Thursday, January 29, 2015

My First Yaktrax Run

Last year, was the first year that I can truly say I ran outside all year round.  When it was hot, when it was cold, rain, wind, snow, you name it.  Now don't get me wrong, there were a few treadmill runs, but very few compared to years past.

A few of the runs last year, BRF#1 used Yaktrax.  A couple times I wished I had them. This year, I am prepared, and today was the first run using them.

After figuring out how to put them on, we were on our way.  It was cold but no wind today.  The lot we parked in was full of snow and ice and we got out of there with no problems.  My first thought was that they felt a little weird but knew I would get used to them.

We ran along 1A, and I have to say, the town did a great job of plowing.  The shoulder was cleared for just about every step of the way.  The need for the Yaktrax wasn't really necessary, but I was thinking, "Better safe, than sorry."  The times when I did run on the snow/ice, I was thankful.  It felt good and I liked the crunch under my feet.  However, on the road, I felt weird and never really got used to the feeling of having them on my shoes.

As far as the run goes, I struggled a bit.  I was more quiet than usual and I was worried about getting to an 11 am appointment that I had today.  My first thought was just go from my run. But it was cold and I knew I would be miserably uncomfortable if I did not get a shower in first.  BRF#1 was running six, but I had to cut it short at 4.4.

I have to say, I was really happy to be finished running.  I didn't feel great and my steps felt like slow motion.  According to my splits on Strava, I ran at my normal pace.  10:20, 9:59, 10:18, 10:05 and for the final .4, 11:03.  I was really surprised to see that.

All in all, now that it is finished, I guess it wasn't as bad as it seemed at the time. BRF#1 said her last couple miles were good and I am hoping to meet up with her tomorrow for another four.

As far as the Yaktrax go, I liked them. I knew it would feel different and they will take a little time to get used to. I found them easy to use and liked the piece of mind that they gave me.  Not that I would purposely look for ice to run on.

And just FYI, Yaktrax did not ask me to write this review or give me anything. In fact, I am pretty sure that the people at Yaktrax don't even know I exist.  I just have a new toy and I wanted to share my thoughts with you.  

In other news, Monday is my birthday. I love my birthday. Monday is also my mother's birthday. Pretty cool right?  Her and my Dad will be coming for a few days so that we can celebrate together.  I can't wait to have cake and blow out 43 candles.  I am not big on gifts but just love being around my family and friends.  That is what makes me happiest.  I will run 4.3 miles on Monday.  Care to join me?

Run Strong, Think Big! ~ Nicole

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Penguin and a Blizzard

The aquarium called.

Here is the last post in case you missed it.

The woman I spoke to couldn't apologize enough.  She said it should of never happened but there have been some changes and shifting of people in the office.

First mistake, they never give out names. The fact that they wrote Blue-Pink on the adoption papers was never supposed to happen.

She said they do sometimes send penguins to other aquariums for breeding purposes and that is why they do not give out names.

Also, Blue-Pink had passed away before we even adopted him.  She had no real explanation for that. I know she was finding it hard to believe that it even happened in the first place.

I was nice about everything and the only thing I asked for was new adoption papers. I am still waiting for those.

She did tell me to call before we come the next time. Her words, "We will make George feel like a king."  I have to admit, I feel funny about calling but Mr. RWM has no issue with that.  We totally balance each other out.

The good thing is we know who Blue-Pink's parents are. Since they are partners and have been together for quite some time, they will most likely not be leaving Mystic Aquarium.  That makes George happy and we plan to seek them out every time we visit.

As sad as this all was, George is fine.  He hasn't really mentioned it, but did asked when will we go back. I am planning a visit for February vacation. Hoping it is not bitter cold that day!

On the running front.  I am just running. The one and only race I am registered for so far is the Philadelphia Broad Street Run on May 3.  I am still trying to reach my fundraising goal, but don't have any worries.

I am trying to work out some other races but still on the fence about which ones.  I have never had any trouble picking races before but now that I am being a little more picky, I want them all to be good ones. That's not to much to ask, is it?

BRF#1 and #2 were brave enough to join me for our Monday run knowing a blizzard was on it's way.  It was cold when we headed out and about a mile in, it started to flurry.  By the time we were in the fifth mile, the wind was killer and it was more than a flurry.  Conversations stopped and we just ran.  My neck and checks were killing me as I forgot my Balaclava.  BRF#2 stopped when we hit our cars, but BRF#1 and I wanted to make it six so we forged on.  The way back had less wind and I was very relieved when we were finished.

