Monday, November 14, 2011

Getting Married

Mark and I have been dating for 6 years. We got engaged this past February at the Rock n Roll Mardi Gras half marathon (if you missed that blog post click here to read it).  We've spent a lot of time talking about getting married.  How and when we would do it. We agreed we wanted it to be simple, special and inexpensive.  So we just needed the when.

My sister, Sarah, and I made wishes when the clock said 11:11 growing up.  So the idea of doing it on 11-11-11 sounded perfect to me.  Mark and I talked about a couple different ideas for what to do.  Usually, our discussions got pretty expensive.  So we decided to keep it as simple as possible. 

On our first date, we went to dinner at Sunset Grill and then took a walk on the pedestrian street bridge downtown, so the bridge has always held a special place in our hearts.  I know you can rent the entire bridge, but we were having a very small ceremony so there was no need for that.

We should really have started planning a couple months ago, but we started planning the details just before we left for Dublin.  We wanted to be sure our pastor, David Foster, could perform the ceremony and that his wife Paula could attend.  They have been great role models for us in what we want our marriage to look like. We also wanted to be sure Sarah  and my future brother in law, Jeff, could come.  That was our entire guest list.

Sarah and I went shopping for my dress the Sunday before we got married.  Luckily, it wasn't hard to find the perfect dress.  And being the sweet sister she is, Sarah bought it for me as a wedding present.  I tried to convince her that Mark and I would be happy to get married in running clothes.  She was not going to allow that to happen.  Sarah also did my hair and make up the day of the wedding.  It was so nice have her do it for me.  In fact, I think life would be much easier if I could convince her to do it every day.

Even though it was a small, simple ceremony, I really wanted to have a photographer.  I also wanted the photographer to be someone I know (this shouldn't be too hard, I know several).  I asked my friend Beth first, because we grew up together and have been friends for a long time.  Thankfully, she was free.  Click here to see her facebook page and our picture preview.  As you can see from the pictures, it was definitley worth it!

We got married at 11 am - hey, we had to stay true to the theme.  The actual ceremony was short, sweet and perfect!  We had so much fun taking pictures before and after the ceremony.  When we were in Dublin, we saw lots of locks on the Ha'penny bridge.  I remembered hearing about this tradition before.  Lovers put a lock on the bridge and then throw the keys into the river.  We thought it sounded like a perfect way to celebrate. 

Lots of people have asked us if we had the boys there.  And, of course, we get curious looks when we say no.  Our main reason for not having them there was because we wanted it to be about us as a couple and as a partnership.  We love both of the boys more than anything, but we also know our relationship has to come first if we are going to be good parents.  We were a tiny bit concerned they'd be disappointed.  But, they were fine.  We told them at dinner Friday night.  Their reaction?  When can we get a bigger house and a puppy?  Truthfully, I think they would have been bored with the actual ceremony, and I know they would have been tired of taking pictures before we were.  We took them to the bridge on Saturday and let each of them add a lock to our lock.

The wedding was perfect.  Yes, we would loved to have had a huge event and celebrate with all of our friends and family, but the reality was it wasn't something that we wanted to spend a lot of time and money (and stress) on.  We just wanted to be married.  It was everything we wanted it to be.  And now we are excited to live happily ever after. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dublin Marathon - Race Day

It felt a little strange not to get up before dawn for a race.  But the marathon wasn't starting until 10 am and our hotel was only a couple blocks from the start line, so there was no need to get up extra early.  This is the first race I've participated in with such a late start.  I must say, I liked it.  

After we got ready, we met some of our Team in Training Teammates for breakfast in our hotel.   This gave us plenty of time to go back up to our room 7 times for all of the things we'd forgotten or changed our mind about taking with us.  We walked over to the start line about 9:30. 

As we are standing there waiting for the race to start, I had a thousand different thoughts.  Everything from admiring the great city to sheer terror and panic.  At the expo I had picked up a pace bracelet to finish in 5:30.  Honestly, my main goal was survival, and by survival I mean crossing the finish line upright and smiling. And I really hoped for less than 6 hours.  I kept looking at the bracelet wondering if I could really finish and if, by some small miracle, I could do it in 5:30.

Next thing I know the gun is going off, and we are running.  I'd planned on running 3/1 intervals for the race.  But I wanted to warm up with just a slow jog. It was several minutes after I'd crossed the start line that it dawns on me I haven't started my watch yet.  Well crap...the usefulness of the pace bracelet is pretty much gone now.  I knew I'd started with about 14 minutes on the clock already.  But I had no idea how long I'd run before I started my watch.  Geez.  Not the best way to start the race.

