Monday, November 5, 2012

Rails to Trails Marathon Race Report

The race for which I have been training is over. Standing at the start line, I thought, I can't believe it's finally here! All of your training has led to this moment. Don't worry about the past two weeks. You're fine. I do quite a bit of self-talk. It's a good thing too, because I ended up running most of this race by myself. I'm patting myself on the back because that is something I don't think I could do even two months ago. It takes mental toughness to run 26.2 miles with only your thoughts to keep you company. This has always been my challenge.

Before the race - a family that runs together stays together!
I'm comfortable enough now to tell you that I ran my first marathon - Des Moines 2009 - in 6:12. My first goal for Rails to Trails was under 5:00. My second was between 4:15 and 4:30. I started off pretty conservatively and then ended up picking up my pace more than I wanted. However, I was so jazzed that my body just felt like speeding up. I don't know. I just couldn't stop smiling. I thought, I'm here, I'm doing this, so I'm going to enjoy myself. The landscape was beautiful and everyone was friendly. One guy ran past me around mile four. He asked me what was my goal pace, and I told him 9:30-ish. He told me his was 9:00 and I told him to go catch one of my sisters! We chatted for a little bit and then he ran ahead.

Around mile six, I came upon the 3/4 mile-long tunnel. You know the part in Lord of the Rings when Frodo gets stung by the spider? That's what the scenery was like - there was water trickling along and high ground on both sides of the trail. I clicked on my headlamp and said, "Let's go."

My legs began hurting around mile 14. Up to that point, I hit my two mile-targets just fine:  at both mile six and twelve I had a Gu with some water. But then my stomach got upset and I actually had to stop at a bathroom. From then on, I alternated water and Powerade and got some pretzels and gummy bears on the way back. I know my mom thinks she wasn't as much help as she was last year, but just knowing she, Cody, and Will were going to be along the course kept me going. I only grabbed a handful of pretzels and then gummy bears, but those handfuls were everything.
Still going...
While running, three songs cycled through my head:

"Payphone" by Maroon 5
"Lucky Strike" by Maroon 5
"Stronger" by Kelly Clarkson

I know, I know. I am NOT a Kelly Clarkson fan, and I was ready to banish this song forever from my mind. BUT, the lyrics were perfect for my situation. Ha!

I got to mile 18 and then set my sights on mile 20. Then 22. Once I got to mile 22, I started talking to myself out loud. "Come on. Anybody can suffer for four miles!" At mile 25 I sang, "Mile twenty-fiiiiiiive!" And mile 26 went something like - fist pump - "Mile twenty-siiiiiix!" When I saw the clock under 4:40 I smiled and kept running to the finish.

That was the most rewarding race. Ever. It's by far my favorite. I had no pressure and I was out to have fun and enjoy myself. I got a little down, and I almost started crying when I got gummy bears from my mom and then when I was heading back into the tunnel and a group of people were cheering for me. This is something I trained for months to accomplish and I was just thinking, These people don't have to be out here. But they are. And they're cheering for me. And they're missing the Packers game for this. I stopped at every aid station on the way back and walked when I wanted to walk. Final time - 4:37. 10:34 pace. Whew! Now, give me some time before I talk about running another one...

On a side note, David ran his first half marathon in 2:07, knocking his goal out of the ball park. He's awesome. And we had awesome gear. Check out my pictures. Live Uncommon made these especially for us! We got so many compliments; it was unbelievable.

Erin, Adrienne, and Steve also ran the marathon, and Brother Dave and my dad ran the half. Grandpa won his age group with a time of 1:56 (and he's 73. Stud). A special thanks to my mom, Cody, and Will. They drove around and carried water, pretzels, gummy bears, Gu, you name it. They gave up their weekend to basically wait on us during the run (and my mom had to drive me home).

Check out the Rails to Trails Marathon. It's definitely worth it!


Sunday, September 23, 2012

QC Half Marathon - PR, Baby!

1:52:41. That's my new PR for a half marathon.

I wasn't quite sure how this one was going to go. Whenever I get myself hyped up for a race, I tend to crash. My training hasn't quite been where I've wanted it to be since I started coaching. I'm not complaining about it one bit. No, it's more of an acceptance that to do one thing I might have to adjust another. So, I've been getting in my miles at practice and sometimes after (sometimes). For me, today was all mental.

I told a few people this morning that before I didn't understand why people set numerous time goals for themselves; one should be adequate, right? How times change. Well, goal number one for me was to run under 2:00. I know I did this at the OUCH half, but that was a short course and I just couldn't get that out of my head. Goal number two was to run a 1:55. I figured I would start conservatively and then go from there.

The weather this morning was chilly. I had on a long-sleeved shirt under my race shirt but opted to remove it before the start. This proved to be the right decision as the sun came out and warmed the air a bit.

The cannon went off and it took me a little under one minute to get to the actual start line. I ran with Jen Hart and Anne Ryerson for the first two miles or so. I was surprised when my watch beeped indicating the first mile had passed. I felt good and wasn't breathing hard at all. The first mile takes runners onto I-74 and it was  a little jarring. I hate running across bridges, and this one was no exception as I could feel it moving with each foot fall. Needless to say, I was glad to get off.

I saw the PV girls' cross-country team at one water stop (around mile 3?) and then the PV boys' cross-country team at the next. Boy, were they busy! Adrienne caught up to me right around mile 4 and we passed my mom and Jessica cheering us on together. Adrienne was able to find me because of my sweet LU race team shirt! She booked it to catch me as she was at the back at the start, and she just kept going. We ran together for maybe three minutes exchanging a few thoughts. Her goal was to run sub 1:50 and I told her she was crazy. I picked up my pace to keep up with her for a little while, but then I told her I wanted to focus more on picking up my pace the last 5k.

However, I just couldn't let her out of my sight, so I ended up going faster than planned. This is just  what I needed. I run conservatively because on these longer races, I don't want to die and then have to crawl to the finish line. I caught up to Adrienne around mile 8 and we ran together until the Arsenal bridge. The surface of the bridge threw me off a little, especially because there was carpet, but it was only wide enough for one person. So, Adrienne went ahead and I just tried to keep pace. But once I got onto the road I knew it was going to be a mental battle to finish. My legs were dead.

Adrienne ended up pulling away at mile 11 (she says she kept the same pace and I slowed down - that's probably more of what happened!). I told myself I only had two more miles and then found my mantra, courtesy of Coach Troy - Now's not the time to slow down. Now's not the time to quit. Now's the time to dig deep and show some character. I tried. I really did. I'm proud of the fact that I never had a mile over nine minutes. But I slowed down at the end, and that's something I did not want to do. Oh well. I was telling my dad that the hills on Arsenal Island are what got me; keep it flat and I can keep going. He argued that there are no hills on the Arsenal, and then he figured out I was talking about the incline in the parking lot. I told him at that point in a race, if it's not flat, it's a hill!

I kept looking at my watch toward the end wondering when I would see the finish. at 12.65 we were still on the island. At 13 miles we were crossing the bridge back into Moline. I actually like the finish because once runners turn right off of the bridge, the finish is there. I'd rather that than being able to see the finish from a mile away. The course ended up being .17 long, but I'd rather it be long than short.

