Tag Archives: Marathon

My 2016 Chicago Marathon

17 Oct

On Sunday, Oct 9, 2016, we woke up to a beautiful 50-65 degree, sunny, happy day. Perfect for running 26.2 miles!


After going to sleep at 10pm and falling asleep around 11:00pm, I woke up at 4:30am. My alarm was set for 5:30am, so I was pretty happy that I slept for as long as I did! After the 8pm-12:00am slumber/freakout of the 2013 NYC Marathon, I was thrilled with my 5 and 1/2 hours of sleep!


First things first: Facebook – check. Priorities – check.

Over the next hour, I ate my Chocolate Mint Clif Bar, drank some water, got dressed, made sure I had train money, and took pictures with my sister, who was doing all of the same things in the next room.


At 5:40am, my dad drove us over to O’hare, where we caught the Blue Line to Monroe St, just down the road from the starting line. Heather and I just followed the crowd. It isn’t hard to spot the runners – weird, unmatching throwaway clothes, munching on bagels, an excited and nervous look in their eyes, running strides down the sidewalk, etc.

(At this point, I realized that I deliberately didn’t bring my phone, because I can’t call anyone anyway….I totally forgot that I would want to take pictures ALL day! Thankfully, my sister had hers.)


We ducked into a coffee shop so Heather could get coffee and so that I could use the bathroom. I forgot to get Gatorade for my fuel belt, so I was on the hunt for some. Up until that morning, I couldn’t decide if I should use my belt. I run better without it, but I was always forced to use it in my long runs, because unfortunately, there are no encouraging volunteers handing me cups of Gatorade and water during those 20-milers! I came across a CVS and a Walgreens, but neither of them were open until 8am! What a managerial mess-up on their part. In a race of 45,000 runners, I know I wasn’t the only one in need of something on race morning!


Then we made our way to Grant Park. It was ease-to-the-pease to get into the starting village. We just walked through the gate and they made sure that we were weapon-free. We weren’t checking any bags, so it was all quick and easy.


*Getting to the start:

                        Chicago – much easier.

                        NYC – more long and difficult, but scenic and memorable. (aka: worth the hassle)

Next up- portapotty’s. Yes, I know that I was just in the coffee shop bathroom, but I am a nervous race-starter, and I wanted to make sure that I was as empty as possible before I embarked on a 4-hour journey! However, there were about 30 people in every. single. line! There were about 50 portapotty’s all in rows and every single one had a line like that.

We waited in a line for a long while, but then we realized that our corrals were going to be closing soon, so we hugged and parted ways. Heather went back to her corral. I waited in line a few more minutes, but then I heard that there was Gatorade inside the corrals, so I bailed on the portapotty in favor of hunting down some Gatorade for my fuel bottle. I crossed through my F corral, and what did I see on the other side? A glimpse of heaven, that’s what. Another line of 50 portapotty’s and not one person in line at any of them!!! I felt like I needed to grab the microphone right out of the announcer’s hand and announce to the hundreds in line that I found the mother load! I was never so happy to be in a portapotty.

Anyway, I never found the Gatorade, so I went ahead and ditched the one bottle, just to make my run a little easier. My other bottle was about half-full with water, which was just enough to take my GU with. I figured that I would just use the aide stations for the rest of my hydration needs. I took my first GU while I waited in the corral. Our wave started right at 8:00 and I crossed the starting line at 8:02.

*Starting line

Chicago – easy, comfortable, short wait,  but anti-climactic. We were waiting, and then we were running.

NYC  – long, windy, and cold wait. But they start you off with the National Anthem, cannons, and “New York, New York!”

We crossed the starting line and went to work! I started my Garmin, but I had heard that GPS watches don’t work so well in the city, so I got a 3:50 pace tattoo from the Nike desk at the Expo.


Speaking of….


Chicago – Great! 

NYC – Also great. Neither race wins this category. They were equally fun and exciting.

Back to the race! I was a mess for the first mile. My belt was bouncing all over the place, which caused my shirt to come up and my pants to fall down. My bib started to come off and I had to re-adjust it. My Garmin said that I was running a 5:47 mile, so I knew it was already flipping out. I was super stressed about my pace. The last thing I wanted to do was bonk in the later miles, so I didn’t want to go to fast. But I also didn’t want to go too slow, as I was working toward a sub-4:00 goal. But I was pleasantly surprised when I passed the first mile at 8:36 – 10 seconds faster than my pace tattoo said. (My Garmin said 7:37 and was .3 mi ahead of the course.)


There weren’t many spectators in that first mile, but that was good, since I looked like I was running through a bee farm with all my flailing about. Thankfully, I got my belt figured out and my clothes in order. I didn’t feel like I was having my best racing experience, but I was going at the pace I wanted and felt OK. Each mile, I was cutting another 10 seconds off the pacing bracelet, so I was set up to finish in the 3:40’s!

Those early miles clicked off quickly. I was just taking in the sights and looking at spectator signs.A lot of the best signs were the same classic ones that I saw in NYC. But there were also more currently relevant ones, like “If Trump can run, so can you!” and another about running fast because grabby Trump is chasing you. Also, with all the scary clown drama that has been in the news, I saw a couple of signs with a picture of a scary clown saying, “Run faster! He’s behind you!”

* Spectators

Chicago – Lots of spectators lining the almost the entire course and lots of great signs. There were some spectators that high-fived me or gave me a “Way to go, Val!” But for the most part, people cheered for their own people.

NYC – So many spectators, and so encouraging. I was personally cheered on for 4 straight hours! NYC wins this one, and specifically those folks in Brooklyn!

A couple of times, I was surprised when another mile marker showed up. Very pleasantly surprised!  I took my second gel about 4o minutes in. In between gels, I would grab Gatorade at the aide stations. The volunteers were spectacular!

Probably my favorite part of the course was in mile 5-6, where we ran through Lincoln Park. It was just beautiful and different than the skyscrapers and city-look of the rest of the course. I wore my hat, which was great for shielding the sun, but no good for spotting landmarks and beautiful architecture! I totally missed Wrigley Field at mile 7!

At this point in the race, I was not thrilled to feel just a touch of fatigue in my legs. It was way too early for that! I had to turn on my music at that point. In NYC, I didn’t need music until mile 14, so I was a little nervous that I was already in need of racing help! I took my third gel around 1:10:00 and continued to get water or Gatorade about every other station.


Mile 9-10 was a straight shot of beautiful brownstones. I was able to get lost in my thoughts, wondering what it would be like to live in one.

In order to get my mind off of myself, I started to pray. I prayed for everyone! I prayed for people who I knew, then I started to pray for other runners around me. Then, if I saw on their shirt that they were running in honor of someone, I would pray for that person. At one point, I saw that a guy was running in honor of…Biggie? Then I saw that he was running for PAWS, so I found myself praying for a dog. I also started quoting scripture that encouraged me to feel strong, able, and courageous.

Before the halfway point, my legs were feeling pretty fatigued, and I almost started panicking! I figured that my legs were using the same muscles over and over on this flat, flat course, and they weren’t get their usual breaks that uphills and downhills provide. I had read somewhere that speeding up can change your stride enough to help them get that change-up that they need. So I sped up, did some high-knees and butt-kicks, and it actually helped! It was almost as satisfying as walking. Almost.


Once I passed the half-way mark and knew that it was all downhill, so to speak, from there, I calmed down a little. The sights and sounds didn’t do much for me, which was unfortunate. We ran through Greek Town, Chinatown, and Little Italy, and all I could think was how annoying it was that I wouldn’t be able to try all the yummy food that I’m sure was in there!



* The Course

             Chicago – A great tour of the city! It is pancake flat, which can be good or bad. I loved seeing all the different neighborhoods, skyscrapers, and landmarks.

              NYC – I LOVE love love how the race is split up into the five boroughs. It breaks up the race nicely. There is more variety to the course, with the bridges and boroughs, different cultures, and famous landmarks. Nothing beats running in Central Park. The course is harder with more hills, but I think I prefer it?

I love this very Chicago-y photo of the Willis Tower behind me. (Not enough to purchase it, obvs. I know, so tacky.)