It was easy to forget about my timing problems as I'm running by Trinity College, the place Bram Stoker grew up, and all sorts of other beautiful places.  As I see the first mile marker, I remind myself my goal is slow and steady. I spend the next mile going deliberately slower.  I didn't even look at my pace until around mile 4.  Surprisingly and a little concerning, I was under the pace I needed to be at to finish under 5:30. 

Mile 4 also started the part of the race that was in Phoenix Park.  This is easily one of the most gorgeous parks I've run in.  Two other things happened at mile 4.  I turned on my ipod for the first time, and I finally felt warmed up.  Feeling pretty good, I ran through most of my intervals miles 4 - 10.  I was also still pacing to finish under 5:30.  Which is great, but I didn't put much faith in my projected time at this point.  I was sure the end was going to kick my butt.

One of coaches said she would be between mile 11 - 13 and would run with us some.  So when my feet cramped and I really wanted to take some pain medicine (no lectures here please, I needed this), I bargained with myself that I would wait until after I saw her or at 13 whichever came first. At mile 13 I hadn't seen her yet so I took some Tylenol knowing it would give me a little boost.

At some point here or just after several of the water stops were running out or had run out of water.  The previous stops had been giving out bottles of water and sports drinks, so I had some fluid.  I ran through 3 stops that were out of water.  Just as I was getting really concerned and thinking about ducking into a store and buying some, the next stop had water (thank goodness). 

I tried very hard at mile 13 not to think about the fact that I was only halfway through the race or that if this was a half marathon I'd already have my medal and be on my way to breakfast/lunch.  This is also the point in the race, where I know I have to start sticking to my intervals and not running extra because I'm afraid I'll burnout otherwise.  Sometime between 13 and 17, I pass a building that has a sign advertising Tennessee Fried Chicken!  What?! I was so excited.  I stopped to take a picture (the picture didn't come out, ugh).  The owners of the building came out and I'm pretty sure I babbled something about being from Tennessee.  I think they were a little surprised by my excitement.

Around mile 17, I found our coach, Sami, and she ran with me for a mile or mile and a half.  It was so great to have her run with me and distract me from the fact my feet and legs were yelling at me to stop.  And it was so much better having her here than it would have been having her at 11. A funny, unexpected thing happened here.  I passed two of my teammates who I thought were way ahead of me.  This gave me a much bigger boost than I could have anticipated.  I was feeling great and still pacing to finish under 5:30. 

At mile 20 it started to rain.  I can't complain too much.  I did choose to run this race in Ireland, rain would most certainly be part of it.  I was ok with a little rain.  At first, it felt pretty good.  Then it kept raining.  Then it rained harder.  I'm not going to lie the last 6.2 miles seemed really long.  The rain made it even longer.  But I was still feeling pretty good. 

I'm not sure I ever hit the infamous "wall".  But when my watch died at mile 24, it was pretty disheartening.  I was mostly disappointed that I didn't have set intervals anymore.  So I would run and then walk. Then walk some more, then run.  I'm quite certain at this point I'm kissing 5:30 goodbye.  The last 2 miles were ridiculously long.  As I mentioned our hotel was only a few blocks from the start and even closer to the finish.  So imagine my surprise when I pass our hotel only to see the mile 25 marker.  What?!  NO.  I know exactly where the finish is and I'm moving away from it!  This was the worst feeling I had during the whole race.  But it didn't last long.  The reality and emotion knowing I'm just a mile away from finishing my first marathon set it. 

Elation is what I felt for the last half mile or so.  I'd gotten some great advice a few days before the race.   It was to pause when I'm sure I'm going to finish, to take a couple minutes to reflect on my accomplishments, the work and sacrifices that has gone into preparing to meet this goal and to really be in the moment of realizing I'd met my goal.  I'm not sure I have words to describe crossing the finish line.  It was amazing and possibly the best feeling I've ever had.  And I finished in 5:22.  I'm not sure exactly how that happened.  But I'm so happy with my time!

It pretty much stopped raining about the time I finished.  I walked back to our hotel hoping I could change and get back down in time to see Mark come by our hotel.  The timing of it worked out perfectly.  He came by the hotel just as I walked out.  I was worried I wouldn't be able to get back to him at the finish line.  When I told him I would meet him at the hotel, I could see the disappointment in his face.  So I decided to go back to the finish and see if they'd let me in.  Luckily, I got a great spot and where I could see him finish and actually crossed the finish line with him.

I'm so proud of him!  He finished in 6:09 and he'd been worried he'd need more than the allotted 7 hours.  He'd also been injured during training and didn't get in as much training as he'd like to have done.  But he was able to run his intervals the whole race, and he finished strong!