Overall, I'm really happy with my performance today. I cut off five minutes from the OUCH half, which was short anyway. I've got a little more than a month until my marathon and I'm feeling good about it. Goal number one for that (right now anyway) is 10:00 miles, which is a 4:22 marathon. Since all of my training runs have been under this, I have no doubt I can do it. Goal number two is 9:20-9:30 pace, which would be a 4:04-4:09. Looking at these times, I could make goal number three to run under 4:00, but one thing I learned today is that it's more difficult to drop pace time than I tend to think. I ran with Adrienne in sight much of the time and she still finished three minutes ahead of me. I ran 8:29 pace today and my legs died and I was breathing hard the entire time (in a good way). If I would have run 10-20 seconds per mile slower, I could have kept a conversation easily. I'll just have to see what marathon day brings on November 4.

Congrats to all runners today. Adrienne, my dad, and I ran the half. Brother Dave ran the 5k. Steve ran the marathon and finished under 3:30, using this as a training run. LU had plenty of people representing! Jessica and my mom were there to cheer us on throughout the race, which was great. Oh, and my studly husband ran 10 miles today. Ten! He's well on his way to a successful first half marathon at Rails to Trails.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

One More Week...

I know it's been a while since my last posting. Life has gotten in the way (as it has a tendency of doing). I have one more week to raise money for the LU Race Team, so if you haven't donated, now's the time! Click on my race badge below to get to my Race Team page. All proceeds are donated to various non-profits around the QC area. Thank you for your support!

Marathon training has actually been going really well. I am not following a specific plan; rather, I have mapped out my long runs and am getting in runs throughout the week. This is the most mileage I think I've ever gotten in. I feel very confident about my running. Last weekend Sam and I ran 18 miles. I thought it was going to be mentally tough because I tend to run with others during long runs. I am happy to say that the run went well and was even enjoyable; if I end up running my marathon alone I think I will do just fine.

The Quad Cities Half Marathon is next Sunday and I am aiming to PR; I'd like to run sub-1:57. My easy days have gotten quicker, so, again, I'm feeling confident. I've been taking Gu's with me on my long runs and they seem to help. I've also discovered my pre-run breakfast - two Toaster Strudels. Really. They sit well!

I do have to mention that I'm so proud of my husband David. He is training for his first half marathon at Rails to Trails. He ran seven miles this morning, which is the farther he has ever run. His average pace is coming down and he's finding it easier to run. I think the fact that we're both training for longer races has helped both of our training "plans" because we encourage each other to get out and go.

I'll leave you with a picture of me planking at sea level in Israel. I couldn't help it!

Monday, September 3, 2012

5-Mile PR

This past week was a good training week; low in miles but high in energy. Saturday was the first cross-country meet of the season. I met up with Adrienne and Ali Kirsch for a shorter long run (next week is an 18 miler). This proved to be a great start to the day. The junior high kids ran really well; none of the girls walked up the last hill!

The Run with Carl was this morning and I PR-ed in the 5-mile run. My PR before was 42 minutes and some odd seconds, so my goal was below 42 minutes. I started quite quickly and saw Phil Pancrazio ahead of me. I decided to keep him in my line of sight for the first mile and then picked up my pace a bit. My legs were feeling fine and my breathing was steady. It wasn't until mile 2.5 that I felt myself not able to talk comfortably (not that I was talking...). At mile 3.5, I wanted to stop and walk. My legs were tired and I hadn't run this fast in a 5-miler before. However, I knew my training. I had run up Devil's Glen Road quite a few times and felt confident.

---You know, there is something to knowing the course. On Saturday, I yelled at our runners as they began up the last hill at Crow Creek to use their training. They know that hill. They have run it before and know how to get up. They know when they're halfway there and, by the time they got there, Coach Kirsch was there to encourage them the rest of the way. The end of a race is all mental. You have to tell yourself to keep going. You hurt. Everyone hurts. It's your mental strength that overcomes that pain and helps you finish strong. ---

David M., Adrienne, Kyle, and Kelli ran the 5k. Jessica and Brother Dave walked the 5k. Will, David Z.,  and I ran the 5 mile. Ben ran the 1/2 mile. Overall, it was a great race which led to a great family get-together at our house afterward.

This week proved to me that I am mentally and physically stronger than I tend to think I am. I don't feel stronger from day to day, but it's hard days and race days that show me just what I can do.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Night Running

I recently had the honor of joining the PVJH cross-country coaching staff. I coached two years ago but then entered graduate school, and there was no way I was going to try to take two classes and coach. This semester, though, I am down to one class, so I jumped at the chance to coach again. I love it. Cross-country gives me the chance to get out of school, do a bit of running, and see the kids in a different setting. There are close to 100 runners on the team, so one more body was needed to help wrangle them in!

Today was a tempo day for the runners, and I took the kids who need to work on running continuously. I stood between the two ball fields and yelled "Go!" and "Stop!" The great thing about this was that I could see all of the kids and encourage them as they came around. The bad thing was that I couldn't do any running of my own. Therefore, when I got home I talked David into taking Sam to the dog park so I could run and meet him there. Since the jh kids did a tempo workout today, I figured I'd try something like one too.

My splits were as follows:  Total distance - 6.0 miles. Total time:  50:55. Average pace - 8:29.
Mile 1 - 8:19
Mile 2 - 8:11
Mile 3 - 8:10
Mile 4 - 8:50
Mile 5 - 8:35
Mile 6 - 8:48

Now, in my defense, the route I chose is uber-hilly. I mean, after three miles, it's pretty much all uphill. I ran from home to the bike path, got off at Devil's Glen Road, and then ran to the dog park at Crow Creek. I considered the last mile and a half as a faster cool down. 

This was a solid run. I felt great the entire time and I tried to push the hills. I signed up for the 5-mile at the Run with Carl and I'm confident I will push myself. 

As my watch was locating satellites, a neighbor and his son were out for a walk and we had a nice chat. The boy rode up to the corner on his tricycle and yelled, "Hi! Hey, hi! Do you want to pet my dog?" I hesitated because I wanted to get going, but after a moment I agreed. I'm so happy I did. We chatted about his dog, his new bike that he got for his fourth birthday, and his sweet seahorse temporary tattoo. 

This past week I had a 40 mile week - all running miles. I'm really proud of myself. I don't know if I've ever run that much in one week, and that was with Monday off. My long run of 16 miles I ran on Saturday morning, meeting up with Leslie for ten miles of it. I'm more of a lone runner when it comes to shorter runs, but I love running with people on my long runs; the conversation makes the miles fly by. David needed to get in a long run of six miles on Sunday, which was a perfect way for me to get the lactic acid out of my legs. I'm hoping to get in another solid week of running. David is really upping his mileage and has been awesome at getting in his workouts.

If you haven't already, please check out my LU Race Team page. I have less than a month left to reach my goal of raising $700 for charities around the Quad Cities. I'm getting close, but I'm not quite there yet. Click on my badge below to get to my page. Thank you so much for your support!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

OUCH Half Marathon

Well, race number six of seven is crossed off of the LU Race Team list. Yesterday was the OUCH Half Marathon. I'm happy to say I reached a PR of 1:57! The course was actually short by about .27 miles, but since it is an official race, I'm counting it.