Even though I wasn’t feeling so confident and strong, the first 18 miles really did pass rather quickly. I was still holding strong on my pace. At this point, I was two minutes ahead of 2:37:54 that I was supposed to be at 18 miles! I was happy about that, but still intimidated. That’s a hard point in the race, because you ONLY have 8 miles to go. But hello, that’s 8 miles!

I knew I was starting to slow down, but I didn’t want to be discouraged, so I never looked at my pace again on my Garmin. After that first freak-out, it seemed to be calculating my pace correctly, but I still didn’t want to know. I did, however, still watch my time, and compared it to the pace tattoo. At mile 19, I was no longer two minutes ahead, and at mile 20, I was just even with it at 2:55:27! That was discouraging, but I knew that I could slow down and still come in under 4:00:00, so I dug in and got to work.



I’ve heard that the first 20 miles is the first half of a marathon and the last 6.2 is the second half. I definitely felt like that in this race. Those mile markers weren’t coming up so quickly anymore! Since I wasn’t feeling great at the beginning of the race, I was terrified that I would experience the all-of-a-sudden bonk that so many running experience at this point in the race. Thankfully, while I was getting more and more exhausted, I never felt one spectacular wave of exhaustion.

Around mile 21, I decided to walk through the water stations. I’ve never wanted to do that because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to start running again. But it was actually a great break and just what I needed! I had a bit of a second wind then and was thrilled when the 22 mile marker popped up sooner than I thought.

It didn’t stop me from firing imaginary daggers at the girl who bounded past me in her tank top that read, “My 1st marathon!”

At mile 23, there were a lot of encouraging signs reminding us that all we had left was a 5K. We’ve run a million of those! It was another weird battle of, “It’s JUST a 5k…..but it’s STILL a 5K!” I walked through the next aide station and was so appreciative of the volunteer at the end of that station who said, “C’mon Val. You got this. You’re almost there!” He gave me just enough energy to get going.

I hope those volunteers know how effective and awesome they are, because I know we exhausted runners don’t thank them enough at the time! I think I may have given that man a small and exhausted smile, but his encouragement meant the world to me. Now that I’m rested and recovered, I would love to go back and thank him and let him know what a big part of the race he was for me, but at the time, all I had in me was that small smile.

* Volunteers/Event Staff

              Chicago – SO so helpful, efficient, and encouraging. And everywhere! It was always easy to find someone to answer questions.

NYC – Word for word, the same.

They had a huge photo station between 23 and 24, so I made sure that I “dabbed” for my kids. They would crack up if they saw me doing that during the race. Unfortunately, it never showed up on my marathonfoto page. Probably because my face was hidden. This was the only one that popped up from that section.img_3099

My kids would probably prefer this one anyway…


Then I saw mile 25! It didn’t give me a huge burst of excitement or energy. To be honest, it was more like, “Good. One mile until this stupid thing is over!” But at that point, I’ll take any kind of motivation that I can get! I knew that unless I decided to crawl to the side of the road and suck my thumb in a fetal position (which I was considering), I was good to go on a sub-4 marathon, so it was hard to make myself run!

Finally, I saw the 800m sign! Less than a kilometer to go! I started working in track laps at that point. We turned right and I saw the hill that I had heard about. It’s minimal, but Illannoying! (Shout out to you, Jen!)  It feels like Everest. At the top of the slight incline was the 400m sign! One lap around the track.

Then 300m!

200m – half a lap!


The Finish Line!

I remembered to put my hands in the air for the camera instead of stopping my watch. Then, it was over. As I heard so many shouts of, “You guys are awesome. You did it! Congrats! You killed it,” from the volunteers,  I started tearing up. Nothing crazy, just enough to get a second look from the nearby nurse.




Chicago: Chicago wins this one, hands down. It was shorter, more swag, and warmer. Our minds were taken off of the exhaustion as they handed us, one at a time during the walk, our medals, hydration, snacks, heat sheets, ice packs, and took our pics.

NYC: Kind of a long, cold, and lonely walk after the excitement of completing the marathon.

My favorite pic!


After I exited the finisher’s village, I had to walk about a mile to the Runner’s Reunite area! If I had a phone on me, I could’ve just called my family and set up a meeting spot, but we had prearranged to meet up by the “P”. If I had known it was that far of a walk for both my family and I ,  we would’ve set up a better rendezvous point!

Anyway, once I got there, I plopped down on the grass for a much-needed rest! I drank my Recovery formula and finished my apple (which was off the chain, btw). My mom and Jen found me about 15 min later and had lots of celebratory hugs and stories!



We decided to duck into Dunkin Donuts for a coffee, donut, and to make a plan for cheering on my sister!




They left me alone with a phone while they went to find a bathroom…

My sister has her own awesome finishers story! She worked hard for 6.5 hours! I called her when she was mile 17 or so. She was verbalizing all the negative thoughts that I had at the same point in the race. I told her that she was doing awesome, that her thoughts were totally normal, and that she could push through it one step at a tijme. At one point, her entire family (including my dad) jumped on the course and ran with her! I wish we had a picture of that.

It was a terrific reunion when she exited the park. Jen and I were waiting for her and got the first hugs.





Heather had done some fantastic research and realized that there was a Magnolia Bakery just a few blocks from us!!! We went there after the NYC marathon, so we now officially have a tradition! I  thought marathoning was a test of discipline and determination….it’s nothing compared to saving two of these cupcakes for Josh.


The train was just a block away, so we (slowly, thanks to Heather and I) made our way to the station.


When we got back to the hotel, mom and dad went out to pick up some more deep-dish pizza (for the second night in a row), and Heather, Jen, my nieces, and I all headed to the hot tub.

Against our better judgement, I might add. It felt AMAZING on our tired muscles and joints, but my body was just saying, “Oh, ok. We’re doing heat after intense activity? I’ll go ahead and flood all that lactic acid and other inflammatory juices into every inch of your body. You’ll pay for it for the next three days, but go ahead and enjoy these 30 minutes of comfort.” And I did.


That was the first time I took off my sneakers, and I realized that I had a nice blood blister on my toe. Thankfully, I never felt it during or after the race. On the same toe on the other foot, I’m pretty sure that I’ll lose the toenail. Again, it never bothered me during the race, so I don’t mind!



After talking about blood blisters and toenails, we chowed on some pizza. No holding bakc this time!


Then, just like that, it was time for Jen and I to pack up and leave! It was 7:00pm, and we had a 5 hour drive ahead of us, so we popped in the Hamilton soundtrack and hit the road! I kept telling Jen that I’ll never run another marathon, but then I’d start talking about “next time.” What in the world!?

It was such a fantastic weekend!

Chicago does not disappoint in any way!






25 Apr

Not only did I get into the Chicago Marathon, but my sister did too!



I’m so excited, with a trickle of why-am-I-doing-this-to-myself-again?-ness. My sister is so excited, with a trickle of mary-and-joseph-what-did-get-myself-into?-ness.


Either way, we’re planning to train in our respective countries and cities, and meet up together for an unforgettable Chicago weekend in October.


I signed up for the Chicago lottery for a few reasons:

  1. I’ve already done one World Major, why not make it two? Maybe someday I’ll get to scoot over to Tokyo, London, Berlin, and of course, Boston, for the other four majors.
  2. I have to take my mind off of not coaching volleyball this season. They are going to be great and I’m super annoyed that I don’t get to tag along for their ride.
  3. I run so I can eat. I’m going to land ‘o plenty and I’m planning to EAT. Ergo, I must run.
  4. It’s the fall! Running in the fall in the US is the bees knees. (Unfortunately, I have to start training here in the PI, and work through the summer in the US, so I’ll definitely pay my dues!
  5. Boston is on my radar!
  6. I want new sneakers?

I’m excited to have a marathon under my belt as I train for this one! Now that I know without a doubt that I can do it, I can focus on other things!  I’m still trying to decide on a training program, but for sure it will include speedwork. I’m also incorporating some strength training. Not a lot, just a lunge here and there. Maybe I’ll clench something now and then. I can’t take up too much time, because Netflix isn’t going to watch itself , I have 5 kids to transition back to the US!


