Tag Archives: NYC

Picking Up Where I Left Off

30 Mar

Whoops, time got away from me while I was in the US! I’ll try to jot down my memories through my jet lag haze, but if it goes anything like the rest of my daily activities have gone in the two days since I’ve been home, it’ll be confusing and mixed up.

So, I left off stuck in Manila and completely missing my mom’s birthday. Super bummer. But by the time Tuesday rolled around, I was all ready to try it all again.

This time, we sailed through without any issues. There was an incredibly long line, but one of the porters recognized me from Sunday night and snuck me to the front of a line! We breezed right through immigration, and I looked for the lady who wouldn’t let me fly before….oh, you know I looked for her…but she wasn’t there! I had 4 or 5 rehearsed speeches that I was ready to deliver, but I didn’t get the chance (which is probably a good thing.)

So, once we got through [the dump of an] airport, Sim and I stewed in our own sweat at the gate, as there was no AC. That’s how you like to start a 25 hour trip. But we didn’t care, we were just so thrilled to finally be on our way!

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Our flight was at 11:45 pm, but Simeon was awake, smiling, and flirting. I put him in my wrap because I needed to gate check my car seat and stroller. He was cool with it, and I loved having my hands free!

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Once we were settled on the plane, we just hung out until take-off. Then the flight attendant set up the bassinet and Simmy when right to sleep….after a little while.

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Meanwhile, I settled in with some Friends episodes and a yummy Korean dish called bibimbop. Loved it! This trip definitely hosted the best airline food that I’ve ever had. Go Korean Air!

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That first flight was about 3 and a 1/2 hours. Sim slept for most of it. I, of course, dozed 15 minutes here and there. I watched The Theory of Everything as well.

We arrived in Seoul around 4am. I had a 6 hour layover, so we immediately went to the nursery to hang out, nurse, and get some rest. Seoul/Incheon is such a beautiful airport. I think I can be objective about that, but maybe not, considering the airport that I had just come from.

We had the entire nursery to ourselves, so I curled up on the couch and went to sleep…until two young airport workers spent their 15 minute break in there, gabbing and laughing really loudly!

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By the time I left the nursery, the airport was alive and kicking, so we strolled over to our gate. It was right by Caribou Coffee, so I juiced up on a Mint Condition Mocha and curled up in the cozy seats with my book.

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Then it was time to board the plane for our 14 hour flight. I wanted to post this “ready-to-fly” picture on facebook, but that would give away the surprise!

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The long leg went terrific! Sim slept most of the time and cried a grand total of about a minute! He was a gem. There was an obnoxious 20-something guy who rolled his eyes when he saw me with the baby. He even told me, “I’m not gonna tell you my range of emotion when I saw you guys.” So part of me wanted Simmy to be even more obnoxious, but that would punish me, so I was thrilled that he behaved so well and made that guy eat his eye-roll.

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When we got to JFK, we breezed right through immigration, baggage claim, and customs, and was outside in the 60-degree weather in no time! It was a beautiful day, and I was only a little bit chilly.

My sis-in-law, Sarah, along with my niece and nephew, arrived in minutes to pick us up. We got some Dunkin’ coffee and headed back to their house to await the big surprise!

….which is where I’ll leave off for tonight.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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

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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.

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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.

However….

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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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….

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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.

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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!

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“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.”

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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Then….

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!”

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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!

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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!

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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.

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

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

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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!

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

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!!!!

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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.

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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…

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Countdown to the cannon!

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

The Countdown is SO ON!

22 Oct

At this very moment next week….

– Michele and I will be on our layover in Seoul, Korea! We leave Manila at 11:45pm for our 4 hour flight. Then we have a 6 hour layover before hopping our last plane to JFK. I’m fist-pumping about a few things concerning all this.

1) No diapers in sight!!! I may sleep or I may stay up and watch movies. The awesome part is that I can do whatever I want to do!

2) It’s a red-eye, so no waking up at the crack of dawn to head to the airport!

3) The last time I flew Korean Air, they let us start our on-demand movies before we even took off!

4) I love Korean Air and the Seoul Airport.

5) We only have 2 flights! They say jet lag is a little easier to get over if you minimize the number of take-offs and landings. I’m determined to beat jet lag ASAP. I can’t be falling asleep in the middle of the marathon!

In 8 days…

– I will see my family!!! My parents will pick us up at the airport. If I’m not mistaken we’ll drive right over the Verrazano Bridge to get home. That’s the first 2 miles of the marathon (even my brain says that with a high-pitched, excited voice!)