I talked Adrienne into running the race with me, and we both had excuses before the start of why we were going to run slowly. Adrienne had pulled a side muscle and I had allergy stuff up the wazoo. We decided to make this a training run and aim for a 9:30 pace. This is a slower pace for both of us, but you know how it goes when motivation isn't knocking at your door. I wanted to set a low goal so that I knew I could make it. What generally happens to me is that I have strong training runs and then I fall apart during the actual race. I work myself up so much, stressing out about my time, how I'm feeling, if I drank enough water the past two days - you name it. So for this race I expected nothing.

Neither Adrienne or I had run this race before, but luckily my dad told her the route. We started at a slow pace and made our way from Trinity into my neighborhood. (If I had known the route, I could have told David to walk 1/4 mile and cheer us on.) Adrienne stopped to use the restrooms at Middle Park, which cost us at least two minutes. But I didn't care. I grabbed some Gatorade and watched people go by. A high school girl came out of the bathroom and her friend said, "Come on! Half of the race just passed us!" I laughed, but then I realized she was right. Just then, a group of four runners went by and I looked down the bike path --- no one else was there. The end of the race just went by! Adrienne popped back to the table and I told her we needed to get going!

The miles ticked by quickly and we were able to talk until we reached Belmont Road. This was the beast I was waiting for. My car can barely make it up this hill. Seriously. I have to turn off the air conditioner and pat the dashboard. I remember when I got my Giant and Dad wanted to take us for a bike ride. We ended up riding UP Belmont and I thought I would die (or fall over). Well, the trek up was not as bad as I thought it would be. I kept my knees up and pumped my arms.

The worst hills, in my opinion, were the ones on Middle Road and 53rd Street. Adrienne and I were able to talk until mile ten, when I had to focus on moving my legs and she had to focus on getting to the finish so she could get to a bathroom. It was around mile ten that Coach Troy popped in my head and I decided I found my new mantra:  "Now's not the time to slow down! Now's not the time to quit! Now's the time to dig deep and show some character."

The finish continued the story of my life - Adrienne dropped me going up the last hill and finished 20 seconds ahead of me. Honestly, I'm okay with that. I came around the turn and some of my former students were cheering for me, and once I saw the clock under two hours, I attempted to kick it into another gear (which turned out to be pretty much the same as the gear I was in) and finished under two hours. That's all I was going for.

Okay, so that was the race. Now I know that I am capable of going faster in the middle of the race, so hopefully I can PR again at the Quad Cities Half Marathon in September. My goal for this week is to get up three mornings to run.

David needed to do a five mile long run this morning, so Sam and I decided to join him. I can't say it was a good idea, but he was able to run much faster than he has been running. However, now the world knows that he can run faster, so he's a bit disappointed that he can't run super slow and just have people think that's as fast as he can go!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Here's to Another School Year...

This past week has been an interesting transition into the new school year. Much of the junior high has gotten quite a renovation, and over half of the teachers moved, so "change" is the buzz word. I moved to a renovated room, and I was able to get in on Thursday. I spent early last week dealing with paper things so that I could spend time later in the week getting my room set up. I will miss the students from last year, but I'm excited for the change and excited for a new school year. For the first time, I will have a co-teacher and am teaching two classes instead of one (though the classes are extremely similar). My team is also digging into the Iowa Core, which means completely changing our curriculum. This is something that needs to be done and will make our curriculum stronger in the long run, but it seems like we have changed our curriculum every year!

Running-wise, I'm getting back into the swing of things. I must make myself get up in the morning, though, because by the time I get home, the last thing I want to do is go running. Yesterday, I registered for the Rails to Trails Marathon and David registered for the half marathon. If you're open November 4th, consider it! This weekend brings the OUCH Half Marathon, which raises funds for wound care around the world as well as here in the United States. Check out the Wound Reach Foundation for more information. I'm actually nervous for this race - 1) I have not run a half since the Quad Cities Half Marathon in May, and I totally crashed and burned on that course, 2) I ran twelve miles a week and a half ago and took a few too many days to recover, so I am questioning my fitness level, and 3) The course takes participants up BELMONT ROAD! My car can barely make it up that hill, so how am I going to keep my legs and arms moving without falling over or tumbling backward down the hill? Ha! So, I'm going into this "race" with the mentality of treating it as a training run. I'll take whatever I can get, and I won't get too worked up about it.

If you have not yet done so, I encourage you to check out my Live Uncommon Race Team page. I'm currently running to raise money for seven worthy causes, and I only have two races left - the OUCH Half Marathon this weekend and the Quad Cities Half Marathon in September. I appreciate any and all support; ALL of it goes to worthy causes, and your donation is tax deductible!

Well, wish me luck as I begin another great school year! I'll have one of my sisters teaching at my building this year, which is extra special, and I will (hopefully) finish my master's degree in May.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

LSR - Run Dedicated to my Parents

This morning Adrienne came down to run with me on the bike path. We ran the first five miles together, and then she turned around and I went another mile with Sam before turning back. I didn't have my Garmin watch this morning, so I really ran based on how I felt. It was nice, but I prefer to have my watch on my long runs to ensure I don't go out too fast. Sam ran the entire way - 12 miles - and had no problem. Adrienne came back on her bike to bring us water with about a mile and a half left. I started feeling the run around mile ten, and that makes me feel good. Adrienne really picked up her pace on the way back, so I would like to run the entire way with her to see if I can stay with her. Total distance:  12.2. Total time:  1:53. Average pace:  9:14. I'm estimating on the distance because I didn't have my watch. After mile five, I ran for ten minutes before turning around.

Here are the races on my schedule for this fall:
1. OUCH half marathon
2. Run with Carl
3. Quad Cities half marathon
4. Rails to Trails marathon

So, today's run is dedicated to my parents - Tuesday is their 30th wedding anniversary. Thirty years is a long time! My family met at Thunder Bay Grille for brunch and then most of us went to The Dark Night Rises. Brunch was pretty good, but the movie was awesome! It's something I can't wait to watch on our new television that David conveniently bought while I was on my trip. :)

My dad is a principal and is probably the most hard-working person I know. I remember he got us into running, but he was so surprised to hear that I was going out for cross-country in high school after Erin graduated. My dad is now on a weekend training schedule, and he has been for probably the past five years or so. He tends to get long runs in just to be ready in case someone wants to run a race. It's funny because his three oldest children have followed him into the education field and he wants us to succeed. He started his career as an industrial technology teacher, and whatever "off" time he has is spent working on someone's house.

My mom works at the Camanche Post Office. She stayed home with us and worked at a preschool while we were growing up. I remember her putting on our Christmas shows and making our dresses. For my mom's 50th birthday, my immediate family ran the Des Moines Marathon, and my mom and I ran together. Growing up, my sisters and I loved wearing her old running tank tops, and I still have one - a blue Quad Cities Angels tank.

Today at brunch, we talked about when my parents got engaged and married, and what our early vacations were like. They did not have any money, but they still made sure we went on vacation every summer. It's fun discussing our family vacations because it seems like each one has its own stories - my dad almost losing our camper off of a drop-off after driving over a bridge held up by crushed cars, my dad almost taking off the top of the camper at the Denver airport, eating cold-cut sandwiches and drinking Schweppe's Ginger Ale in the parking lot at Disney World, swimming at the Y with the rope swing in Colorado... My parents would do anything for family, and they want to be a part of our successes.