I have a few goals for this marathon. One of the running women I look up to (wink, Elisa) encouraged me to have multiple goals for a marathon. Start with a goal that, barring a meteor striking the course, you will reach. Add a realistic goal or two, maybe a PR. Finally, shoot for the perfectly-lined-up stars!  It makes sense, because who wants to train for 1/3 of a year,  then feel like a failure because an expected bathroom break, or a surprise leg cramp, or an unusually hot day,  kept you from reaching that highest goal? A marathon is a huge accomplishment, and a runner should feel nothing but joy when they cross that finish line!

With New York, my goals were:

  1. Finish!
  2. 4:15
  3. Sub 4:00

I finished with 4:12:53, so I was thrilled that I came in under my second goal time!

For Chicago:

  1. Finish!
  2. PR
  3. Sub 4:00
  4. BQ (Boston Qualifier), which, for me, is 3:45 (Ugh, it’s about as hard to type as it is to run!) UPDATE: What?! I just double checked and my qualifying time is 3:40:00. ick.

Now check this out:

NYC’s course elevation:



And Chicago’s:


Oh. Baby.


PPD #6

12 Dec

I know I’ve taken pictures from this spot before. It’s high up on a hill-that-feels-like-a-mountain-when-I-run-up-it. Anyway, it has one of those binocular deals set up, so you know that the view has the potential to be pretty amazing! On this day, though, the pollution was so thick, I couldn’t even see the closest skyscrapers! Sick.


I also found myself in the middle of a parade during that run. It definitely made the run more interesting!


I probably won’t take very many photos during a run anymore, because….I have my Garmin back!!! After months of struggling with a humidity-damaged watch, I sent it into Garmin, and they sent me a replacement to use for the marathon. They weren’t able to repair mine, so they just let me keep the replacement! Thank you, Garmin!

I love hands-free running, and if I could wine and dine my Garmin, and buy it a summer house in the Hamptons, I would do it in a heartbeat. I finally got to see the details of my marathon! Did I ever mention that my Garmin clocked me at 26.42 miles? I didn’t feel like I weaved too much, but I know I didn’t take corners as efficiently as I could’ve, and it adds up! I have to say, when my watch hit 26.2 and I STILL had another quarter-mile to run, I was pretty ticked! Check that out – I burned over 3000 calories. If I could just do that every weekend…


During my marathon recap, I said that my Garmin went berserk on the Queensboro Bridge due to its coverage. You can see the blip on the blue graph. At the largest discrepancy, it said that my pace was 59:00 miles! I’m not even sure I could walk that slow!


I have a puzzle kindred spirit in Miss Bella! She loves doing puzzles with me and she’s pretty good too! Remember the Coke puzzle, Mom? I was sneezing the first night we worked on it from all the mold or dust or whatever had accumulated on the pieces over the years. Unless my mom did this puzzle in the last few years, we figured out that the last time it had been done was when Josh and I came for Christmas before we were married!


While Bella and I were working on the puzzle, Caleb found some paint,


Look at those hands covered in black paint!

This is why I LOVE having an iPhone! Someone delivered this to my house, and I had no idea what it was. Josh was out of town on a ministry trip, so I took a picture, texted it to Josh, and got a reply in seconds. It’s a replacement piece for our generator that Josh sent down to Tacloban to help with typhoon relief, so it needed to get down there ASAP.


Josh and I LOVE cranberry tea. In fact, I should probably have a tag labeled, “Serenitea,” for all the times I mention it in my posts. Anyway, I saw this at the grocery store, so I bought it, took a pic, and sent it to Josh to make him smile. It’s good, not Serenitea good, but good.


Here I am, trying to pick out the right accessory for a fancy night out. Too much?


NYC Girls Weekend!!

13 Nov

Now that I’ve written all my marathon tidbits down, I can write all about the other highlights of our NYC trip! When Michele and I decided to hop over the pond to NY for the marathon, we thought that it wouldn’t be complete unless we were joined by one of our great friends, Susan! We all moved to the Philippines the same year, so we instantly had that bond. A billion and a half kids later, we’re all still close even though Susan lives back in the US.

On Saturday, Michele and Susan were both flying into LaGuardia, I was taking the train in from NJ, and somehow we’d find each other on the island of Manhattan! I was shocked when we all met up outside Penn Station without a hitch. If we had just moved our rendezvous point a few blocks east, we could’ve had an epic reunion that would rival Tom and Meg’s finest moment on the top of the Empire State Building!

My parents dropped me off at the train station. It was intimidating to realize that the next time I would see them would be 17 miles into the marathon the next day!


I snapped a selfie on the train. It was supposed to capture that beautiful fall leaves behind me, but it didn’t work so well. Next to me was a girl who was wearing last years marathon shirt and chatting on the phone with her friend about running the next day. It shot my nerves through the roof!


Even though I was too nervous to eat, I made myself eat the turkey sandwich that I made from the leftover Thanksgiving dinner that my mom had fixed the night before.  It was a carb-tastic meal, which was perfect for me. Turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, Swiss Vegetable Medley, brussel sprouts, pumpkin and pecan pie!

After a 73 minute train ride, I came out of Penn Station and Susan and Michele were waiting right there, under the Madison Square Garden sign! They had found each other no problem at the airport, took a bus to the Port Authority, and then a shuttle to Penn. A bunch of roads were already closed for the marathon, so getting around was a little more challenging than other weekends.

Since we had all of our luggage, we grabbed a taxi to the financial district, where we stayed for the next two nights at the Double Tree. We were greeted with those complimentary chocolate-chip cookies, so I officially declared my no-sweets marathon complete!


Our hotel was right next to this famous financial district guy…


Susan and Michele were famished, so we walked around a little until we found a deli and they got a sandwich. I was still not at all hungry, but I knew I needed to fill up those glycogen stores, so I grabbed a pretzel from a street vendor down at Battery Park. We walked around until we found a place to sit and eat. I was supposed to go for a 2-mile run to shake out the legs, but we walked around so much, I considered my legs sufficiently shook.

We settled in Battery Park, looking out onto the Statue of Liberty! I guess I was too nervous to take any pics. Here are some to give you an idea. However, there was a ton of construction paraphernalia around, so it wasn’t quite as beautiful as it usually is. I’m guessing they are still recovering from [stupid] Sandy.



After lunch, we headed a few blocks north to see the 9/11 Memorial.On our walk there, we saw and heard sirens coming from all directions! There were police cars and fire engines all around us. I have to admit, it was very eery to be in Lower Manhattan and hearing those sirens. All footage from Sept 11, 2001 includes those sirens and it was overwhelming to be in the very place where it happened!

One thing we noticed was how firemen in NYC have a genuine celebrity status, and rightfully so! Tourists were always taking pictures of the FDNY fire engines and their brave firemen.

The last two times I’ve been there, there wasn’t anything for the public to see, so we were excited to see the memorial and be up close to the Freedom Tower/One World Trade Center.


The line to get in was CRAZY! There were people everywhere, lines wrapped around everything, and since I didn’t want to be on my feet for too long, we decided to go another time. Instead, we headed over to the St. Paul chapel, which served as an amazing ministry in the days, weeks, and months following 9/11. It was a place where volunteers could rest, refuel, get medical help, and re-energize before heading back out to the physically and emotionally exhausting work at Ground Zero.

“For eight months, hundreds of volunteers worked 12 hour shifts around the clock, serving meals, making beds, counseling and praying with fire fighters, construction workers, police and others. Massage therapists, chiropractors, podiatrists and musicians also tended to their needs.”


Here it is on that horrific day, surviving the attack and going on to be one of the the vital tools in NYC’s recovery.

St Pauls Chapel on 9-11

The highlight of that visit was that there was a First Responder who served in one of the Towers that day. He had written a book and was signing it that day. A lot of the pictures in the book he took himself, and are unique because he was allowed in areas that others weren’t because it was a First Responder. It choked me up when he said that he wants kids (and probably adults too) to know exactly who are America’s celebrities, role models, and heroes.

After walking through St. Pauls, we headed back to the hotel where I got in bed and didn’t move much the rest of the evening! (It was only like 5:00pm) Susan and Michele ran back out for bit and returned with the perfect night-before meal for me. Chipotle.


I was only able to eat about half of it, thanks to those nerves of cottonballs (or whatever is the opposite of steel). Michele came to the rescue and finished the other half.

