pretty sure that ride has not been updated or even maintained since it opened in the ‘60’s. I was pretty nervous and it was pretty cold and windy.

The rapids from our car high above.  I didn't get a picture of the whole thing for some reason.

Back on the bus to a classic Niagara site (I guess), the flower clock. It’s a clock with flowers planted on it. Apparently, you can go inside and see it working and see pictures of all the faces for the past 40 years or so. But, it was neither working nor the back door open. So, that was pretty lame.

Final stop was the butterfly conservatory. This was actually really great. We’ve been to one in Aruba and one at the Natural History Museum in DC. This was the best one we had seen. There were tons of butterflies and many different varieties. Dave had his marathon shirt on, which is a super bright shade of yellow. Not the best color to wear normally, but it really attracted the butterflies. He even gave it to Zack for awhile, so he could have them land on him.

At the hotel, we did the kids’ favorite activity – swam in the pool. They had a good time. I became convinced that Matthew will do just fine on the swim team this year. He’s been resistant to the idea, so I was afraid he would throw a fit the first few days and they would bump him down a level, but I think he will be just fine. We went to Margaritaville for dinner. Here are my pirate men. They really have good margaritas there!

We took a walk down to the path by the water. At this point, the lighting was perfect. The American Falls were really beautiful and easy to photograph. The Canadian ones had a lot of mist, but they kept throwing up a rainbow, so that was pretty. Afterwards, we had dessert at the casino food court, left Dave at the casino and headed home to bed.

The next day, Good Friday, we spent 2.5 hours trying to get through customs and back into the US. Basically, this part of the trip was a lot of money, extra time, and the best thing was seeing the Falls from the free walkway. The view from the Canadian side is definitely worth it, but that traffic was horrible. And, all the attractions are just not up to par with the price. I think it’s hard to improve upon the view of just seeing the falls from the street. They are super impressive. If I knew what I know now, I would have stayed at that hotel, just watched from the Falls from the path, and left town the day before. I think Niagara has just become too much of a tourist trap.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Same day, different perspective

I know there are many people that have this great desire to run a marathon to say they have done it. Well, I don’t have that and would not want to train for and run that far. But, the logistics of managing the four kids at these super crowded marathons often leaves me wondering if Dave has the easier part of the job. This is the first marathon where we were really willing to pay for a hotel close and, of course, it was a point to point marathon rather than a loop. Instead of making Dave get up super early to take the bus from Boston to the start, we stayed close to the start the first night and were staying in Boston after the finish. Even though I tend to plan things to the nth degree, I left a lot of this to chance – bad idea! I decided last minute to try to see Dave a couple times along the path rather than just driving to the finish, but I had not figured out where. As I was dropping him off at the start, we discussed the plan to meet up – family meeting area 15 minutes or so after Dave crosses the finish or he can head to our hotel if we aren’t there for him. Problem was he didn’t really know where the hotel was just the name and general direction. I knew he would have great difficulty finding the hotel on his own.

The decision to see Dave along the route was a great idea. We stopped first at mile 8. We just parked in a residential area and made our way to the route. We found a great place to be as the wheelchair race went through. We were able to see the elite women and men pass. It was cool to see them running by at such a fast pace without appearing to be exerting much effort. They really are quite amazing. Then, we cheered for the runners as the pack got larger and larger. Dave knew we were going to be on the left side of the street somewhere, so he was watching for us. He ran over and gave high fives. He was looking good and it was great to see him at this point.

Unfortunately, the camera started displaying some error. It quit working right as I went to take pics of Dave. This sent me searching on my phone about the error only to discover that this was a pretty serious deal. I want to fix things right away, so it was stressing me out as we headed back to the car to move on to another spot in the race. It was making me upset and the kids started fighting the minute we got back in the car about something silly. The stress of the camera made me much less tolerant of it. But, I just tried to ignore them and figure out where stop #2 would be. We picked mile 19. At that place, I had to park farther away. The kids actually started to complain about the ½ mile or so we would have to walk to watch Daddy run the marathon. Really?

Here it was interesting to me. This is a big event for these people. There were tailgates set up. The runners run on roads with houses lining it. All these people had chairs on their lawns to watch the race. I thought it would be pretty neat to live along the route. Dave was a little off pace at this point, so he was behind where I thought he would be. The kids were focused on the race a little. But, mostly, the boys started wrestling and playing tag in an area full of people. I was having trouble keeping them under control while also watching out for Dave. I was glad that we had come, though, because Dave needed me to rub his legs and provide some encouragement to make it the last 6 miles.