Happy 30th anniversary! Here's to thirty more years...

Mom and Dad at Jessica and Kyle's wedding rehearsal - 2011

At Jessica and Kyle's wedding reception - happy parents!

The parents with David at districts - 2011

Grandma Simkins, Mom and Dad, and Grandma and Grandpa Zimmer -  anniversary brunch August 2012

Our ridiculous family

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Run Dedicated to my Brother David

I stayed in bed this morning contemplating whether I wanted to get out and run or take the day off. I opted to run, more for Sam's benefit than my own. I think she loves having me home so that she can get out of the house and get some exercise, and it seems like we are getting back into shape together. (Right now she is asleep on the couch.)

My plan was to run 4 miles this morning, but I cut it short because I pulled my right hamstring. Actually, I'm pretty sure I pulled it Tuesday, ran on it yesterday, and then really felt it today. Total distance - 3.2 miles. Time - 27:54. Average pace - 8:49. Not bad, considering I felt like I was going much slower. I think I will hit up the bike tomorrow and begin working more bike workouts into my exercise routine.

Looking at the race calendar for the next few months, my plans have changed.

1. I thought about doing the DeWitt Triathlon but have decided against it. I'm sure I could do it, but it would be painful and I would hate my life. I'll get back to it next year.
2. Ouch Half Marathon - I'm playing this by ear. I'm registered for the half, but I am considering dropping down to the 5k. It really depends on my long runs the next few weeks.
3. Quad City Marathon - Instead of running the marathon, I am running the half. There was no way I could have gotten in my long runs overseas, and I am starting from scratch as it is. I am actually a little relieved that I'm going to be running the half because I feel much more comfortable at that distance.
4. Rails to Trails Marathon - November 4th. Erin said she is running this marathon, so I have opted to make this my marathon for this year. The date will give me more time to train, and it will be cooler, which always plays to my favor.

So there you have it. I am a little frustrated because I left on my trip in pretty good shape and I returned feeling like I lost everything. I know I can get back to where I was, but it takes so much work and pain to get there.

Today's run is dedicated to my actual brother David. (As opposed to Brother Dave. David is a common name in my family.) David will be a sophomore in high school and just turned sixteen. I was ten when he was born, and I remember being so excited to have a brother; I even made a scrapbook of his first year for the county fair. Our relationship is different than the ones with my sisters because we really didn't grow up in the same house; I went to college when he was eight years old. That being said, we get along well and I am so glad he is a part of our family. He gets along really well with my husband, and they like to play video games, watch action movies, and eat wings and pizza.

Not having any kids of my own yet, I have made it a priority to attend as many of his cross-country meets, track meets, and marching band shows as possible. He's also in concert band, and maybe I should make more of an effort to attend those concerts in order for him to see that sports aren't everything in life. But then, I'll leave that to his parents :). David has become a hard worker when it comes to running. He sets goals and works to achieve them. He was the only freshman at his districts to qualify in the top ten for state cross-country and he helped qualify the 4x800 team for state track. He has matured quite a bit, even since eighth grade. He is better able to take things in stride and consider the effect something might have - or won't have - in the long run. He also got his first job this summer working at Mycogen. He is growing up so quickly, and I truly think he is a great kid.

At Jessica and Kyle's wedding - he is now officially taller than me

RAGBRAI 2011 - Stopping for some breakfast burritos!

State Cross-Country 2011

David finishing the Quad City Triathlon 2011

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Home Sweet Home

Well, I am writing this while sitting on Jessica's couch watching HGTV. Yesterday was long! By the time I got home, I had been up for twenty-four hours. I stepped out of the airport and was immediately hit with heat and humidity. No more fifty-degree weather for me.

Getting home is bittersweet. I am so happy to be here; I missed my family and my routine. That being said, I was very comfortable with the people on my trip and made quite a few friends. I was surrounded by educators who wanted to learn and wanted to be there. Now I have the task of putting everything I have learned together. Only two more weeks and I'm getting back into the swing of school.

My running has suffered because of my trip, but I am not upset at all; instead, I have altered my goals. I am moving my marathon to November and will run the Quad City half marathon. My training will pick up again tomorrow.

Here are some things I have learned while traveling:

1. I-pad over laptop - I chose to take my laptop because I wanted to be able to upload pictures. It turns out, most of our hotels did not have free wi-fi, so uploading pictures wasn't really a priority. Also, there is a cord I could have bought that would allow me to connect my camera to my I-pad.

2. Bring limited cash - Exchanges/kantors charge commission, so ATM's are the way to go.

3. Bring travel-sized items - Really. I chose to bring regular-sized shampoo, conditioner, and body wash because I thought three weeks was quite a long time. It turns out our hotels were nice enough to have pretty good items in the bathrooms. My toiletries contributed greatly to my luggage weight.

4. Really, bring only what I use at home - I brought lotion, but I don't even use lotion at home. I thought, Well, you never know... Actually, I do know. I also brought all of my make-up, even though I don't wear make-up at home. I used it once. I brought wedges that I wore only once, and sandals that I didn't wear at all. Consolidation is key.

5. Bring less clothes-wash more often - Tank tops aren't necessary. T-shirts will suffice. Dresses are nice, but they don't allow one to mix and match.

6. The smaller the luggage the better - I had to schlep everything around.

7. Bring a watch and sunglasses

8. Always bring feminine products. You never know when someone might need them.

9. Really, try not to worry about money, but think twice about purchases.

10. Drink plenty of water.

11. If taking a journal, make sure it is spiraled and can be folded back. It should be small enough to fit in a purse/bag.

12. Bring rain gear! And make sure the rain coat has pockets.

13. Bring nail clippers and tweezers.

14. Always keep food with you. And don't feel bad about taking food from breakfast at the hotel.

I'm sure there's more, but that's what I have right now. Below are a few pictures from the last part of my trip.

My hotel room at the Bristol Hotel in Warsaw. It was divine. 

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Memorial.

The night we went to a Chopin concert in a palace. I loved getting dressed up.

The Bristol Hotel was right next to the Presidential Palace. It was like staying right next to the White House.

Friday, July 20, 2012

My Last Day in Poland

It's hard to believe tomorrow morning at this time I will be on a plane with a destination of Newark, New Jersey. While I have had an amazing experience, I am ready to be back in Iowa.

Yesterday was amazing. I don't mean I had a pretty good time. I mean, I had experiences that I don't think I will ever have again. Monnie and I got up early, swam for half an hour, and then sat in the sauna. What a relaxing way to begin the day. We then got on the bus and went to a teachers' institute here in Warsaw. I was able to get an idea of how the Holocaust is taught to students in Poland. We then visited the last remaining part of the Warsaw Ghetto wall, the memorial at Mila 18, and the Umschlagplatz (the station where people were deported from Warsaw).

We were then given the afternoon off, so I went with a group to get something for lunch (again, I had chicken noodle soup). I walked around for a bit, saw some sites, and then went back to the hotel to get ready.