I laid out all of my gear for the next morning, so as to save time when I woke up to get ready.


Little did I know that I had plenty of time to get ready, since I woke up at MIDNIGHT and never went back to sleep! I had gone to sleep at 8pm, so I got a whopping 4 hours to carry me through the marathon.

Those gloves are cute Asics NYC Marathon gloves that my mom bought me at the Expo. They have each of the five boroughs on each finger.


We didn’t get to see it because we were in lower Manhattan, but the Empire State Building put on blue and orange lights for the marathon!


So this post is interrupted by the marathon post, and picks back up on Monday morning. I had fallen asleep at 8pm after the marathon, so Susan and Michele just hung out together. I stirred at 4am, and when I checked my phone for the time, I saw over 200 emails! So that woke me right up, and I just had to read them all. Some of them were Josh’s facebook posts during the marathon. Some were junk mail (Adidas, I’ve unsubscribed to your mailing list like 10 times. Please let me go!). The rest were “Congrats” and I loved every single one of them! Of course, I was too excited to go back to sleep.

One thing that excited me was wearing heels again! I had eliminated them for about 6 weeks prior to the marathon, as they are a runner’s nemesis. I may have been the only marathoner to wear heels the day after the race, but I was excited! Besides, they’re wedges….


Susan and I decided to head back to the 9/11 Memorial and this time, we got in before that long line had formed.While we were in line, I saw this flag made from the names of lost lives. We also remembered our own Sept 11, 2001 and heard others talk about theirs.


It is an amazing tribute to those who lost and sacrificed their lives. I thought that we would also be able to see the museum, but it isn’t completed yet. It will definitely be on my must-do-in-NYC list when it opens!


“Two pools with the largest manmade waterfalls in the United States (the center goes down another 30 feet!) cascading down their sides are located within the footprints of the Twin Towers. Each pool is 1-acre (4,000 m2), and together they are intended to symbolize the loss of life and the physical void left by the terrorist attacks.

The names of 2,983 victims are inscribed on 76 bronze plates attached to the parapet walls that form the edges of the Memorial pools. This includes the names of 2,977 victims who were killed in the September 11 attacks  in New York City, Arlington, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, as well as the names of six victims who were killed in the 1993 WTC bombing.”

IMG_0868 IMG_0861

Susan and I were especially touched by the phrase, “…and her unborn child,” that followed the names of the 11 expectant mothers who died in the attacks.


Also at the memorial is the Survivor Tree. It was the only tree to survive the attacks, even though it was badly burned and had only 1 living branch. It was transported to the Bronx, where it was nursed back to life, even though its caregiver initially doubted its survivability. It was moved back to its home at the memorial in Dec ’10 and now serves as a “reminder of all the survivors who persevered after the attacks.”

It was a powerful and remarkable to see!

After we finished up at the memorial, we headed back to the hotel, by way of the Sprint store to fix Susan’s phone. We decided to check out of our hotel and head uptown to our next hotel in Times Square. There was a Dunkin Donuts on the way, so I made everyone cart their luggage into the tiny store so that I could have something that I hadn’t allowed myself to have for months!

Susan got us a night at the Crowne Plaza that was literally right in the middle of Times Square. I loved imagining staying there on New Years Eve!

We dropped off our stuff and headed back out to explore mid-town. We found an adorable little Italian restaurant. It was straight out of a movie. It was down some stairs off the street, and long and narrow, so that all the city noise is replaced with quiet Italian music. The food was incredible! We split two entrees, a manicotti and a chicken with mushroom dish. We all loved it!


Susan and I made fun of Michele for taking a picture of the bathroom, but now I wish I had one! It was incredibly and beautifully decorated!

After lunch, we sought out some cheesecake! Susan and I split a plain slice and Michele had a cherry. It was incredible and I love New York City for its cheesecake if nothing else!


A few steps later, I bought some cannoli’s (I think the plural is actually just cannoli) from a little Italian bakery. They looked better than they tasted. I was disappointed, especially because it was Susan’s first cannoli!

Somehow we found ourselves on 5th Ave and happened upon the American Girl store. Yep, three grown women walking around the doll store without any children. They make TV shows about people like that! Anyway, I snapped this photo for my girls.



it was time for Chicago! This was the highlight of our girls weekend. Susan didn’t know it, but she had booked the hotel that is directly across the street from the theater where Chicago was playing. We were thankful because the temps had dropped to sub-zero, give or take 40 degrees.


We were very aware that we had already spent two nights in NYC and I had been asleep by 8pm on both nights. Pretty disappointing huh? Well, our show started at 8pm, so I felt like a big girl in the city that night!

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I love Broadway theaters! They look so historic…because they are.


The show was amazing! I feel like I missed out on so much because there was just so much amazing choreography on stage, I couldn’t capture it all with only two eyes! It was so different than the other two shows I’ve seen on Broadway, because there weren’t any sets really. The jazz orchestra was on stage and the choreography created all the eye candy we could handle, so there wasn’t any room for sets.

After the show, we walked over a couple of blocks to Ray’s Pizza at 11:30pm. I may or may not have been singing “Roxie Hart” the entire way there.

Ugh, I need to get Susan and Michele’s pics, so that there will be pictures of us doing things OTHER than eating!


The next morning, Susan had to catch the shuttle back to LaGuardia early in the morning, so we said our goodbyes at about 6am. Boo. It was so much fun to do NYC with her!!!

Michele and I lazed around the hotel room for a while, and then we headed to a diner for breakfast. We sat, chatted, drank coffee, and ate for a long time! It was a great setting. Next to us were old folks sitting in a booth by themselves, with their paper and breakfast. I’m sure it was routine for them and I loved it!

Then we headed towards Central Park, but stopped at the Plaza hotel for a quick bathroom break.


While we were there, we saw a store dedicated to “Eloise at the Plaza!” It made us miss our daughters because they would have loved it! There was a tea party room, a reading room, a closet, and a play room. It made me smile until I saw the $200 little girl dresses. That just makes me angry.

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Then Michele treated me to a romantic carriage ride around Central Park! It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, so I’m eternally thankful to her for the treat!

It was amazing and beautiful and everyone needs to ride a horse-drawn carriage around Central Park in the fall. It should be on everyone’s bucket list.

As we pulled out onto Central Park South, I realized why the last mile of my marathon was so tough! It’s two long blocks of incline! I’m sure my horse was annoyed with me when I just kept saying, “Look at this! It’s totally uphill! It’s really and totally uphill!”


When we turned into the park, Michele and I were just completely blown away by its beauty. Nothing makes a girl feel older than when she finds herself taking foliage pictures! But when you live where we live, you can’t get enough of the crisp, cool air and the beautiful fall colors!


See that orange flag? It says “Marathon Route,” which means that I was running on that very road two days prior! Wish I’d paid better attention instead of thinking about how tired my legs were!

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C’mon, seriously!? Little kids playing football in the fall in Central Park? How perfect!


This area is in all kinds of NY movies, and you can see why. It would be gorgeous in the flourishing spring, the sunny summer, the snowy winter and of course, the fall-y fall.


Really?! iPhone, you capture the gorgeous nicely. I can almost forget about the giant rat that I saw scamper across the leaves.



Michele loved seeing Yoko Ono’s house, the Dakota house, outside of which is where John Lennon was killed.


Meanwhile, I was still taking pics of the orange Marathon Route flags.

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Michele got herself a NY pretzel on our way back to Times Square. Throughout the weekend, we were quoted $1-$4 for a pretzel! There are no posted prices, so they just take a look at us, can give the price they think they can get out of us!


We happened upon The Late Show on our way back to the hotel. It looks like they were about to start filming.


My first NY celeb sighting! It’s about time. It’s Peg Bundy!


And since we were by the Late Show, we went around the corner to the Hello Deli. He was very nice to pose for a picture with us, even though we only bought a bottled water!


And that’s about it! I might do another post when I get Susan and Michele’s pics, because I know they took different ones than me. It was an unforgettable weekend with my girlfriends and I’m so thankful that we got to do it!

Two parting shots of my RETURN TO SWEETS.

The first is my first ice cream in 4 months. Chocolate Peanut Butter of course.