I don't really think what we got here was "Blizzard" worthy, but we did get a foot of snow and two days off from school for the kids.  Too much panic if you ask me.

I did recently buy Yaktrax and tomorrow I will be taking them out on their first run.  Looking forward to trying out my new running toy.

How did you brave the Blizzard of 2015? Do you still run outside or did you hit the treadmill?  How do you pick your races?

Run Strong, Think Big! ~ Nicole

Monday, January 19, 2015

George and the Penguin

My son, George, asked Santa for a penguin.

Yes, he wanted a penguin as his Christmas gift. A real live, black and white, flightless bird.  Not a puppy or kitten or even a new gaming system for that matter. A Penguin.

He has loved penguins since he was a baby. He has a whole library of books just on penguins and I am not sure how many stuffed penguins he has. He sleeps with all of them every night.

My first reaction was, "What, are you crazy!  People can't own penguins!"  Followed by all the reasons penguins cannot be a house pet.

George had a comeback for every reason and went straight to the big guy because if anyone can do it, Santa can.  Great, now what?

So my mom, who had been visiting, goes home and tells this to my sister Lucy and her boyfriend, Ricky.  "Well," Ricky says, "You know you can adopt a penguin at the Philadelphia Zoo."

Really?  Well, if you can do it in Philadelphia, I must be able to do that here too.

My search started and it turns out that you can, in fact, adopt a penguin at the Mystic Aquarium. You can adopt other animals too, which is a really cool gift for any animal lovers you may know.

I chose the level that I wanted, and sent in my paperwork and money.  The package I chose gave George a penguin, a couple free passes, a stuffed replica of his penguin, adoption paper, fact sheet about his African penguin, a picture, and the aquariums magazine with subscription.

While perusing the website, I discovered that you can have breakfast with the penguins on January 18. Well, of course I had to add that in too!

The final touch was to have Santa write a letter to George about why he had to adopt and keep it at the aquarium, how happy he was that he was good for most of the year and to please be nice to his sister.  That last fact did not sink in yet.  It was all put in a penguin Christmas gift bag to be put under the tree.

Christmas Eve was a really nice day. Both, George and Gracie were in the pageant at our church. We had my in-laws for dinner. Kids were excited to wear their new Christmas jammies and then we all read The Night Before Christmas.  All very normal until we tucked the kids into bed and George started to cry, saying he knew he would not get a penguin.  I can't even explain the heartbreak I felt. I laid with him a bit and he finally fell asleep.

Mr. RWM, had doubts that this was going to work. He said he wanted a real penguin that he can keep at the house and this is not what he was getting.  I was a mess when I finally went to bed. I could not sleep at all.

Christmas morning the kids ran in to wake us up yelling that Santa had come. Oh good. I think I just fell asleep. LOL

Mr. RWM, goes down first to turn on the lights, put on the Christmas music and start the coffee.  We keep the kids upstairs until he is ready for us.  What a great morning we had. Kids were just so excited. Clearly, there was not a penguin in a cage sitting in our living room, but George seemed ok.

Finally, he sees the penguin bag. Opens it and is not sure what to make of it.  I am pretty certain his first thought was that he just got another stuffed penguin.  When he sees the letter from Santa, he brings it over to me to read. Friends, I know I wrote it, but I got so teary and nervous, I had to hand it over to Mr. RWM to read.

George loved it! He was so excited to have his very own penguin, even if it didn't live in the house with us.  Honestly, I think with all the stuff he knows about penguins, deep down inside, he knew he could not care and keep a penguin on his own.

George's penguin was named Blue-Pink but we didn't know if it was a boy or girl.  He also wanted to know how old he was.

(The names of the penguins at Mystic are all by the colors of the bands they wear on their wings.)

January 18 was the day we would first meet his penguin and get all our questions answered.  We were all really exited about it.  Even Mr. RWM.

The weeks leading up to the breakfast we talked about Blue-Pink just like he was part of the family.  And the night before the breakfast, George had trouble sleeping.  He was just so excited!

We had to get up pretty early to be at the Mystic Aquarium by 8 am.  Even with the lack of sleep, both kids got up excited and ready to go.
Waiting in line to go in.

We got there with plenty of time to spare.  Seemed to be about hundred people attending the breakfast.  We walked into the main part of the aquarium and tables were set up all around the different tanks.  It was pretty cool.