Okay, here is the experience:  We were taken to a replica of an old palace where we were treated to a private, exclusive Chopin recital performed by Maciej Poliszewski. He studied at Julliard and at the Music Academy in Moscow. It was amazing. We were in a small room that reminded me of Pemberley. The pianists face displayed all of the emotion of the music.

After dinner, we ate at Belvedere. Again, fantastic. We were treated to a three course meal consisting of salmon, duck, pears, and white chocolate mousse.

When we got back to the hotel, a few of us found a black and white movie playing outside of a cafe. Although it was in Polish, we grabbed some hot chocolates and enjoyed the end of the film.

This was the perfect day. Today we are off to Treblinka, and then tomorrow, we leave. I feel like I have been gone for ages, and yet I feel like there is so much more I need to experience. I will post pictures later as the wireless connection here is terrible.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Running Overseas

So far, I have run in three countries. I must say, I am rather proud of myself for getting up and getting at it so often. I figured I would be the only one exercising, so I looked at the workout rooms ahead of time, believing I would be on the treadmill for three weeks. Boy was I wrong. I have yet to work out in a gym; rather, I have found people who love running as much as I do.

As much as I liked running in Israel, it was hot and hilly. Germany was nice, but I have truly enjoyed running in Poland. The morning weather has been around 50 degrees and the streets seem to go on forever. I am appreciating my Garmin more and more. It is so nice to know the distance and pace of each run, especially when running in totally random places.

While I have thoroughly enjoyed exploring in the wee-hours of the morning while most people are sleeping, I am ready to be home. There is something to be said about knowing where I am going, approximately how far the distance is, and that I am safe (I will not run by myself). Literally, I have been running on 5-6 hours of sleep each night, which is far less than I need to function at home.

My reasons for running have been reaffirmed during my trip. There were a few days of traveling that I did not get up and run, and I was jittery, antsy, and just annoyed more easily. Running has helped me relax (maybe a little too much. I find my eyes drooping in the early afternoon). I have also come to view exercise in general as vital to a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle. I consider myself in pretty good shape, and so I move around quite easily. Stairs do not pose a problem, and I can walk for extended periods of time. That is required for a trip like this, but there are a number of people on this trip who struggle by the end of the day. I am grateful that running is enjoyable.

There is a woman on this trip who used to do gymnastics and run, even setting a state record in high school in the 1500 meter run. She is now severely overweight, and she said that she had accomplished what she wanted in high school, moved on, and has not exercised since. Her experience made me think about all of those athletes in high school who put their whole selves into a sport and then get burnt out, only to become sedentary later in life. While I was by no means fast in high school, I went out for cross-country in track because I enjoyed it (for the most part). Somehow, that has stuck with me, and I believe that's what we need to get across to people. I am not running to set any records or even compete against other people. I run because it keeps me healthy, and if I get a PR, great. I guess I want to encourage people more to just get out there an do something.

Side note:  I truly thought I would lose weight on this trip because I didn't think I would enjoy any of the food. Wrong! There has been bread galore, and I have taken to making a few cheese sandwiches and sneaking them out of the breakfast area for late-afternoon snacks. Fish has been served a few times for dinner. In Israel we primarily had buffet style meals, but in Germany and Poland, most dinners are three-course meals. A few nights ago I had some delectable split-pea soup followed by chicken and mashed potatoes, and then a brownie. Last night we went to a local restaurant and had a grilled chicken salad, salmon, and then chocolate mousse. Tonight was mushroom-potato soup, turkey with cheese dumplings and cranberries, and then ice cream topped with pears and chocolate syrup. Like I said, I have not gone hungry. As a matter of fact, I would not be surprised if I gained weight!

Yesterday was the day when everything caught up to me. My body was exhausted and I just really wanted to go home. I'm a little better today (my friend Monnie and I went for a swim this afternoon followed by some time in the sauna), but I really am ready to be home. I am now counting the days and checking my flights home.

Sorry I don't have pictures. The internet at the hotel is uber-slow...

Monday, July 16, 2012

Lublin - Poland

Today was spent on the bus. We left Krakow at 7:30 a.m. and I was able to get a short run in beforehand. I ran 2.5 miles with Toshimi, and we were able to make it to the river, which was located close to our hotel.

Our stop for the day was at Belzec, one of the killing centers that was part of Operation Reinhard. Operation Reinhard was not devised by Reinhard Heydrich, but it was eventually named in "honor" of him after he died (by wounds suffered after an assassination attempt). Over 400,000 Jews were killed at Belzec in a span of only six months. Operation Reinhard camps were established for one purpose - to destroy Polish Jews. The "buildings" that were constructed at this camp were made out of tin, making it obvious that this was not meant to be a permanent camp (unlike a camp like Auschwitz, which had many brick and mortar buildings).

Elaine, the program director, shared a little of her father's story. He is a survivor of Mauthasen, but his family was killed at Belzec. His mother was pregnant and, after delivering her baby in a hospital, was taken to Belzec. Along with her went Elaine's father's two younger siblings and the new baby. Not knowing her name, Elaine's father and his brother eventually named her Sarah (after the war). What is devastating is that people who came to this camp never even had a chance. They got off the train right in front of the camp, dropped their belongings, and were sent to the gas chambers. The only people who were kept alive were those replacing other slave laborers.

Again, I thought about those who never even had a chance; those men, women, and children whose lives were taken from them. One thing that has been stressed on this trip is focusing on remembering the lives lost. People who were murdered had traditions, families, and lives that were destroyed. One woman at Auschwitz found a muddy puddle and washed her face with the water because that is what humans do - they keep clean. Another woman in a ghetto paid a rabbi with food she was supposed to be eating so that her son could have a bar mitzvah. Chess sets have been found during excavations of camps. People wanted to hold on to their humanity.

Tomorrow will bring a short tour of Lublin and then we are visiting Majdanek. It is hard to believe that I am here for only four more days.

Wall of names of those who were killed at Belzec.

Lublin. Unfortunately, we are only here for one night.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Poland - Krakow

I needed today. Yesterday was emotionally draining, and we really have not had a break during this trip; there has always been something planned. This morning we went to a synagogue, the Galacia Museum, the Schindler Museum, and the Krakow Ghetto Memorial. It was a pretty full morning. I was able to sleep in until seven o'clock, but that almost made me more tired!

Lunch was had at a restaurant in the town square, and then we were able to do some shopping. It was great to just walk around and enjoy being in the city. I went with a group to E. Wedel, which has great chocolate. The hot chocolate was divine, and I ended up purchasing more chocolate than I probably need.

This is a short post, which is fine with me. Tomorrow we leave early in the morning for Belzec. I have five more days in Poland until I leave to come home. Last night at our after-dinner meeting, I experienced a situation that made me long for home. Today provided the rejuvenation I need to make it through the rest of the week. The people here are great, and the nice thing is that I can spend time with different people and get to know all of them.

p.s. I won't get into it now, but I have truly learned to appreciate PV more than I did before. I've had conversations with teachers about their districts, schools, administrators, and curricula, and I have come to the conclusion that I have a pretty solid position.

Yesterday my post was not uplifting in the least, so I will leave you with some more positive pictures from today.

The gate to Schindler's Factory. These are not originals; rather, they are designed this way because that's how they are in the movie.