The second is a bakery box from Carlo’s, TV’s Cake Boss. My sister-in-law, Sarah, brought a box of to-die-for cannoli! They were spectacular.


I saw at Michaels that you can buy bakers twine. I almost bought some just because baker’s twine always means good things and brings a smile to my face.

My 2013 NYC Marathon

10 Nov

For the last 2 years, I’ve been blog-stalking other people’s NYC Marathon experience, and NOW I GET TO WRITE MY OWN!!! That thrills me almost as much as living the experience. I have lots of tidbits about the rest of our weekend in NYC, but this post is extra specially dedicated to the marathon. IMG_0797 So, November 3 for me began the moment it began at all. I had gone to bed at 8pm to “get a good night’s sleep.” I woke up at midnight and could not go back to sleep. It was the most frustrating night of my life! I tried everything: reading my Bible, praying, deep breathing, playing Candy Crush, etc. I watched all the clocks in our hotel room automatically adjust to DST at 2am. I think I would start to doze off and then I would abruptly wake up in almost a panic. It was horrible. I finally went to the bathroom to call Josh at 4am. I told him that I was freaking out. The most important thing I could do for my marathon at that moment was sleep, and no matter what I did, I couldn’t do it. I was sabotaging my race before it even started!!! I was afraid that my mind wouldn’t be very strong after such little sleep, and in the race, when the legs want to give up, the mind kicks them into high gear to propel them to the finish! If my mind was asleep, there would be no propelling! When I walked out of the bathroom, Michele and Susan were both awake and had heard me. We talked it out and I had a little meltdown as I realized the weight of what I was feeling. I had put so much time, money, energy, committment, thought, and prayer into this experience, and it was all weighing so heavily on me! Susan and Michele prayed with me and I felt so much better after that. However, I still never went back to sleep! Susan and I watched Full House for the next couple of hours and at 6:45, I started getting ready for the marathon. Tip #1: Get a good night’s sleep 2 nights before the marathon, because you probably won’t sleep that great the night before. It turns out that was exactly what I needed. Once I started doing something, the nerves started to dissipate. It was the laying in bed thinking and thinking and thinking that was killing me! Anyway, I got all my gear together and was ready to go long before I needed to make the 6-minute walk to the Staten Island Ferry. IMG_0803 As soon as I sat still, the nerves fired back up big time. So Susan and I just decided to head to the Ferry early, about an hour before my scheduled 8:00am ferry. It was about 48 degrees out, which is frigid for me, but I had about 4 layers on, so I was feeling good. I ate my Clif bar on the way. The Whitehall terminal was crawling with marathoners! IMG_0805 Some were chatting with others, lots were taking pictures, and everyone was just being herded to the next place. Susan hung out with me until it was time to board. Then I hugged her and parted ways. I ended up getting on the 7:45 ferry. IMG_0808 The ferry was really crowded with runners and I was one of the last few to board, so I just grabbed a spot on the floor. I watched the Manhattan skyline get smaller as we headed across the harbor. It was exciting and intimidating! I wanted to save my legs, so I just sat down for most of the 20-ish minute ride. We went right past the Statue of Liberty, but I didn’t get a pic of the ol’ girl. IMG_0814 When we arrived at St. George’s terminal on Staten Island, we all herded over to the buses. This was probably the longest wait of the morning. They were efficient in bussing everyone, but they were moving 50,000 runners, so it was bound to take a while! IMG_0818 IMG_0830 This is the view of Manhattan from Staten Island. Looks pretty far away to be running to! IMG_0827 When I finally got on a bus, we took about a 15 minute ride to Fort Wadsworth. As we exited the bus, we had to go through a security check that is new this year. Each runner was examined with the wand and our approved plastic bags inspected. I just followed the crowd to the ginormous start village. It was about 9:30 by now, and I saw that the UPS trucks for baggage check closed at 9:40, so I booked it over to the green village, where I was to hang out until my corral opened for my 10:30 start. I found the UPS trucks and got my bag checked. My bag had clothes and other items that I would want at the finish line. It felt good to get my hands free! I had bought those hand warmers to tuck into my gloves and they were a life-saver! It was still in the high-40’s, very windy, and still cloudy. Tip #2: Layers, Layers, Layers! You’ll want extra clothes on right up until go-time, so wear throwaway clothes. After checking my bag, I went to the food area and grabbed a bagel and a Gatorade pre-race fuel. I could only stomach a few bites of the bagel, but I downed the Gatorade no problem. Then I hit the bathroom for the last time before the race. I still had a few minutes before lining up, so I took the time to stretch and get my muscles warm and loose. When I heard the cannon boom for the start of the first wave, everyone cheered loudly, and it made me choke up a little (the first of a million little choke-ups that day!) There’s the starting line on the bridge!!! IMG_0834 When they announced that the Green Wave 3 corrals were opened, I shed all my extra layers and put them in the Goodwill bin. It wasn’t too cold at this point, and I had my hand warmers, so I was pretty comfortable as I found my corral. Then we waited until the 10:05 wave cannon boomed, and those runners took off. AND THEN IT WAS OUR TURN!! We all walked to our area on the lower level of the Verrazano-Narrows bridge. I was more excited than  nervous at this point, and I just wanted to get going. I knew I would feel perfect as soon as I started running! However, we were in the shade of the upper level and it was very windy, so we were all cold! Thankfully, all the clothes that the previous waves had shed were thrown on the sidewalk, so we all grabbed a warm-looking jacket and put it around us until the start. I took my first GU gel right then. (I had three in my hydration belt and one tucked into each glove.) Marathon, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge new_york_city_marathon1 All of the hoopla was up on top level, so we didn’t get to see the singing of “God Bless America,” or the cannon, but we could hear it. Then at 10:29, the cannon boomed and we heard the start of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” This was the first amazing feeling of, “This is happening!!! You are here! Finally!!” It was incredible and yes, I got choked up…again. Tip #3: If possible, get on the top level of the bridge. There isn’t anything wrong with the lower level, but I feel like we didn’t get the entire starting line experience. (You can move to the Orange or Blue on the top level if you start with the next wave. ie: I could’ve been on the top level if I skipped my 10:30 start and moved to the 10:55) I crossed the start line about 20 seconds in and took off up the 1-mile incline up the Verrazano bridge. I knew I didn’t want to start off going too fast, but because of the crowds, I was actually going too slow, according to my Garmin! As we got further on the bridge, the wind got intense! It was so cold and powerful! It was coming in on our left side, so it didn’t make running any harder, but it just was biting cold. At one point, I hopped up on the sidewalk area to pass people, but the wind was so powerful, it blew me off-balance so I had to step back off the sidewalk. Mile 1: 9:46 The 2nd mile was downhill off the bridge, so I just let gravity carry me a little faster. I was very, very conscious of not going too fast, because I definitely did not want to bonk at mile 20. I’ve read horror stories about hitting the wall, and I did NOT want to experience it! I wanted to enjoy this day that I had work so hard for. Mile 2: 9:06 We got off the bridge in Brooklyn and stayed there for the next 8 or so miles. Brooklyn was INCREDIBLE! There were people lining the streets  the entire way and they made me feel like rock star. The most frequent piece of advice I had heard from past NYC marathoners was to have my name on my shirt, because the crowd will cheer for you the entire way. As soon as I hit Brooklyn, I heard my first, “You got this, Val! Looking good!” Of course, it made me cry! Not hard, just a little lump in my throat and glistening eyes, but I just loved it so much! It was insanely awesome. Running felt effortless and my pace naturally increased. However, I made myself hold back on pace, because I knew that if I sped up now, I would bonk later. Tip #4: Definitely put your name on your shirt!! You will feel like one of the elites as the crowd cheers for you. Those first 10 miles were incredible! I stayed on the outside of runners, so that I could high-five everyone who stuck their hand out. I would have a run of 10 people sticking their hands out and I’d hit them all. It was amazing!! The kids were the best! When we hit the first hydration station at mile 3, I moved to the middle of the pack because so many runners were walking through