But, once we got back in the car, I knew we were in trouble. We did not have enough time. We headed into Boston, but the traffic got worse as we got closer. Because of the cartop carrier, I knew we would have trouble parking in Boston. I had talked to the hotel, and they had an uncovered lot that their valet service could use. So, my plan was to go to the hotel and give them the car to park and head to pick up Dave. I entered the address in the GPS, but it took us to the wrong place. I drove further on the road and the hotel never appeared. I tried a couple things, but it wasn’t getting us where we needed to be. At this point, I was receiving texts that Dave was finished with the marathon. And, in addition, my friend was at my house looking for our iPad to mail to us and could not find it. I was trying to figure out where it might be – to no avail.

I tried to look up the hotel on my phone, but my phone was not getting service (really, no cell service in the middle of Boston?). The GPS was just confused. Big city buildings are not good for the GPS. I had a map, but I had no good map reader. I’m sure Rachel could have handled it if I could have found where we were and knew where we were going, but I didn’t have a place to stop. And, I didn’t trust the hotel address I had and I had no cell service to call them. The city was completely packed with people. I looked for parking spots or parking lots, but they were all full. I was trying to find a space to park or maybe our hotel completely blind, avoiding closed streets and the thousands of people around, and stressing about our camera still. I couldn’t even find the street where our hotel was on because I had made too many turns. The breaking point was when I ended up on this place where I was exiting onto a street that had a sign warning of low clearance. I freaked out because our car might not make it. There was an alley, thankfully, I just pulled over on it and stopped the car. I was blocking traffic if it had come. I was losing it, though, and needed to gain some control. I guess I should also say that Matthew was yelling all kind of things at me and kicking the seat. At this point, I don’t even remember what he was upset about. But, I reached a point at which telling him to behave was not working and I just had to ignore him completely. That, of course, made him madder, but I couldn’t handle him at this point.

I pulled out the map and figured out where we were and how to get to the street our hotel was on. Of course, when I went to drive there, it was a one way road going in the wrong direction. Just that kind of day, but I was able to find another road that got me close enough to figure it out. Finally, we saw the beautiful sign of our hotel. We dropped off the car and began the close to a mile hike to the family meeting area to hopefully find Dave. He called me from someone’s cell phone to ask where we were. I was glad to talk to him and know where he was. I had to push through thousands and thousands of people across busy streets of Boston while keeping hold of all four kids. Stressful, for sure, but it was a wonderful sight to see Dave. He was very happy to see us and needed me to help him walk a little. We took it nice and slow back to the hotel. Not exactly the day I had planned, but everything was OK in the end, I guess - after Matthew received his punishment. We did have a great dinner and relax in the hotel room watching a movie, I'll quit whining!

2011 Boston Marathon

One reason that the marathon is such an interesting race is that it is so unpredictable.  When I ran my BQ (Boston Qualifier) in Philadelphia in November 2009, I kept waiting to hit the dreaded wall.  But it never came.  In fact, the last 10k was my fastest, and I felt like I could have run both faster and farther.  Today's marathon was a whole different story.  I felt fine through the first half of the race, but somewhere between miles 15 and 16, the big muscles in my upper legs started cramping badly, making it really hard to even approximate decent running form.  The last 10k was slow and painful, and when asked by a volunteer at the finish whether she could do something for me, I said, "yeah, please just put me out of my misery".  The amazing thing, though, is that I think I felt better today at the halfway point than I did in Philly.  You just never know how your body will react to the distance.  You just have to wait and see.  Maybe that is part of the appeal of the marathon ... that and the fact that you can eat without guilt for 2 weeks after the race.

If I wore hats, I would take mine off to the city of Boston.  What an event!  In spite of my disappointing time (3:28:30, considerably behind my goal of 3:15:59), this was an unforgettable experience.  I was amazed at how many people came out to support the runners, and I was even more amazed at their level of enthusiasm.  Consider that at many points on the course, there is a constant stream of runners for over 3 hours.  Yet, you always had the sense that they were there cheering for YOU.  I wore a Virginia Cavaliers shirt, and there was a constant stream of "Go, Virginia", and "WAHOOWA!".  There were very few vacant stretches from Hopkinton to Boston.  And the last 3 or 4 miles were just unreal.  I am sure that I would have run close to 4 hours if it weren't for the encouragement of the crowd.  The volunteers were great too.  They treated all the runners like VIPs and if you thanked them for volunteering, they would respond with "my pleasure" or even "my privilege" ... Chick-Fil-A employees perhaps?

I also have to take my hat off to my wonderful wife.  Jes managed to round up four unruly kids, pack up, check out from our hotel room, and drive to two separate spots on the course to cheer me on.  The first was near our hotel in Natick, at about the 8 mile mark.  The second was on the 3rd hill in the Newton district at about mile 19.  From there she had to drive into the jam packed city of Boston, find our hotel and then fight the crowds to get to our meeting spot with four kids in tow.  And I am thankful she did.  I was in no state to try to get to the hotel by myself.  I couldn't even remember the name of the street it was on.  I love you, Jes!