Enjoying THE BEST cup of hot chocolate in the world at E. Wedel. It is like a melted chocolate bar in a cup. 

Today's lunch group. We walked, talked, ate, and shopped. It was a refreshing afternoon (and it didn't rain!).

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Poland - Auschwitz and Birkenau

Today was a difficult day that can only be described in one word - overwhelming. I went first to Auschwitz and then to Auschwitz II-Birkenau. There are few words to describe how I felt while going through certain parts of the camps. I was a little disappointed to see a large number of people when we got to Auschwitz; it seemed more like a tourist attraction than a former concentration camp.

(In case you didn't know, Auschwitz I was a concentration camp and Auschwitz II-Birkenau was an extermination camp. The famous picture of tracks leading to a large brick building is actually at Birkenau.)

There were a few things that hit me in Auschwitz. First were the suitcases. When I walked into one of the rooms in Number 5, there was an entire wall full of suitcases. Each suitcase had an owner, and most of the owners had put their names and dates on the front of their luggage. The mounds of suitcases reminded me of my group and the fact that we all have suitcases. All we see while traveling are people with suitcases. Our pieces of luggage contain what we think we need, and the same would have held true for these suitcases. Each suitcase had an owner.

The other thing that hit me was the abundance of shoes. In one room, both sides were filled with piles of shoes. To think, each pair of shoes had an owner. Someone chose to wear those shoes over other shoes. Someone chose to purchase those shoes for whatever purposes. These mounds of shoes reminded me that individuals were killed. Entire families were destroyed.

The third thing, the place that had the greatest effect on me, was the children's barrack in Birkenau. There were sketches on the walls that children had been allowed to create. I began thinking about an excerpt from one of our packets we were given at the beginning of the trip - excerpts from I Was a Doctor in Auschwitz by Gisella Perl. She describes making the decision to save pregnant mothers from certain death by destroying their children. In her situation, pregnant women were treated terribly by the SS in the camp. Any woman with a child was automatically sent to the gas chambers. I will not even try to imagine having to make that decision, nor do I encourage you to. Instead, I thought of my sister, who is expecting a child in December. I thought about all of those mothers who loved their children and wanted what was best for them. I thought of all of those children who never got a chance to grow up, to have the experiences that you and I have come to expect. The lives destroyed is unfathomable.

So far on this trip, I have been to Bergen-Belsen, Ravensbruck, Sachsenhausen, Auschwitz I, and Auschwitz II-Birkenau. It irks me when someone refers to a camp or camps as the most important because, while a great number of people might have died in one camp over another, it all depends on one's context. People died everywhere. Each camp is important to someone. That being said, Birkenau was emotionally the most difficult for me to handle.

Teaching-wise, I have started to think about how my teaching and my unit will change next year. There is no doubt some things have to go, and I plan on utilizing more artifacts in the classroom. My colleagues and I have focused so much on presenting the overall history of the Holocaust that we have failed to focus students on the people involved who risked their lives or lost their lives. I am going to develop clear rationales for what I am doing and use more survivor testimony, artifacts, pictures, and documents. I am proud that we include art and the Holocaust in our unit, and I would like to go back to students doing some sort of an inquiry project focusing on one aspect of the Holocaust.

I will leave you with a few pictures from last week. It has been a while since I written an update, and I have been many places. Some of these are focused more on history before and after the Holocaust.
Olympic Stadium - at the top of the Olympic Tower - the Berlin Olympics in 1936  did play a role in how countries viewed Nazi-run Germany. While some journalists, athletes, and spectators saw through the facade, others bought into it.

Wannsee Villa

At the Berlin Wall

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Israel - Yad Vashem and Jerusalem

Okay, let me begin with a picture of my hotel bathroom.

Mamilla Hotel bathroom

This is the bath/shower area. Notice you can see directly into the main room. There is a switch that will turn the glass opaque making it nearly impossible to see through. I can't even describe the feeling of taking a shower in here after a long day of hoofing it around Jerusalem.

Today began with a trip to Yad Vashem, Israel's memorial to the Holocaust, or Shoah. For those of you who know me well, you know that I am almost an emotionless person. I don't really get choked-up and it's often difficult for me to empathize. This description might be different once I get to Europe and tour some of the concentration camps, but right now, it remains. I feel like I take more of a historical approach when touring museums. When going through the USHMM in D.C., we were instructed to focus on artifacts that we could use with students in order for them to understand whatever it is we want them to understand. This helped me not get so emotional. I think emotion has much to do with this topic, but that's not my goal; I am not out to make students feel bad and cry. I would rather they attempt to understand this evolution and its importance to the world today. 

I don't remember if I mentioned this in a previous post, but every day I think about if what I am learning should be taught in the eighth-grade classroom and, if so, why. What is the rationale. I hear teachers talk about using this artifact or that artifact, and while it might be a cool idea, they are not starting with a rationale. At Lo'Hamei - the Ghetto Fighters' Museum - there is a wall on which symbols in both English and Hebrew scroll and create words. One teacher said she is brainstorming having her students do something similar to this in the classroom. She didn't explain any further, but I don't understand what students would get out of that activity. Are they going to do research and construct knowledge, or are they going to cut out slips of paper and then sit back and watch others present? Something to think about.

That being said, Yad Vashem was powerful, especially the Hall of Names. This chamber is located at the very end of the permanent exhibit and includes every known Holocaust victim's name. While six million Jews died during the Holocaust, Yad Vashem has only three million names. That means there are roughly three million people who died whose names remain unknown. Our tour guide today told us that there is a Jewish response to a Jewish question:  How long does a man live? He lives as long as his name is remembered. That is such a powerful statement, and it seems to describe the human race so well. We do things so that we can be remembered. At the end, what do we really have? Sure, we have family, friends, objects. But when we die, those things are gone. Three million people died, and so far, there is absolutely no trace of them. Nothing. I think that's the statement that has had the most effect on me today. 

Partisan Memorial at Yad Vashem. Notice how the rocks create a Star of David with a sword in the middle. Represents both spiritual and armed resistance.

After Yad Vashem, we were dropped off in the Old City and were guided back to Jaffa Gate. I was able to go to the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (which I had been to a few days ago), the building in which Christians claim houses King David's tomb and was the place of the Last Supper, and I was able to follow a few of the Stations of the Cross. While I am amazed to be in such a historical place, I feel like being here brings more questions than answers. The history of the city of Jerusalem alone is fascinating. For example, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre allegedly houses the slab of rock on which Jesus' body was prepared after his death and part of the stone which was rolled across his tomb. It also houses Golgatha, the hill on which Jesus was crucified. I say allegedly because no one knows for certain (though I suppose it would depend on whom you ask). What is interesting from a historical standpoint is that the church is Greek Orthodox, but the person who holds the key to the church is a Muslim. Inside, different rooms belong to different denominations. In all, there are six denominations arguing over the building. In the Old City, there are four quarters:  the Jewish Quarter, the Christian Quarter, the Muslim Quarter, and the Armenian Quarter. Different historical sites are located in different quarters, and different groups control different areas. The same sites are sacred to at least three different religions - Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. And within those religions are denominations that don't necessarily agree with each other.