In 9 days….

– My sister and her family fly in! I’m so excited!!! Michele is flying out to see her family for a few days, so I’ll have some good quality time with my family. I know sometime in the middle of all this, I’ll get to see my brother and his family as well. They live about an hour from my parents, so I’m sure we’ll see them lots! It’s going to be so great to all be together again, minus my hubs and kids. sniff. But I feel like this is just one of those bonus blessings that God just created for us!

In 12 days….

1) We head into the city!!

2) Our good friend, Susan, is flying in for a girls weekend in NYC. I’m so excited!! I’ll be kind of useless on Saturday and Sunday, but Monday, I’ll be all over the place, even if my legs are screaming at me. We’re going to see Chicago on Broadway that night too, which is so exciting! Its one of those things that you have to do on a girls weekend to NYC because none of the hubbies are interested. This trip is going to be so much more fun with Michele and Susan there to shop with, eat with, talk with, giggle with, you get the idea…

3) The marathon Expo!! I’ll pick up my racing bib and check out all the goods. I’m glad I went last year, because since it was cancelled, we spent a lot time walking around. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on my feet this year, so I’m glad I took it all in last year.

In 13 days….

THE ING NYC MARATHON – 2 years in the making!

It’s up in the air what happens after that, assuming I’m still alive and kicking! I’m guessing a lot of shopping, eating all the desserts I’ve been abstaining from for 3 months, and family and friend time.

I. Can’t. Wait.!

What I Did On Spring Break

27 Mar

The trifecta of S’s kept us from coming home on Sunday as scheduled. Spring break travelers, Snow Storms, and Stand-by tickets can cause delays individually. Combine all three and you might as well not even get out of bed! Anyway, we arrived safe and sound on Tuesday night, and before life can return to normal, I must scratch the blogging itch. Now that I am reunited with the laptop, I can post pics!

OK, back to last Monday…

I had planned on getting something for breakfast when we landed in St. Louis, but when our flight got delayed for two hours, I had to dig into my snack stash. So the girls had Chex Muddie Buddies for breakfast. It’s cereal, get off my back!

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I taught the girls how to play MASH, and they loved it! We had a great mixture of names for their husbands-to-be, including boys that they really don’t like in their class, OneDirection hotties, and cartoon boys. For me, Mackenzie used names from when  I played MASH in elementary school….Michael J. Fox (whom she pronounced “Michael Jayfox”), Kirk Cameron, and for my icky one, Meatloaf.

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Throughout all of our travels in and out of airports and off and on planes, the girls became pros at carting luggage around! When I took this picture, all I had in my arms was my purse. BT-dubs, they wanted to be in charge of the luggage. Making my life easier was all their idea! Yesssss…my plan is coming together nicely.

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But then, there still is the cleaning up of faces, getting food out of hair, and many, oh-so-many trips to the bathroom.

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My mom gave the girls fun drawing activity books for Christmas, and those were life-savers during our long travel day!

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This was at about 10 pm, 16 hours into our day! Bella finally crashed right before boarding, but Mackenzie rocked Subway Surfer for a long time.

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This is how I looked and felt by this time! Obviously, the picture-taking ceased shortly after.

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TUESDAY

Sleep, sleep, sleep!!! We also watched Splash, the celebrity diving competition. The girls loved it and I enjoyed it. It’s ridiculous that Rudy Huxtable (sorry, I’m sure you’d rather go by your real name, but we all know you as Rudy!) was the best one and got voted off.

The judging is so inconsistent! “Kareem, I know you belly-flopped, but since you’re a senior citizen, a thouand feet tall, and have a mean hook shot, we’ll give you an 11 out of 10!!!” Meanwhile, “Rudy Huxtable, you just did a handstand on the edge of a cliff, but really, you should have gone off a higher platform and you should have held the handstand for a little longer. You would’ve gotten a better score if, instead of landing in water, you swooped up and flew over the judging panel. Better luck next time. oh wait, there won’t be a next time – muwahh-ah-ah-ahhhhhh.”

WEDNESDAY

At around 8am, we took the bus into NYC. Of course, all the girls wanted to do was play on the iPads, so we let them do that until the skyline came into view. Mackenzie wanted to see the Chrysler building, as in “You’re gonna scrub these floors until they shine like the top of the Chrysler building!”