A few things I want to mention here.  If you are running a race in a different country or far from home, I strongly suggest you do it with a team (preferably Team in Training).  They had staff support people along the course cheering you on and they had supplies if you needed anything.  They also had coaches on the course.  Two coaches, in addition to our coach, ran with me during the race.  It was a huge mental boost. 

There were definitely places I think the race officials could improve.  In my opinion, there is no reason to ever run out of water.  Also, when I finished they only had small and extra small finisher shirts left.  There was almost 2 hours of official time left at this point.  When Mark finished, they'd already taken down the backdrop for the official finisher photos.  It was a little disappointing.  If the race has a 7 hour time limit, I'd like to think the people who finish in 6:59 get the same as the people who finish in 3:00.  But, I'm definitely not focusing on these things. 

The spectators were awesome!!  They yelled out "well done" as we passed them.  It was great.  It helps that I love their accent so it was fun to hear the whole time.  There were lots of kids along the course giving high fives and a few really great kids with fruit and cheese. 

I was under the false impression that the course was flat.  It was definitely not flat.  They even had signs printed and posted as we were going up the hills.  However, the hills weren't as bad as they could have been.  Strangely, it was kind of a nice break to go up and, especially, down. 

The race course was awesome.  It was beautiful. And it helped that I was (mostly) unfamiliar with the course.  I think the new things to see around every turn made great distractions.  Before the race, I was sure by the end I would swear off ever doing a full marathon again.  But I actually had the exact opposite feeling.  I'm excited to plan my next marathon.  And maybe someday an ultra marathon. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

How hard can it be to get to Dublin? & Pre-race

We were supposed to leave Nashville on Thursday, October 27 fly to Philadelphia, catch a connecting flight to Dublin and arrive in Dublin Friday morning.  However, our flight to Philly was delayed - officially due to fog in Philly, but we aren't convinced that was the real reason.  After much talking and negotiating the reps for US Airways on the phone told us to get on the plane when it finally boarded.  However, the people boarding the plane told us not to that we'd miss our connecting flight.  To keep the story short, we got on the plane and missed our connecting flight, which left us stuck for the night.  The next flight we could make would be the same time Friday night.

Team in Training was awesome and got us hotel rooms for the night.  The airline said we could have our luggage but was never able to produce it.  Which was a little concerning, but several people had told us to pack our race gear in a carry on.  So we at least had some clothes.  

The most disappointing thing to me was potentially losing a day in Ireland.  I've never been to Philadelphia and was happy to spend a day there, but not at the expense of a day in Ireland.  While we were still at the airport, I asked Mark what he thought about asking the airline to extend our trip a day.  He called, worked his magic and they agreed to change our return flight to Friday instead of Thursday.  Awesome!! Now we could enjoy our bonus time in Philadelphia.  We really had a great day there. 

Our flight to Dublin was problem free (thank goodness!).  We got to Dublin on Saturday morning and went straight to our hotel.  The staff at our hotel were great and the hotel itself was awesome!  After taking a little nap, it was time to go to the expo.  It was a lot smaller than I'd hoped for, but it was still a good experience.

On Sunday morning we participated in the international breakfast run, which is open to all runners from other countries.  It was a really cool experience.  They started the run with flags from all the countries who had runners.  It was a short 2.5 mile run.  At the end of it, I felt crappy and was seriously questioning the race the next day.  But I had a few minutes of positive self talk and reminded myself that I'm not even warmed up at the end of 2.5 miles, so I can't make a good judgement of how I feel.  I also told myself that this run was just to get loosened up for the marathon (oh my word, a marathon!!!) the next day. 

Sunday night was our inspiration dinner with Team in Training.  Our teammate, Jim Asker, was the speaker.  He told his story of being diagnosed with a blood cancer and fighting through it.  He did a great job speaking and it was moving to hear his very honest story.  One thing he said really stuck with me during the race.  I don't remember it word for word, but basically it was this - when he was going through treatment and his body was so weakened, he would have given anything to be able to run or smash a tennis ball.  He said he can't imagine having a healthy body and not using it.  Wow!  There were very few dry eyes in the room at the end of his speech.  He made us proud!  It was also a great reminder of the reason we were there.  And that all of our hard work in training and fundraising is making a difference.

We were careful to go to bed early the two nights before the race (even though it was so tempting to stay out and explore and enjoy the city).  We also ate lots of carbs and tried to be as ready as possible for the race.  After the dinner, we went back to our rooms and got all of our stuff ready for the race the next morning.