Western Wall
You might be wondering what all of this history has to do with the Holocaust and Holocaust education. Well, if we don't know history, we will not be able to fully understand the present. Antisemitism was not a construct of the Nazi Party. Adolf Hitler did not introduce Antisemitism to the Nazi Party. It has been around for thousands of years, and there is no simple answer to any "why?" question regarding the Holocaust. One thing that I have truly discovered on this trip so far is the more I learn, the more I don't know. The Holocaust is not a black-and-white topic. There are layers, which makes it that much more complicated. 

I am off to Hanover, Germany, tomorrow afternoon. I'll keep you updated as much as possible.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Israel - Jerusalem

You know, one would think there would be certain things to be left behind in the States when traveling to another country:  English as the primary language, foods, community, etc. I must say, I was not surprised when sat down in the lobby this morning and heard

She wears short skirts, I wear t-shirts
She's cheer captain and I'm on the bleachers...

But I was a bit disappointed. Apparently, one cannot get away from T. Swift, even in Israel! As Monnie was the only person who met me in the lobby this morning, I ended up walking with her around Jerusalem. There is something to be said for waking up before the city and taking everything in as the sun rises.

We got into Jerusalem yesterday (Friday) around 2:30 and immediately went into the Old City. What an amazing sight. I was able to try falafel - deep-fried, ground chickpeas rolled in seasoning and eaten in a pita. Not my favorite, but I can say I gave falafel a shot. A group of us meandered around and ended up at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. There must have been mass at 4:45 because all of a sudden a mass of people swarmed the church. That was our cue to leave as we will be going back to the Old City tomorrow for an official tour.

(I must mention that, on our way to Jerusalem, we stopped at Massuah. This is a museum that focuses on Adolf Eichmann. So interesting.)

Today was, in one word, amazing. We drove to Masadah, which is an Israeli National Park. Built by King Herod, it is known in Israel because Jews who were kicked out of Jerusalem found refuge at this former palace. They were later surrounded by Romans and, instead of being captured and used as slaves, they committed suicide.

View of the Dead Sea from Masadah

The next stop was the Dead Sea - the lowest point on Earth. At 122 degrees Fahrenheit, the water felt wonderful. This would be the perfect place for a triathlon (well, besides the heat) if it weren't for the salt; you cannot sink. I walked in, leaned back, and immediately floated. I had to physically push down my legs in order to stand.

Dead Sea

Our last stop for the day was Ein Gedi, a natural falls in the desert. Boy was this a welcome treat. The water was cool and the company delightful.

Ein Gedi

All in all, this has been an instructive and amazing experience thus far. Tomorrow we are going to Yad Vashem and then touring the Old City. A day and a half left in Israel and then it's off to Germany. I'm thinking I'm going to skip my run in the morning, seeing as how it is now midnight and our wake-up call is at 6:30 a.m. Hey, I need a break every once in a while!

p.s. My hotel (Mamilla Hotel) is spectacular, especially the bathroom in my room. Pictures to come.

In front of the Old City right outside of Jaffa Gate.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Israel - Haifa

Okay, I don't have much time for this post as I am sitting on a park bench using random free wi-fi. 
Really. This is a view from where I am sitting.

We made it to Israel and are staying in Haifa. I was able to go for a 4.5 mile run this morning with two of my companions, Steve and Karen, both from California. If you think Brady Street hill is bad, come run the hills in Haifa. The city was established along the Mediterranean, and then it was built up. What a good hill workout! And a great way to see the city. Our group traveled to Lo'Hamei today, which is the Ghetto Fighters' Museum. It is located on a kibbutz. This was an awesome museum that had information regarding Treblinka, resistance fighters in the ghettos, and art as resistance. I have gathered so much information already to use in the classroom.


On our way back, we stopped at the Bahai Gardens.
Bahai Gardens. Overlooking the Mediterranean. 
It's 8:42 right now and we have a big day ahead of us tomorrow - we drive to Jerusalem and are there for three nights. Like I said, I'm thoroughly enjoying my time here. I'll try to keep you updated!

p.s. Happy anniversary to my wonderful husband!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

July 3, 2012

Okay. I am sitting at Dulles in D.C. waiting for a 5:55 departure to Frankfurt. I flew into D.C. on Saturday night, having no real problems - aside from my luggage arriving on the flight after mine. No big deal though; I was in no rush (I knew there was a reason I was flying in a day early).

Sunday morning, I met Erin, David, and my dad and we did a long run on the Capitol Crescent trail. Boy ways it warm! Sweat was dripping down my legs and my shoes were soaked. I'd like to dedicate this run to my brother David. He turned sixteen yesterday and is growing up so quickly. I remember him being "pretzel boy" with rolls all over. He was such an adorable little boy! And now he is grown up. I told him on our run this morning that he really has matured, and I feel like we are becoming friends rather than just siblings. I think he enjoys hanging out with my husband more than me, but I'm okay with that. I love going to David's cross-country and track meets; I am so proud of his hard work and the time he puts into improving himself. I just love having a brother.

Sunday afternoon brought our first group meeting. Dinner was at the hotel - salad, chicken with mushrooms, and some sort of chocolate pudding dessert. After that we met Max and Hanne Liebmann and heard their story of survival of the Holocaust.
Max and Hanne
Monday we went to the USHMM and were able to tour it for three hours - not much time. However, we were sent with the task of focusing on artifacts and how those affect our understanding. We were then able to meet Suzy Snyder, a curator at the museum. She talked about various survivors and answered the many questions we had. That night we again had dinner at the hotel - salad, mahi mahi, and a brownie - and met Henry Greenbaum. Henry is a survivor of Auschwitz who later also survived a death march.
This morning brought a monuments run with Mom, Dad, Erin, and David. I then went back to the hotel, attended a meeting, and then met up with everyone (including Cody) for lunch at Pizzeria Paradiso.
Getting yogurt/ice cream.

This trip is going to be taxing both physically and mentally. I know there will be many changes to be made to my Holocaust unit upon return. One thing that has been stressed already - that we teachers do but at the same time do not - is rationale. What is the purpose not only of a lesson, but of using a particular excerpt or artifact? Particularly regarding the Holocaust, teachers oftentimes go for the shock factor - what images or stories are going to get students' emotions going. This, however, is not the point. Students might think about a situation for a short time, but the understanding is lost. Instead, what do students need to understand? What is the purpose? Sorry for the rant, but this is something I need to be reminded of every once in a while.

I've learned much already about teaching practices and history in general. I am so excited about what else there is in store on this trip. I'm running out of time, as people are getting their items in order so that we can board the plane. I'll try to keep you updated, but my last hotel did not have free wi-fi. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Morning Run with the Bruegger's Group

7:30 a.m. - met the CBRC Bruegger's group and ran hills. Total distance:  7.4 miles. Total time:  66 minutes. Average pace:  8:59. One could almost cut through the humidity; as you know, it was hot! There was quite a turnout this morning. Grandpa, Jenn, and I ran part of the Bix course backward. We took off from Bruegger's and ran down Middle Road until we hooked up with Kirkwood Boulevard. We then turned onto Brady Street and stopped at Palmer to grab water before hitting the hill. On the way back, we stopped at the Quik Mart gas station and decided to skip McClellan and head straight back to Bruegger's. I was not about to argue with that decision; by then, my legs were just trying to keep up. Grandpa picked it up at the end and I just held on. The air was quite stagnate, making it difficult to breathe at times. That being said, we kept the pace easy and walked through our water stops.