the hydration zones. I’d stay in the middle of the street for a while, and then I’d realize that I needed an energy boost, so I floated back over to the outside for another blast of high-fives and “Go Val’s!” It was so interesting how outside energy just filled me up and made everything easier. Mile 3: 9:28 Mile 4: 9:14 Mile 5: 9:27 When we were in the residential areas, I felt like I was running right past the Huxtable house! That’s what all the brownstones looked like. So fun! I took my 2nd GU around mile 5. There were bands all along the course, and I’d give them a thumbs-up as I passed them. Another piece of advice that I had heard was don’t have headphones in your ears because you will miss out on so much. I completely agree!!! I told myself that I wouldn’t use music until I really needed it, but I wasn’t sure how that would go because I ALWAYS have music. But it was great! I just let the sights and sounds of NYC keep my senses engaged. Tip #5: Don’t use music until you need it. The crowds give you more energy than music can. The signs along the course were entertaining and clever! “You run better than the government!” “You have more than the NSA watching you.” “No littering” (in the hydration zone, where we would all throw our cups) “It seemed like a good idea 4 months ago…” enhanced-buzz-12060-1383582566-33 enhanced-buzz-16513-1383582970-6 “Chafe now, party later.” “Run like Ryan Gosling is at the finish line.” “Run like someone just called you a jogger.” “I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling like 26.2” “Smile if you peed a little.” (reading the sign, of course, makes you smile, which looks like…”) …and a  few others that I can’t repeat on here, but made me laugh. Tip #6: Take in the sights around you. Don’t just think about pace, mileage, or how tired or thirsty you might be. All the sights and sounds of NYC will distract you and the miles will just fly by! Mile 6: 9:22 Mile 7: 9:20 I loved seeing folks on their stoops or hugging coffee mugs while they cheered us on from their balconies. At mile 8, it got more crowded when the three waves all came together for the rest of the race. We had previously been on three different roads. Along the way, a lady yelled, “Val!” When I looked over at her, she looked me right in the eye and yelled, “YOU GOT THIS!” I yelled back at her, ‘Thank you!” Mile 8: 9:23 Mile 9: 9:28 Mile 10: 9:02 At Mile 10, I saw the Bishop-Loughlin high school band playing “Eye of the Tiger,” which is NYC Marathon tradition, so it gave me an energy boost to see them. I took my 3rd GU around this point. Mile 11 was unlike anywhere else on the course. All of a sudden, the cheering got quieter and as I looked around, I saw everyone dressed in modest black apparel and going about their day. I had read about this mile, where the Satmar Hisidic Jews live. They didn’t cheer for us, but were still out on the course watching us. It was an interesting part of the course, for sure! marthon Mile 11: 9:17 I tried to remember to find all the landmarks that I had read about, but my senses were all totally engaged with all the sights and sounds of Brooklyn. I couldn’t possibly take it all in! Mile 12: 9:22 Mile 13: 9:25 At Mile 14, we crossed over the Pulaski bridge into Queens, my 3rd  borough of the day. I was so excited to cross the halfway point, and it didn’t terrify me to repeat all of the mileage I had just put in. I would say Queens was pretty similar to Brooklyn, with the fantastic crowds, signs, and buildings. At this point, I was still feeling strong and looking forward to seeing my family in 3 miles! Mile 14: 8:54 Mile 15: 9:19 I took my 4th GU to power me up for the upcoming Queensboro Bridge. At Mile 16, we hit the infamous Queensboro Bridge, the spot known for making or breaking the race for a runner. It is here that you realize if you have strategized your race correctly and will power through the rest of the race, or if you will be out of gas before mile 20. It is a hill that comes at a tiring part of the race, where we’re over halfway there, but still have another 10 miles to go. There are no fans allowed on the bridge, so any energy must come from within. The bridge kind of snuck up on me. I must have been in a zone, because all of a sudden, the crowd was gone and we were climbing the quiet bridge. I was kind of pumped for it, because I knew that all of the hill training that I was forced to do here in the valley naturally prepared me for this. marathon-to-queensboro-bridge I had told myself that I would turn on my music at this point, but with my gloves on, it was next to impossible to find my headphones tucked in my sports bra, get them into my ears, and flip my shuffle to “on.” All of those steps distracted me halfway up the bridge! Alot of runners used this time to walk, get a break, and mentally prepare for the final push. I dug in, passed those walkers, and gained more energy with each person I passed. It was awesome! I didn’t find the Queensboro Bridge to be anywhere close to the challenging reputation that it has! Don’t get me wrong, it’s still an uphill.  I was just surprised when I got to the top and it was already time to go down! Choked up? Just a smidge. Tip # 7: Hill training will make the Queensboro Bridge a snap! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA My Garmin went berserk on the bridge, probably because of it’s tall buildings and coverage? I’m not sure, but I would speed up, but my pace would go down. Even as I let gravity propel me faster on the down slope of the bridge, my pace didn’t improve. I didn’t mind, though, because I knew it would just reset on the next mile. Mile 16: 11:19 Once we conquered the Queensboro Bridge, we were rewarded with a down slope into Manhattan, our 4th borough, where we were welcomed by a canyon of sound! It is a major highlight of everyone’s NYC Marathon experience. 1st Ave. was heavily lined with people on both sides, all cheering us on as we began the last 9 miles of our marathon. I put my music away so that I could soak up every thrilling aspect of it. mile17 I was exhilarated at this point, because the Queensboro bridge was conquered, we only had single digit mileage left, and I knew that my family would be somewhere on 1st Ave. 1469797_10152063095362059_1930571384_n They had previously been out at the same spot to watch the elites come through. They said that it was incredible to see the pro athletes speed by in a blaze of glory, NBD. That’s one thing that’s so special about the NYC Marathon. Us amateurs are out there, running on the same course at the same time as the best runners in the world! (just a few hours behind…) I started looking for them right away, and I was terrified that I would miss them, with so many people lining the streets. I kept my eyes open for the signs that my sis-in-law had made. 1390492_10152034331832059_850552427_n I stayed in the middle of the street, because I didn’t know which side of the road they’d be on. About a half mile down 1st Ave., I heard my brother yelling my name!! It was so exciting. He yelled for me to get over to the left side where my family was waiting. I quickly looked over my left shoulder to make sure I didn’t dart in front of somebody (MAJOR marathon faux pas!) and headed over there. 1467262_10152063095902059_240097776_n Seeing my family surged me down 1st Ave. I was so happy to see them, and the support overwhelmed me. Shockingly for this day, I DIDN’T get choked up! 1395272_10202865748508158_1825799795_n 74921_10202865748708163_2062598630_n Even after I passed them, my brother kept running through the crowd with me! I don’t know when he finally stopped, but it was fantastic to have him running along with me! 1st Ave felt great, as it was mostly downhill. I had little milestones or moments to look forward to throughout the race, but seeing my family around mile 17 was the highlight, so after that, everything got a little more challenging. I knew I’d see them again at mile 25, but that seemed like a lifetime away! Mile 17: 9:49 While I was running down 1st Ave, I saw a TV camera on a jeep, filming a blond girl while a guy with a microphone ran next to her, interviewing her. I thought for sure it was Pamela Anderson, but as I passed her, I saw that it wasn’t. But I knew it was someone worthy of being interviewed on TV. When we watched the marathon footage later, I saw that it was Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis, one of the heroic teachers at Sandy Hook who protected her class from the horrific shooting outside her classroom. She ran under the motto: “A mile for each of the 26 lives we lost, and 0.2 for me.” I decided to turn on my music at mile 18 to give me an extra boost. I also took my last gel in between 18-19. After I swallowed it, I realized that it was my last one and it would have to sustain me for the last 8 miles! They had handed out PowerGels at mile 18, but I didn’t grab any because I hadn’t ever tried them before and it’s a big no-no to try something new on race day. I figured that I would just grab Gatorade at each hydration zone after that to keep up my glycogen and electrolytes. Mile 18: 9:16 We headed into Harlem, where it was just one big block party. It was pretty fun, but at this point, I was getting to the point where it was harder and harder to be distracted and I was very aware that I was nearing the “halfway” point