The kids and Petey the Penguin.

Breakfast was good. Pancakes, sausage, eggs, coffee and juice. It was buffet style.  We got some food and soon they wheeled in a couple penguins.  They talked about the Africa penguin and some of it's behaviors and how they train them.  People swarmed them so we waited a little and finished eating before we went up.

Blue-Pink was not one of the penguins that were brought in. That was ok, because we knew we could still go see him at the penguin exhibit.  Since we had the trainers attention though, we thought we would asked our questions about our penguin before we went to see him.

I started to tell the one trainer that for Christmas, Santa was able to adopt Blue-Pink for our son.  His face dropped and he said, Blue-Pink is no longer with us.

How can that be, we just adopted him five weeks ago!  He calls over the other trainer who is the assistant supervisor.  She pulls me aside.  Mr. RWM has to now distract the kids because we don't really know what, "no longer with us" means.

She tells me, Blue-Pink was born with a heart condition. He did not make it to his first birthday. And to make it worse he had already passed away before we adopted him.  I started to cry. I had a hard time speaking to ask my questions.

I cried because I felt so bad for this little penguin who we had already considered part of our family. But I mostly cried because I just did not know what we were going to say to George.  I was not ready to share this news with him and I knew I could not physically do it.

It was clear to Sarah, the assistant supervisor, how important this was to us. She said she was going to take care of it and ran to the office for paper and pen so that she could take all our information.  I wanted to be able to still get a penguin for George.

While she was doing that, I filled in Mr. RWM. Shocked. He was shocked. Someone really dropped the ball here and now we had to tell our nine year old son.  We decided to tell him that another aquarium needed a penguin and they sent him there.  Neither one of us had the heart to tell him that he died and we don't plan too until he is in college. Maybe later.

I pulled it together enough to talk to the trainer.  She said he was born with a heart condition and that it was very uncommon to see this.  When they did the autopsy, they were surprised he lived as long as he did.  He had a brother and a mother and father who were still at the exhibit. I wrote their names down so we could try to find them later.

George seemed to handle it well. He was disappointed but no tears.  We told him he would still get a penguin and they would call me this week.  He wanted to know where Blue-Pink went, but we said we did not know.

We still had until 9:30 to enjoy the penguins they brought in, not to mention the rest of the aquarium before they opened to the general public at ten.  We enjoyed being able to do this without a huge crowd.

Can you find the fish?

Close up look at eels,

and barracudas.

We chatted up the trainer and learned so much about African Penguins. The kids ran around looking at all the tanks and just had a great time.

At 9:30 we had to leave so they could clean up and get ready for the opening at 10. We had a pass to stay the day but had to leave and come back in.  Right before we did that, Sarah came back over to us and told us to meet her at the penguin exhibit once we were back in.

We didn't know why but were excited to meet her there.

Friends, we got a private, "backstage" look at the penguin exhibit and how they are cared for.  It was amazing!  Sarah went above and beyond what she needed to do and we appreciated and loved every minute of it.
My family, Sarah and Purple-Red.

So happy to watch the penguins swim.

We stayed at the aquarium way longer than we expected. Nothing was missed. From there, we had dinner at Mystic Pizza and to finish off out day, we took the kids to see The Illusionists.  Very exciting show!
Waiting for the show to start.

Kids fell asleep in the car.  I went to bed happy and sad. We had a pretty good day, but I know George was disappointed. He handled it well and I am proud of him.  So much time went into getting a penguin and we still don't have one.  Soon though, very soon.  I hope...

Yes, a non running post but one that I really wanted to share.  Running wise, all is good. Think I may skip the March half marathon, but still on the fence.  Either way, I will volunteer there which will get me a free entry into one of the sprints I want to do this year.

I will keep you posted on the penguin and let you know when and if we get another.

Run Strong, Think Big! ~ Nicole

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014 Recap

Happy New Year!

We rang in 2015 with our usual party with family and friends.  It is my favorite night of the year.  All of the adults and kids made it to midnight and beyond.  We all slept in very late and have no regrets.

I have been thinking about my year and what I am hoping for this coming year.  When I kicked off 2014, I had one goal which was to run 14 races in 2014.  I ran 17.

My biggest goal of the year, wasn't even a thought until I entered and won a contest that got me a free entry for the Rhode Warrior Half Iron Distance Triathlon.  I didn't even know how to swim.

So some numbers.