I haven't met up with this group since last summer, and I forgot how much I enjoy not only running with them, but chatting with them afterward. With the Bruegger's group I am "Dave's granddaughter," which is totally fine with me. I get to hear about their running adventures, injuries, and thoughts about life in general. This group is just so friendly and inviting. I'm definitely going to have to join them upon my return.

I spent the day cleaning our house so that David doesn't have to worry about it while I'm gone. I even washed the curtains and cleaned the windows. I have a few things to take care of tomorrow before my departure. Jessica and I got manicures and pedicures today. It's sort of become our thing, and it was pretty relaxing, especially the massaging chair. Jess went with hot yellow on her toes while I went with pink.

Oh yeah. I had a chance to catch up briefly with Chad and Katie G. at Bruegger's. The BGXC team ran from there this morning! As my body is definitely feeling this week's workouts, my plan is to take tomorrow off (or at least not run) and then try to get in a longer-ish run Saturday morning.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Little Bit of Everything

8:20-9:20 - Biked on the trainer for one hour - 14 miles
I watched a National Geographic episode on Netflix about special forces. I like watching military documentaries and information shows because I know I would never make it through most of the training. I've watched a few about the green berets and marines - talk about brutal. I have so much respect for those in the military. I know I should bike outside more often, but I just don't want to. I don't want to have to deal with cars and red-winged blackbirds. That being said, I know I don't put in as much effort on the trainer, especially if I am not biking to a video.

9:30 - got out for a brick run 1.61 miles in 13:09 (8:08 pace)
I ran pretty much around the block. While on the bike, I went back and forth on whether I wanted to run. I made a compromise with myself to run around the block instead of on the bike path; that way I had to complete the route instead of wondering how far I should go. After I took off, I looked down at my watch and was surprised with my pace. My legs didn't feel that tired, but my stride was definitely shortened. I'm happy that I held a solid pace the entire run.

5:00 - swam at Mt. Joy - 500 meters
David talked me into going swimming. He wanted to get out of roofing early and I had mentioned swimming yesterday, so I went. I felt very comfortable breathing-wise. David was a punk and was grabbing my feet at first, but then he swam at his own pace and was gone. I did panic a little at the turn-around because of the weeds growing on the bottom of the lake. Every time I swim in this lake, I think of the merpeople from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; you know, the part where he has to save Ron and uses gillyweed in order to breathe underwater? Yeah. I would rather the lake be pitch black rather than see all of the plants growing from the bottom. I think I might have to find a different place to swim...

Overall, I'm pretty happy with today's training. I feel like I could have gone farther with the bike, run, and swim, but I'm planning on running hills tomorrow with Brother Dave and his Bruegger's running group, so I don't want to overdo it.

Oh yeah. I told you I was going to make homemade granola bars, and here they are:

Cut and ready to package.

Stored in the refrigerator so that the chocolate will harden.
I found this recipe on Pinterest. Here's the link. These actually turned out better than I thought they would. We didn't have regular peanuts, so I crushed up some cashews. I substituted wheat germ for flaxseed and sunflower seeds for crushed almonds. I did not include any salt and used about five ounces of dried cranberries. The thing I like about these, and the energy balls I make, is that I can use whatever ingredients I want. Sure, there is a recipe, but as long as there is enough "stuff" to hold everything together, I can add or subtract ingredients and amounts. I added chocolate chips to the top after I mixed everything, and David M. thinks I added too many. I will have to experiment with this.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tuesday Morning Run with Sam

I could not drag myself out of bed this morning for the group run, so Sam and I went out on our own around 8:00. David told me it was 56 degrees outside, but I didn't believe him. No way could it be that nice in the middle of June. Low and behold, it was gorgeous - perfect running weather. Total distance:  6.04. Total time:  51:50. Average pace:  8:34.

My legs felt it today - my mile times were pretty consistent except for mile six; I slowed down to 8:46 pace going up my hill to finish. I'm thinking of either running or biking later tonight. It didn't hit me until yesterday that I am leaving on Saturday for three weeks. The plan for today is to go shopping for the necessities (shampoo, snacks, etc). Laundry has begun, and I still have a few more books I need to read. Oh - I found a recipe for homemade granola bars. The ingredients are very similar to those I use for my energy balls, so I plan on whipping up a batch. I'll let you know how they turn out.

This is what Sam does after our runs.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

LSR - Dedicated to Jessica

Okay, so I made it out the door this morning a little after six. I decided to take Sam since she has not been running for a while, but I went toward Bettendorf so that I could bring her home earlier in the run if needed. David joined us on his bike about two miles in. Total miles run:  9.21. Total time:  1:27. Average pace:  9:31.  Looking at my mile splits, I stayed pretty consistent, about which I am happy. I actually picked it up the last two miles or so (that could have been because of the light rain and thunder!).

Overall, the run was uncomfortable. I woke up this morning with what felt like a giant air bubble between my ribs and it never went away. In fact, it caused a side cramp under my left rib that was present the entire run. It was tolerable but undesirable. That being said, my legs felt good and I could have kept going. I appreciated the fact that David rode to keep me company and provide water for Sam and me. I thought I would get in more like 9.5 miles, but my ability to calculate distance while running is lacking. Oh well. I plan on getting in one longer run before my trip.

This run is dedicated to my younger sister - by two years - Jessica. She went to Iowa State (boo - go Panthers!) and graduated with a degree in biology. She then went back to school, earned her master's degree, and will begin her first year of teaching this fall at PV Junior High. Yep - we are not only in the same district - we are at the same school. My dad once asked, "So, how do you feel about Jessica being at the same school?" Honestly? I'm really looking forward to it. I will finally have someone with whom to sign-up for treats! Ha. Jessica and I worked together a year ago and, while I was hesitant at first about her being there (you know, there is the whole you're encroaching on my domain-type thing), I really enjoyed having her there. Unfortunately, I am moving classrooms, so I won't be just-down-the-hall.

Jessica has completed two marathons and a handful of half marathons, as well as plenty of triathlons. I thought I was going to beat her at last year's QC Tri, but she passed me on the last mile. I plan on seeking revenge next year. We have ridden parts of Ragbrai together the past two years and always enjoy a nice run together. We've traveled together to Pennsylvania, D.C., Florida, Minneapolis, Champaign, and St. Louis. Our friendship has grown stronger with age, as many sister friendships do. When we were younger, we really didn't have much in common. I was the nerdy, bookworm, I-follow-every-rule child while Jessica was the I-do-what-I-want child. But somehow, we have ended up becoming the best of friends. Now don't get me wrong; we don't always get along - we are still sisters - but we understand each other.

On today's run, I thought about how much I am going to enjoy living closer to Kyle and her (and Ledger and Jefferson Starship). Blah, blah - enough sappy stuff. You get it.

I leave in less than a week for my Holocaust Teachers' Program. Lists have been made and laundry has begun!

Jessica and me at Honeymoon Island - Florida 2012

Torchlight Parade! - June 2012

Jessica and cousin Cameron
I had to add this! We found Brother Dave at Jessica's Bachelorette Party - Moonlight Chase 2011