of a marathon. They say the first 20 miles feels like the first half of a marathon and the last 6.2 feels like the second half. What?! Mile 19: 9:42 Mile 20 took us over the Willis Avenue Bridge into the Bronx, which I found to be the hardest bridge for me. It wasn’t long or steep, but at 20 miles into the race, I felt that uphill! But it was encouraging to be in our 5th borough. I was pretty excited to see my Garmin go over 20 miles – a first for me! I decided to grab one of the bananas that people were handing out. I was nervous about it having an adverse effect, since I had never done it before, but it went down fine! Mile 20: 9:41 Mile 21: 9:51 Mile 22 found us back in Manhattan and heading up 5th Ave, and I do mean “up.” These 3 miles were the hardest part of the race for me. It was just long and gradual uphill. I kept wondering when we’d enter Central Park for the final push! I stayed with a girl who’s shirt read, “Go Rainbow Go!” I have no idea who she is and we never talked, but for about 6 total miles, we would keep each other in sight with both of us taking the lead at different times. It’s an interesting racing dynamic. Mile 22: 9:43 I missed a lot of popular landmarks along this way because I was just trying to keep one foot going in front of the other. In hindsight, I wish that I had taken out my music and let the crowds and the beauty of Central Park energize me. But I was mostly just focused on getting to the next stoplight. I kept repeating to myself one of the signs that I had seen. “Pain is temporary, but pride is forever!” I also prayed a lot over the next 4 miles. Nothing eloquent, just a lot of “Lord, please give me strength!” My pace slowed down for a couple of miles, but I don’t really consider it a “wall.” I was more just discouraged by the uphill and the fact that I still had 4 miles to go. As far as my legs felt, I was thrilled that I didn’t have any cramps or joint pains, just muscle ache from running for 3 and 1/2 hours! Mile 23: 9:40 In Mile 24, we finally veered right into Central Park. This was a pick-me-up for me. A lot of people get discouraged by the rolling hills of Central Park, but I welcomed them! It meant that my finish line was close, and I just like rolling hills because they use different muscle groups, so one gets a rest while the other is being used. Tip # 8: When the going gets tough, find someone ahead of you and make it your goal to pass them. As soon as you do, find another person to pass. Mile 24: 10:24 Mile 25: 10:03 There were all kinds of fun landmarks to see in Central Park, but again, I was thinking “finish line” and nothing else! In fact, I saw my family, Susan and Michele again around mile 25, but they said I looked a little weary! 1425532_10152063094972059_590136370_n I waved, but I know it wasn’t much of a gesture! Along the way, I heard one girl yell, “Val! Val! She’s our gal!” It made me smile. 988754_10100281650058069_1370039168_n 1459872_10152063095462059_150769188_n 1425576_10152063095427059_197553732_n From there, we turned right onto Central Park South by the famous Plaza hotel. I’ve run this stretch before and I’m here to tell you that someone lengthened it just for the marathon! I didn’t even realize until Michele and I took a carriage ride two days later that it was totally uphill the entire way. No wonder it was so hard! I kept looking ahead to see when we’d get to turn right again at Columbus circle for the final stretch to the finish line, but all I could see were hundreds of tired runners going straight straight straight! There were so many people cheering us on, but there was just one thing that I wanted at that moment, to cross that finish line. Mile 26:9:48 I thought that after I hit the 26th mile marker, it would be smooth sailing for the final .2 miles, but oh my goodness, that was the longest .2 miles of my life. I knew that I was going faster than I had run the entire marathon, but the finish line wasn’t getting any closer! It was crazy. .2 miles: 8:34 And then. THE FINISH LINE! What an incredible feeling to cross that NYC Marathon finish line! I threw my fists into the air and it was just like I had pictured during the many training runs leading up to that moment. It felt SO GOOD to stop running! One of the race volunteers looked me right in the eye and said, “Congratulations!” I started tearing up again, of course. Then they handed me my hard-earned medal and took my picture. These were my final splits: 5K/3.1mi – 29:27 10K/6.2mi – 58:48 15K/9.3 mi – 1:28:06 20K/12.4 mi – 1:57:20 Half/13.1 mi – 2:03:51 25K/15.5 mi – 2:27:32 30K/18.9 mi – 2:57:04 35K/21.7 mi – 3:28:07 40K/24.8 mi – 3:59:31 Finish: 04:12:53 We had a loonnnggg walk in the park, but I know it’s so good for the legs to keep moving. I called Josh in the Philippines and we talked until I finally said, “I know this is weird, but I really can’t hold the phone up to my ear any longer. My arms are so tired!” I was shocked at how sore my shoulders, arms, and traps were! But I guess the 4 hours of arm pumping with do that. They gave us a recovery bag with snacks and Gatorade Recovery and a heat sheet to keep our body heat trapped in. 1452092_10152063094677059_663774901_n   Then we split up and the no-baggage people got to exit the park early. The rest of us kept going further into the park to pick up our bags. TIP #9  : If at all possible, go for the no-baggage option! Having your stuff at the finish line isn’t worth the extra walk. If I could do it again, I would just have my family meet me with clothes. When I finally got my bag, I was able to exit the park. I was on the phone with my mom and brother as we tried to figure out where to meet up. I was right near the Museum of Natural History (from Night at the Museum), and I smiled as I walked past the statue of Roosevelt on a horse. To my left, all the runners who had selected no-baggage were all wrapped up in orange hooded ponchos. My sister-in-law said that it looked like some kind of zombie cult, with everyone walking slowly and mechanically in matching orange hoods. 558941_10152063094702059_2130391596_n My family and I made our way towards each other and I started to get so cold! The wind was fierce on the cross streets and since I wasn’t working hard anymore, the sweat on my body was just making me colder. I finally saw my crew of people in Dunkin Donuts caps and we all shared many hugs! It was so wonderful. As we walked further away from the park, I ate the apple from my recovery bag. I wasn’t at all hungry, but all the research says to eat soon to get recovery going. 999766_10202865747988145_468484226_n 481006_10152063094897059_1852020091_n My sweet mom bought me gorgeous flowers! IMG_0848 Somehow, our legs carried us to Magnolia Bakery!!! My sister-in-law, Sarah, asked me what flavor I wanted. Yellow cake/chocolate frosting or Chocolate cake/Chocolate frosting? Sophie’s Choice. Thankfully, she didn’t make me choose and treated me to both! Now we’re talking recovery!! IMG_0846 It was hard to get around the area because of all the marathon security. We didn’t think that we’d be able to get into Carnegie Deli with it being so close to the finish line, but we decided to give it a try and we got right in! This marathoner was happy. Susan, Michele and I all shared one Reuben sandwich! Then we parted ways and my family went home while us girls headed back to our hotel. I got to ride the subway for free! I’ll go ahead and deduct that $2.50 off my entire trip cost, thankyouverymuch. Somehow, we ended up on the wrong subway, and found ourselves back in Brooklyn (for the second time that day for me!) But Susan and Michele found our way back to the hotel in the financial district. When we got back to the hotel, I got to read all of Josh’s real-time facebook statuses that he posted during the marathon… * 29:27 on the first 5k… Good job Valerie! * 10k time is 58:48… Looking good! * 15k is 1:28:06, which is a 9:27:15 minute mile * Almost halfway, 1:57:20… Doing great!!! * Valerie  half way point of the NYC marathon time is 2:03:51, doing awesome… So proud of you!!! * 25k is 2:27:32, right on pace…keep it up! * Less than 10 miles… Doing awesome! * 30k time is 2:57:04 – amazing effort!!! * Almost 20 miles… They say the wall comes at 22 miles… That’s where you find out what your made of… She’s got this… If she can put up with me for 11 years, this should be a piece of cake * 7k to go, 3:28:07 for the first 35k… Almost done! Enjoy the home stretch… A walk in the park! * She’s made it to Central Park at this point… Just a couple miles to go! * 40k in the books… 3:59:31 with 2k to go… Cheering her through the last few minutes from the Philippines!!! * Less than a quarter mile to go… One time around the track… * SHE DID IT!!! 4:12:53, My Hero!   After an amazing, memorable, and incomparable day…. I showered and was sound asleep by 8:00pm! IMG_0850 I am so incredibly thankful for the amazing experience that I got to be a part of! It has been at the forefront of my hopes and dreams for a long time and to finally achieve it was pure bliss. I’ve been riding the wonderful wave of accomplishment for a week now! I’ve made up for 4 months of no desserts in 1 week. =) Two years ago, I said that after I ran the marathon, I could tell you which was worse: Natural childbirth or a marathon. Drumroll, please. The marathon was easier than natural childbirth!