Total running, 580.15

Bike, 515

Swim, 18.74

Grand total, 1113.89

Now, I was exact with my running but not so much with my swimming and biking and I am pretty sure I missed a couple so the total may be slightly higher.  Either way, I am happy with this.

Seventeen races.

Six 5K's

One 4 miler

Two 10 milers

Five half marathons

Two sprint tri's

One Half Ironman

First race of the year was Ocean's Run Half Marathon. One of my favorites and will most likely run it again in March.

Second race was The Shamrock Shuffle 5K.  Fun, local race. It was very cold this year and I was not dressed right.  Also. it was the last time I ran in compression socks.

Chilly Cheeks Virtual 5K.  Andy's race that helped raise money for the American Cancer Society. I am now part of his team and we will be running The Philadelphia Broad Street Run in May.  I am really looking forward to this one.  If you would like to help, you can donate here.

UPC Life Without Limits 5K.  Love this race because it was with Andy. We had a great time and almost a sub 30 5k.  Darn kids!

Newport 10 Miler. I love this race. Perfect time of year and a beautiful course.  No PR for me but fun none the less. Ran this one alone but Elaine was there, way ahead of me on the course, LOL.  They moved this to June this year and I am on the fence if the timing will work out for me.

Cox Providence Half Marathon.  Got to finally meet, in person, Sarah, aka Professor Badass. Beth ran this one with me and I did struggled a bit but still got a PR.  Would of never happened without Beth keeping me focused, especially the last couple miles.

Narrow River 5K. I love this race. My town, just a few miles from my home. Roads that I am familiar with.  I have had a course PR for this race every year I have run it. This year, I tried for a sub 30 which I missed.

Skirt Sports Half Marathon. This was virtual but great swag and I got the girls to do it with me.  Lots of fun!  Already signed up for this years race.

Katie DeCubellis Memorial 5K.  This was a last minute decision once George said he wanted to run. The race was wicked hot and at one point I didn't think George would be able to finish.  He did and placed first in his age group.

My first triathlon! Oh My Goddard Sprint Tri.  Well, what can I say, I don't think I was more nervous for any other race, ever.  It was a great time!

Jamestown Half Marathon. Well, I didn't really enjoy this race. I finished but not sure if I would do it again.  Beautiful course and medal, but that is pretty much where it ends.

The Blessing 10 Miler.  Love this race, love the party at Mary's.  Helped a friend this year finish her first Blessing but next year this race is mine!

The Crabman Sprint. Second tri and the one I enjoyed the most out of the two sprints.  I will do this one again. Had a nice PR.  Really enjoyed the bike for this one.

The Rhode Warrior Half Iron Distance Tri.  What can I say. You can read all about it here, here and here.  This race was amazing.  I did not do as well as I hoped but I finished and I will do another HIM.  I learned so much about training and myself during this race and I get teary thinking about it now.  The swim was the highlight of the day. As you know, I learned how to swim in 2014 and getting out of the water that morning and seeing Mr. RWM waiting for me is a moment I will never forget.  Happy I did not give up!

Newport Half Marathon.  Love this race!  I had not really trained for a PR for this race but knew I wanted one.  Again, with Beth as my pacer, I got that PR.  I enjoyed this run, even when I didn't and loved every minute with Beth, even though I was quiet which may have freaked her out.  LOL

The Newport Pell Bridge Run.  This was my fourth year. I got to run with friends and really just had a great time. Not a PR but it was a course PR which was nice.

St. Bernadette Turkey Trot.  Got to run with Diane, which is all I needed for this race. Fun, small race for her daughters school. Well run, nice course and lots of fun!

So, what is in store for 2015? Well, I am pretty certain that I will tackle the Philadelphia Marathon again.  I would like to see what I can do with what I now know about marathons.  I am confident that I can come in under 5:23.

I will also work on my bike and swim and add in a couple sprints.

I don't have a mileage goal, but would like to see a little more consistency with my running week to week.  I ran more last year, but think that is mostly due to marathon training.

So far, I only am registered for one race which is the Broad Street Run in May.  I have some races in mind but will keep you updated as registration open.  My big focus/goal for the year is the marathon.

Narrow River will also be be 5K goal race.  Would like a sub 30 there.

That about covers it.  I would love to hear what your goals are for the year.  Feel free to share them here or on my FB page.  

I wish you all a healthy and happy new year, filled with love and many miles.

Run Strong, Think Big! ~ Nicole