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We took the Lincoln Tunnel into the city, so all we saw was darkness and underground until we walked out of the Port Authority and – boom – NY Times building, Broadway shows, food carts, people walking everywhere, taxis, and bright signs and lights. It’s spectacular. The only thing better is if it’s your first time or if you’re walking out of Penn Station and then it’s – boom – you look up up up to the Empire State building  and Times Square is just down the road.

Our first plan was to drop off our bags at our hotel before exploring the city. We had to walk about 12 blocks and we happened upon the M&M’s store, so of course, we had to go in. The girls loved it and even got to hug the Easter bunny M&M.

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Next, we found a Tim Horton’s and stopped for a donut and coffee/juice.

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When we got to our hotel, I went to the reception desk and asked if they had a place that we could store our bags until check-in at 3:00pm. He said, “Well, maybe we have something already clean that you can get into right now. (click, click, click). You’re in luck! We’re going to upgrade you to a suite and you can check in right away.” huh? uh, FANTASTIC!

That was such a blessing to get settled in before heading out. In addition to the bedroom, there were two bathrooms, a little kitchen, and a nice big sitting room.

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We were on the 23 floor of the Wellington, and had a balcony that looked out over 7th ave wwwaaaaaaayyyyy below! Josh wouldn’t have set foot on that balcony. We were right next to Carnegie Hall, which means that we were just across the street from Carnegie Deli!

There were so many things that we wanted to do with the girls in the city, but we had to set some limits because the girls little legs can only go so far and time and money will only let you do so much in the city. So we started off with the free stuff – yey! First stop, American Girl Place.

I told the girls up front that we weren’t going to buy anything, so if they’d rather not go, that would be fine. They both really wanted to go so we attacked all 3 floors with a vengeance!  Bella was trying not to be disappointed that they couldn’t buy an American Girl, which really made me want to get her one. I almost would’ve rather her just throw a fit in the middle of the store so that I would feel like she didn’t deserve one!

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We even got to see the salon, where a little girl was getting her dolls hair done!

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When it was all said and done, I even wanted my own American Girl! It was fun to try and decide which girl we would get if we had the choice.

Next, we walked over to FAO Schwartz, the famous toy store on 5 Ave. The girls loved the giant stuffed animals and even got to take part in some demonstrations.

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The first was a nail art kit. They girls, of course, loved it. And by girls, I mean myself and my girls!

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Then we saw a sticker art demonstration. It was amazing and totally new to me. We didn’t buy it, but I’m seriously considering getting it for our long journey back to the PI. It’s a craft that doesn’t include scissors or glue or markers. It’s amazing!

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Then we happened upon the famous Big Piano. It’s $250,000, so the girls are saving for that. In the mean time, they got to have their piano lesson using their feet!

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The next stop was a little hike west to Dylan’s Candy Bar. Josh and I had happened upon it when we were in the city last time, and we thought the kids would love it. We were dead on! It’s such a fun store. They have all your basic candy, long-lost candy that you thought they didn’t make anymore, tons of personalized stuff (but not one “Bella” or “Deacon”), novelty items like “The biggest Snickers in the world.” It was huge and cost $25!

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The stairs that we’re standing on look like  they have all kinds of candy stuck in them. It’s cute.

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At this point, our dogs were barking, so we headed to the third floor, where they have a candy cafe. We got to sit in a cupcake booth and the table was covered in gum balls. It’s such a cute place. I heard the owner is Ralph Lauren’s daughter and when she got married recently, her bridesmaid dresses were all the different gum ball colors. Couture, of course.

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We split a candy bar madness ice cream sundae, and it was crazy amazing. Every bite included a candy bar of some sort.

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The girls were pretty tired at this point, so we trekked back to the hotel for a nap. My mom is amazing. She outlasts us all when it comes to walking! She’s the one who should do a marathon.

Right outside our hotel was a $1 hot dog and pretzel cart, so we jumped on that deal!

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When we got back to the hotel, the girls and mom laid down, and I headed out to Central Park for a run. My legs were pretty tired from all the walking (in wedge boots), but I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to run in Central Park. I was so happy when I walked the two blocks over and  saw all the buildings replaced by rolling trees, rocks, and grass. The park is incredible. There are paths everywhere, so you could run there a thousand times and never run the same route. I would love to explore it more on a daily basis!

Did I feel stupid taking pictures of myself running? Absolutely.  But look how happy I am!!

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I did a loop that went up the east side of the park, across the reservoir, and back up the west side. I saw the boathouse from Date Night, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Marathon finish line, Strawberry Fields, and a bunch of playgrounds and playing fields.