Those are my high level thoughts from the race.  I wrote down the full marathon day story for kicks and grins.  Here it is.

After experiencing the logistical nightmare of the 2006 Marine Corps Marathon, I decided to leave fairly early.  I got up at 6:30, showered, and got dressed.  I made a race day decision to wear my short sleeve Virginia shirt instead of my long sleeve Shamrock Marathon shirt, which turned out to be the right call.  Jes and the kids threw on some clothes, and after checking to make sure I didn't forget anything, we left promptly at 7:30.  The trip to the drop off point was uneventful.  The organizers of the marathon planned this part really well.  The drop off point is in Hopkinton State Park in a place where lots of cars can get in and out easily.  From there, we boarded a bus that drove us back the way we came, out of the park to Hopkinton High School, the site of "Athletes Village".

I had a good hour to kill in Athletes Village.  For 45 minutes, I was mostly focused on two things: fueling up and keeping warm.  The temperature wasn't too bad, but it was very windy.  I was shivering despite the black warm up suit that I was wearing.  I felt sorry for the few people I saw who were wearing only their marathon gear, presumably to avoid the hassle of the bag drop.  They looked absolutely miserable.  With about 15 minutes to my scheduled "depart from Athletes Village" time, I figured I would hit the porta-potties and then hike the .7 miles to the starting corrals.  In retrospect, I should have picked a different line.  As it turned out, our line had only 2 working porta-potties.  I wasn't paying enough attention to notice that other lines were moving faster than mine.  As we got close to front of the line, the guy next to me and I were speculating on why no one had yet come out of the 3rd porta-potty that should have been serving our line.  We never did find out, but we came up with several theories, the most plausible being that either the thing was broken or someone was camped out inside trying to stay warm.

    Trying to stay warm in Hopkinton

I eventually had my turn, and after warning the people in the back of the line to find another line, I started making my way out of Athletes Village about 10 minutes after my corral had been called.  I stripped down and dropped off my bag at the bag drop buses, which was a quick & painless process.  You could sense the excitement during the walk to the starting line.  I heard some people joking that they hadn't trained at all for the event, which made me feel a little better about my level of preparation.  The race volunteers were very strict about getting people into the right wave and the right corral.  I got into corral 6 of wave 1 right after the national anthem, about 5 minutes before the start of the race.

   Psyching myself up on the way to the starting line

During the first few miles of every marathon, it is funny to watch the guys pulling over on the side of the road to dispose of some of the excess water that they took in before the race.  In my experience, this is unnecessary, because the feeling goes away after a few miles - for me, it was at about mile 3 this year.  The first 10 miles of the race took us through the towns of Hopkinton, Farmingham, and Natick.  That part of the course consists of rolling hills, fairly similar to what I'm used to from running at home in Bristow, Va.  In some sense, this is nice because it adds variety and some easy sections, i.e. the downhills.  I felt pretty good during this part of the race.  My primary concern was that I felt hot.  My original fluid intake plan was gatorade every other mile.  Due to the heat, I decided to take water on the other miles.  I also took some of the other things that people were handing out like cold wet wipes and ice cubes.  Once I entered Framingham, I started looking for Jes & the kids.  That kept me distracted for about 3 miles until I finally saw them and got a big boost.  Somewhere near the end of this section of the race, I decided to abandon the stretch goal of 3:10 and shoot for 3:15, because I wasn't quite running 3:10 pace at that point and I didn't feel like I could speed up safely.  My splits for the first 10 miles were 7:34, 7:11, 7:18, 7:10, 7:22, 7:16, 7:15, 7:20, 7:17, 7:22.

Somewhere around mile 12, we entered Wellesley, which was a spectacle worth the price of admission:

    Still running strong in Wellesley

I knew that the uphill Newton section of the course started at about mile 16.  I was trying to stay relaxed and planned to take it easy on the uphills.  My splits from miles 11-15 were 7:31,7:18,7:25,7:24,7:36.  Right at the end of that stretch, maybe around mile 15, I got a big pulsing cramp in my left hamstring.  I've had the same symptom before but not until much later in the race, so I knew I was in trouble.  Around the same time, my watch lost satellite reception, so I had no idea how fast I was going anymore.  The 4 uphills in the Newton section really weren't that bad, except that they added my calfs to the list of cramping muscles.  I ran into Jes and the kids on the third uphill, at which point I knew my original goal was not feasible.  Jes did me a huge favor by rubbing down my legs.  I gave the kids high fives and hugs and moved on - 7 more miles to go.  At this point, I started setting mini goals.  My first was to run all the way up heartbreak hill without stopping.  I can't say that I ran up it all that fast, but I did make it up without stopping and was rewarded with a nice downhill and more cramps.  My next goal was to break 3:40.  My legs were constantly cramping at this point, so I thought I would have to walk a significant portion of the rest of the race.  The crowd kept me in it, though.  There were a few points where I stopped, walked & stretched for a bit, but the encouragement from the crowd got me moving quickly.  At about the 24 mile mark, I realized that I could make 3:30 if I pushed it.  I hobbled through that last stretch, and the huge mob of people on the last half mile stretch helped me across the finish line.