Loving our trip!

1 Nov


We’ve been in the US 4 days already!!! It’s been 4 days of beautiful fall weather, fun with family, and fab food, although I’m not indulging too much just yet. After Sunday, all bets are off. I don’t care how much my feet hurt on Monday, I’m wearing heels and I’m eating all kinds of everything!

Anyway, our trip to the US was fantastic! No hassles with check-in, immigration, or flights. I just love Korean Air! The service is great, the planes are nice, and my favorite feature is that they let you watch movies and TV as soon as you sit down, until you get up to leave the plane. None of this take-off and landing nonsense.

When I left my family, sweet little Bella was sobbing!!! I felt like she thought I was leaving for a year! There was no consoling her, even with promises of presents. The precious girl taped this to my suitcase. It says “I love you so much” and she even threw in P5.50 in coins!


We left the condos with plenty of time to accommodate for traffic. However, there was NO traffic and we got to the airport with loads of time to spare. All the pre-flight stuff took about an hour, so we still had 2 hours to kill. Fortunately, there is a lounge accessible to anyone for a reasonable price, so we chilled up there. It was excellent, quiet, cool, wi-fi, and had terrific food! I hit the nacho bar more than a few times…


Our flight left at 11:45pm, so I started a TV show, but I guess I fell asleep pretty soon, because all of a sudden, we were beginning our descent into Seoul! I never sleep well on planes, so I was jazzed.


We arrived in Seoul at 4am. Everything was closed, so we set up camp on a cushioned bench for the next 6 hours! We slept for about 3 and by the time we woke up, the airport was hopping, so we went and got coffee and walked around some.

Finally, we got to board our beautiful A380. Being the newest model airplane out there, everything was brand, spanking new! We could tell, because everything was clean, in good shape, and didn’t rattle. We got three seats to ourselves, so we were thrilled with the extra room! In addition to the usual blanket, pillow, and headphones, they gave each seat a bottle of water.


Another Korean Air you-had-me-at-hello is the leg room! It is so much better than other airlines that I’ve done the trans-world thing on. Nice, right? As are the free slippers they let you have. But wait, that’s not all! They also give us a tooth brush and toothpaste for your mid-flight hygiene!


I slept maybe 40 minutes in the entire 13 hour flight! Michele was out like a light almost the entire time, so it was just me and my screen the entire time. I watched a lot of movies and TV, and even played some Tetris. I was pretty comfortable the entire time. I was still getting over a cold, so I drank a ton of water, meaning I had to climb over hybernating Michele about 6 times.



I don’t know how many people appreciate this feature, but my dad thinks it’s the bees knees. The A380’s have cameras on the nose of the plane, the tail, and the bottom, so at any given time, you can see what’s around you. I think it’s pretty cool, especially when you can see the curvature of the earth. It makes me feel like an astronaut.





We landed on time at JFK and sailed right through all the post-flight stuff to meet up with my parents. They greeted us with orange juice and cold weather! Michele and I were freezing, even though it was in the high 50’s.


The trip home included the Verrazano-Narrows bridge, which is where the marathon starts in 2 days!!!! Eek! My heart was racing as we drove over it.

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Since we arrived in the late morning, we had the entire day to kill, so our first stop was lunch at FIve Guys. Michele hadn’t ever been, so it was fun to enjoy that heavenly burger with her. When we got to CMML, we immediately hit the clothing center for some warm clothes! We also hit the boardwalk that evening to get some exercise and to help us stay awake. People were staring at me as I ran past them dressed like an eskimo!

We stayed up until about 7 or 8 that night and then slept hard until 4am, when it was time to head back to the airport to drop Michele off. She’s going to visit her family for a few days. When we returned from the drop-off, I went back to sleep for another 2 hours. I needed it!

That afternoon, I was all snuggled under a blanket and a hoodie, looking at the changing leaves out the window. It was perfect nap weather! But I knew that if I fell asleep, jet lag would take over, and an hour nap would turn into a 5 hour nap. So I dragged myself out for a 4-miler, my last 4-miler!




My sister and her family arrived that afternoon and I’ve been having so much fun with them, especially my nieces!!! I brought the twins these “One-in-a-minion” shirts. So cute!




Girlfriend loves the camera!!!

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The next day, mom, Heather, and I took the train into the city to pick up my race packet at the Expo.

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We arrived in the city just in time to meet my brother for lunch. We hit a soup and sandwich place in Union Square called Cafe Medina. He took us there a few years ago, and we loved it, so it hit it up again. The Pumpkin Corn Bisque is to die for. Heather is under strict instructions to replicate it!

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On our walk to lunch, we saw one of the marathon mile markers!!!!



When in New York, one must have cupcakes! Crumbs was right around the corner, so we indulged. HELLO, I didn’t order one! But I did have a bite or two of others. I can tell that I haven’t had desserts in a long time. It was all VERY sweet and I don’t know that I could’ve had too much. I know, I’m as surprised as you are.


After lunch, David went back to work, and the rest of us went to the Expo. My feelings were SO DIFFERENT than when we went to the Expo last year, when the the marathon was cancelled. I’m so excited and anxious this time around! Last year, it was so disappointing and bittersweet.  I liked it better this year…



Countdown to the cannon!



The highlight of the Expo was meeting Ryan Hall, the US’s fastest marathoner! He signed a poster for us and mom captured our entire exchange on video. We’ve been teasing her about it since, because she was supposed to snap a photo or two, but her iphone was stuck on video and she didn’t know how to change it. She does now, but the teasing won’t cease for a while.

After all that walking around the city, I’m taking it easy today and staying off my feet. We hit Walmart for some Halloween sales, and now we’re getting ready for a Thanksgiving feast! Gotta carbo-load!






PPD #5

28 Oct

Ohmygoodness, I’m leaving tonight!!! In just a few hours, Michele and I will head to the airport for trip to NYC! It seems very unreal. I’m not sure when the reality will kick in, but I’m cool with it either way.

Here is Mackenzie playing with the photo editing app during a volleyball game.


Bella got recognized in chapel for an SLR – Schoolwide Learning Result”. She was a proficient collaborator, which makes it sounds like she’s high up in the CIA or something! There are 5 or 7 different SLR’s that all the students are supposed to strive for, so we were super proud of Bella for getting her first.


We celebrated with her by bringing McDonalds up to school and eating lunch with her.


After eating, we played on the playground with her and her friends for a while. Deacon and Caleb were in heaven!

All of my action shots on slides and merry-go-rounds are blurry, so all I have is Caleb climbing to the slide. He is mid-“Cheese!”


Rock angels = sweaty, dirty, little girls.


Bella and Liv showing off their swing push-ups.


We buzzed the boys hair last week. So cute!

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I usually have a weekly meal plan, so it was a project for me to plan for the 10 days that I’ll be gone and grocery shop for it all! I hope it’s all there!!!


The kids loved Skyping with their cousins on Saturday morning! There were a lot of people talking into one camera mic at the same time.


Whenever I take a volleyball team overseas, I always tell them to put their game gear in their carry-on, just in case something happens to their luggage. I didn’t follow my own advice last year, and the airline lost my luggage with all my marathon gear in it. Thankfully? Luckily? Fortunately? None of those words really work, but it turned out not to matter since the marathon got cancelled anyway.

This year, all the gear is going into my carry-on!


Here is my shirt for the marathon! It helps to have a husband with sublimation connections! The lyrics on the back of the shirt is a Hillsong song…….a-lamma-ding-dong.

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I had a yucky cold all weekend, so it brought a huge smile to my face when Josh walked in with a carton of OJ for me. Only when you understand the financial sacrifice it is to buy a carton of imported OJ here, can you appreciate the gesture in its entirety.


I’m feeling about 85% today, so I’m on my way back to health. I bought a bunch of Vitamin C to take on the plane with me and I’ve been chug-a-lugging apple cider vinegar in hopes that it’ll knock out any last molecules of scum in my system.

I do believe my next post might be from Seoul, or maybe even en route if there is wifi onboard. Life is so technologically advanced right now, isn’t it?  So much that you forget the years when we had to go for days of curiosity before we randomly remembered the lyrics from a song.