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This is frequently one of the settings in a NY movie. It’s a little creepy in real life. I started to run through it, but it’s kind of long, and I’m pretty sure those two guys at the end of the tunnel are in the mafia and wanted to make me swim with the fishes, so I turned around. You know, safe than sorry.

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There are some huge rocks for climbing, so I took a little rest and tried to memorize my surroundings.

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When I headed back to the hotel, it was time to get ready for our 8pm Annie production. I had to wake the girls up from their nap, which is never a good idea. They were pretty prickly as they got their fancy duds on. They had tights issues, itchy spots, tangly hair, everything that plagues a little girl.

We didn’t have time to stop and eat anywhere, so we grabbed some street meat. Bella got a hot dog and the rest of us got chicken gyros. The girls were much happier after they got some food in them and a soda jolt!

Doesn’t he look thrilled to be a part of my vacation journal?

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On the way to Times Square for Annie. She’s grown a bit since their last Broadway date to see The Little Mermaid!

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Annie was at The Palace theater and it was an amazing and beautiful building! It’s an old vaudeville theater from the 1930’s. It was incredible to sit there and picture what the sights and sounds were back then!

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It used to be the home of – wait for it – West Side Story!

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The interior was beautiful! I’m glad we got there nice and early so I could enjoy all the details. I love the side balconies!

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Those are some photos I got off the internet. Here  is my own stunning shot. We were so high up and the seats were so steep! What’s crazy is that even if you are far from the stage in any direction, you can still see everything!

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Everything about the production was incredible, as expected. The sets were fantastic, the singing and acting award-winning, the orchestra beautiful, and the entire experience memorable!

The orphans were fantastic. I’m in awe at these children and what they are capable of! How does a kid go from learning multiplication to performing on Broadway!?! They were all so good. One of our favorite moments was when Miss Hannigan is trying to get Grace to take a different orphan to Warbucks’ house for the holidays. She put her hand on the asian girls head and said, “How about this one? She speaks Korean!”

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Of course, everyone was enamored with Sandy, the dog. She was rescued from a shelter, trained, and sent to Broadway! She performed flawlessly and got a rousing applause at the end. Annie was amazing. I don’t know how she does it night after night, but she sang, acted and danced like a pro. And she’s a kid!!! Whatever, I bet she can’t touch my kids scores on Where’s My Water…

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Mackenzie loved it. She got to see the character that she played in the school production, and the script was the same so she knew it front to back. She was also excited to wear her clip-on earrings that we got at the clothing center!

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We got back to the hotel at 10:45pm, so we all went straight to bed singing “You’re never fully dresses without a smile.”

Definitely the highlight of the week!

THURSDAY

I woke up first the next morning, ready to hit the TODAY show. Our last Today show experience was cold and rainy, so I was ready to correct that. The girls didn’t totally understand what we were doing and all they were interested in was how many blocks away it was and when was breakfast.

But once we got there, they got in the spirit!

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I had Bella up on my shoulders and she got some camera time until one of the workers told me to take her down. That led us to our next spot, where we got a terrific shot! Oh, you want to see pics of it? Sure, I have them right here!

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We were in the Martha Stewart segment, so every time Martha was on, there were red-gloved hands waving behind her head. I was directly behind her, so it was mostly my frantically-waving hands that got the face time, with the occasional head popping out next to Martha, with an expression of “Am I on?” It was so much fun!

We were all ready for breakfast after about 45 minutes at the show. We headed to Lindy’s, a great restaurant near our hotel. They are famous for cheesecake, so we…..no, we didn’t get cheesecake for breakfast….grabbed a piece to go. We also hit an Italian bakery for some cannoli, my favorite!

We made plans to meet up with my brother on our way out of the city. He took a new and exciting job in the city and already has some amazing stories that include business trips to Dubai and flights on a private company jet!!!! I will die the moment that he calls to tell me that he’s weekend-ing at his boss’s house in the Hamptons.

Anyway, we checked out of the hotel, grabbed a Reuban at Carnegie to take home to my dad, and met up with my brother at the Shake Shack.

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The last thing we did before leaving the city was split up and do one more fun attraction. There is a Harry Potter Exhibit just down the road from the Port Authority, so Mackenzie and I headed to that. Mom and Bella went back to the M&M store so that Bella could spend some of her money.

The exhibit was great, but overpriced.  We weren’t allowed to take any pictures, but I grabbed some off the internet. They had a Choosing Hat, so Mackenzie volunteered to be the student. She got….Grifyndor! She was pretty excited.