    Approaching Jes & the kids on the 3rd uphill in Newton

As it turned out, my watch had recovered satellite reception about 33 minutes after losing it so I do have some of my late mile splits, even though they don't exactly line up with the mile markers on the course: 8:22,8:25,8:24,10:24,8:42,8:40.

    At the finish line.  Apparently I looked up at the wrong time.

I felt pretty awful after finishing.  I wanted to eat, but I had trouble getting anything down, least of all the way-too-sweet gatorade recovery drink that they gave us.  It seemed to take forever to make my way through the post-race gauntlet of water-blanket-recovery drink-food-bag pick up-family meeting area.  Unfortunately, Jes hadn't yet arrived so I wandered around aimlessly for a bit.  That's where I had the most painful incident of the race: I got a massive charley horse in my calf when I tried to step up onto a curb.  It was pretty obvious that I was in pain.  Some lady asked if I needed medical attention.  I just needed to wait about 30 seconds for the muscle to relax.

At that point, I figured I'd have to make my way to the hotel on my own.  So I got my warmup gear back on, taking off my shoes to make the process easier.  A nice woman came and asked if there was anything she could do for me.  I asked her to help me get my shoes on and then call Jes on her iPhone.  Thankfully, Jes was not far away by this time, so I just waited for her to come rescue me.  Seeing her and the kids was an even more welcome sight than the finish line!

It was far from the perfect race, but like I said, it was a great experience and just made me want to come back and do better next time.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Happy Change - pictures added

NOTE: Dave will be guest blogging about the marathon. He's working on the post, which will be followed by my experience of the marathon. But, until then, we pick up with the happenings the day after the race.

Tuesday, April 19th

I want to start this post by saying that after yesterday and the fact that my kids fight about everything, especially who sleeps where, I was ready to turn around and head home. Fortunately, our day in Boston on Tuesday was a great one. Breakfast was a wonderful buffet in the hotel. Kids eat free there, and boy, was that a mistake for them. You would think the kids had not eaten in weeks. They all ate 2-3 plates of food. It put them all in a great mood, though.

Here's one of the best sights of the day.  I was about to yell at Zack to get off someone's bike until I realized it was a rack.  Of course, it took a while for the kids to figure out what these were for. 

The weather was not really cooperating, but it never got too rainy to keep us off the streets. We took our Duck Tour through the city. That was enjoyable and an easy way to see the sights.

 One of the things that we saw along the way was the Bunker Hill Monument. The kids thought that was cool and wanted to climb to the top. It is the last stop along the Freedom Trail, so that helped give the kids some motivation as we were walking the path later in the day. After the Duck Tour, we began the Freedom Trail. We walked through Boston Commons, saw famous gravestones in multiple graveyards, talked about Paul Revere’s midnight ride and the Boston Tea Party.

 Taking the trail is fun because you walk through all the different neighborhoods throughout Boston. We got to see Chinatown and little North End with all the Italian shops and bakeries. All the streets and houses are different as you make your way through the city. We really enjoyed the walk. We stumbled across a street performance. There were funny acrobats. They did some tricks that amused the kids and were quite impressive. We also boarded the U.S.S. Constitution, the oldest warship afloat. The kids pretended to shoot a cannon and we got to go down a level. It was pretty interesting.

 Eventually, we made it to the Bunker Hill Monument at 4:50. The last entrance to climb the 295 steps to the top was at 4:30. The kids were sorely disappointed. I think it might have been a mistake to try it because we still had to make it to the subway station. I might have had to carry at least one of the kids, and I’m not sure I could have managed that.

Rachel got a good lesson in map reading. Dave gave her the map to try to get us from the Bunker Hill Monument to the subway station. She did a great job. In the end, we had to ask someone for a little more help, but the map had the station on the wrong side of the major road. So, it was definitely not her fault. But, it was a wonderful treat to get to sit down and ride back to our car rather than having to retrace our steps all the way back. 

We calculated that the kids walked over 5 miles that day. We were all tired and had not eaten much other than breakfast. But, we had very few complaints and overall everyone was in good spirits. We had reasonable traffic out of Boston and even had a delicious pizza at some random place that we picked to stop. It was the kind of day that I imagined as we were planning this trip. I'm sure we'll have both this kind and the ones that make me want to throw in the towel and go home. I just hope these kinds outnumber the other.

On to Niagara, so check back for our experiences there.