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They had fun things like  Hagrid’s hut, Harry and Ron’s room, the Great Hall, costumes and objects used in the movie, as well as interactive things, where kids can pull up mandrakes and play some Quidditch.

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We ended the tour at Olivanders Wand Shop aka The Gift Shop. We bought Josh some Everything Flavor Beans, which are Jelly Belly’s, but there’s no telling which flavor you get. It could be lemon-lime, or it could be vomit!

After that, we met back up with Mom and Bella at the PA and caught the bus home. When my dad picked us up at the bus station, it was snowing so gently! It’s my favorite kind of snow. Not too cold out, no wind, and big o’ fat flakes.

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FRIDAY

My brother and his fabulous family came for the weekend. I can’t believe I didn’t take any pictures of Oliver. He is such a happy little guy who smiles at everything! I could’ve taken a million pics of his giggle, but I was too happy just making him giggle.

Sarah made a cake for my mom’s birthday, so after a delicious steak and crab cake dinner at Charlie Browns steakhouse, we headed home for candles and cake!

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The girls had so much fun with their cousins. Poor Jackson was the only (older) boy, so he got stuck having tea parties, but I think he was happy with it! They did get to eat chocolate with their tea, so I know he was happy!

SATURDAY

We had a pretty chill day that ended with us grown-up girls making the most of my mom’s 30% off coupon at Kohls. We got every single grandkid new shoes between $5 and $10! Mackenzie is in a women’s size 6 now. I can’t believe it. It won’t be long now, before we can share shoes!  I also got some new towels and bathroom gear to take back to the Philippines. It was such a fun shopping trip!

SUNDAY

We were supposed to fly home on Sunday, but my cousin who works at Southwest said that the snow storms in Kansas and the surrounding areas were causing delays and cancellations, which means that lots of passengers were being re-routed, which means that stand-byers would be doing just that, standing by and NOT getting on flights.

So I just decided to stick around for an extra day and hope that the girls school would be canceled on Monday. We were all happy to stay an extra day with mom and dad and I was glad that I got hear my dad speak at church on Sunday! It also gave us time to eat at the diner one last time. I had my usual – a Popeye omelette.

MONDAY

My cousin sent me an itinerary for Monday that included 4 stops – blech. He said the flights were all open, but that it was really my only shot to get to Kansas. Mom and Dad and I all came to the conclusion that if we could get out of Newark, we’d be good to go! So when we got to the airport, got boarding passes right away and saw that our flight was on time, we were excited and relieved. Then….

…my cousin called and said that in less than an hour, my connecting flight went from 40 seats open to overbooked! That messed up everything and while my flight was boarding, I was trying to decided what to do. Should I go ahead to Nashville and hope that we can get to somewhere else, or just call it a day and try again the next day? Because of all the storms, there were very few open flights around the country, so after calls to Josh, Mom, Dad, and my cousin, we decided that it was just a better option to try again the next day. My cousin said that  everything was wide open the next day.

So, the girls and I caught the tram to the train station and rode it back to the shore. It was really pretty convenient!

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The girls crashed with minutes left in the trip. They looked so sweet with their arms around each other!

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So then we got another bonus day with my folks! We kind of just relaxed that evening. The next day was beautiful, so I went for a run and the girls just played around the house and outside. I also made the snack for my mom’s lady’s meeting that night. I made Carmelitas and the first batch was a fail. I forgot flour! Thankfully, I was able to whip up another batch before heading back to the airport.  If anyone is craving some yummy oatmeal-chocolate-caramel goo, my mom has a pan full of batch #1 at her house!

The rest of the day went swimmingly! All our flights were open and on time and we ended up in Josh’s arms at 9:45 that night. It definitely felt great to get on that last flight to Kansas City and not have think about anything anymore. I really think that the Lord was teaching me about worry throughout this adventure. Worry is from Satan and it’s definitely one of his go-to tools with me. It’s not a huge devastating tragedy that he can use to take us away from God. It’s a subtle, everyday ploy that keeps us from trusting God’s perfect plan. Sneaky, isn’t it?

That’s where Scripture memorization plays a huge part! Whenever I felt that anxiety creep up, I told myself that worry is not from God and recited Philippians 4:6 and Isaiah 41:10. It’s amazing the peace that overwhelmed me. Try it the next time you get anxious and worried about something.

Now, I’ve spent the entire morning piecing this post together, and I need to get busy doing everything else!

WHAT IS YOUR GO-TO VERSE IN TIMES OF WORRY???