2013: What a wild, wonderful ride!

As this year comes to a close, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting over these past 12 months and while I didn’t document them like I wanted to (or should have, More »

Quoth My Progeny

If your dinner table is anything like my dinner table, some very weird conversations occur around it.  The usual weirdness typically starts with the Boy and his toilet humor and devolves from More »

quinn_unclerico

Tween Joke of the Day

It’s been a while since I’ve posted one of these, and the Girl has come up with some beauties* lately. *I apologize in advance if you’re offended.  If you are, you’re reading More »

72865_10151239108803499_513225495_n

Quoth My Progeny

As summer winds to a close, the kids are not in camps this week or next, so when they haven’t been at my parents, they’ve been home.  The following are things I’ve More »

quinn_unclerico

Quality Time with Quinn

The Girl is on a roll. On the way home from school today, I hear from the backseat: “I want to get home to get back to ‘Skyrim’ so that I can More »

This is the quietest I’ve ever been. No, seriously.

If you have been following this blog at all for the past several years, you know that sometimes, time passes without my saying much, but I always return with a vengeance.

Not lately, which you may have noticed.  It’s been almost 6 months since I posted anything at all.

I’m in a bit of a conundrum, really.  I’ve been trying to see the positive side of things, to not make so much fun of things, and to watch my mouth.  Let me boil that down for you like this: none of that shit is funny.

Not swearing isn’t funny (or fun, and let me tell ya, I slip up ALL THE TIME, usually more when I’ve had some wine or when someone around me is really fired up).  Seeing the bright side of things isn’t funny.  It’s much less stressful, I admit, but funny?  No.

That brings me to not making so much fun of things (ie, snarking).  Not being snarky is hard, y’all!  It’s part of me!  It’s part of the whole Jenny package!  For the love of God, the blog is called “Jenny with a Chance of Temper”, not “Jenny with a Sunny Disposition”!!

[sidenote: what'd y'all think of that title?  Kind of cute?  Ridiculously cheesy?]

I haven’t felt like issuing a head punch in forever, and while my kids are their usual crazy selves, I haven’t been so good about documenting the things they say or do.  Oh, you’d love it if I did – they’re the most hilarious people I know.

I’ve considered changing the premise of the whole blog from my rants to what it’s like to live with a newly minted teenage girl (think this shit’s easy?  Do you remember your crazy, hormonal ass when you were 13?  Now add social media.  I just heard you whimper, I swear it), or something along those lines.

I would love some input.  I feel like writing, but if I just start running off with whatever random crap is in my head, someone is going to get scared.  Possibly me, possibly Rob, possibly some lovely stranger that just happens to subscribe to the twisty weirdness that is my brain.  I don’t want that on my conscience.  I don’t need that kind of stress.

So, sound off – please.  I’ve been begging for comments for years, and I would really love some right now.

And if you’re still reading this blog after 7 years, chances are you’re related to me.  But if you’re not and you’re still reading it, I really do appreciate it from the bottom of my heart.  Stay with me, it’ll get better.

Race Day Recap – The Dopey Challenge

In early 2013, runDisney announced that in addition to their Goofy Challenge (half marathon on Saturday, full marathon on Sunday) during Marathon Weekend, they would be introducing a new challenge that would incorporate the Family 5K, their inaugural 10K and the Goofy Challenge.  This would be the Dopey Challenge, because anyone who would attempt it would have to be, well, dopey.  Four races, four days, 48.6 miles.  It sounded interesting, but I hadn’t even run a full marathon yet and it seemed daunting.

But interesting.  And exciting.  And a chance to be a part of history.

And six medals.  SIX!!  One for every race, one for the Goofy Challenge, and one for completing the Dopey Challenge.

SIX pieces of bling!

SIX pieces of bling!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I resisted.  The entry fee was pretty steep.  Disney races are always pricey, and this was 4 races together.

But it was still so tempting.  I knew I would run a full before January and it was the incentive I needed to keep my training up.  I was on the fence when registration opened and I knew it would close fast because it was a new challenge.

And then the peer-pressure started.  From my son’s gym teacher, of all people.  I’ve never succumbed to peer pressure in my entire life, but at age 41, I did.  I registered.

And then I panicked.  Holy shit – 48.6 miles??  What was I thinking?

Over the next several months, I didn’t think much about it, other than joking about how insane I was for taking it on.  I finished the Marine Corps Marathon and gave myself a week off before training started again.  Problem is, I didn’t want to train.  At all.  I was burned out on training, long runs sounded like torture, and putting myself through it all over again just wasn’t something I wanted to do.  I resisted.  I ran a couple halfs and a couple 10Ks, but that was all.  I even tried selling my bibs to get this mute dwarf monkey off my back, but to no avail.  I was committed, and I had better figure out a way to get it done.

On January 8th, I drove up to Orlando to check in to my hotel, get my bibs and shirts from the expo and get ready for the most intense 4 days of running that I’d had yet to experience.  (In hindsight, I may have been a little melodramatic about the whole thing.)  Once I was there, the excitement started to grow and my nerves started to subside.  I had a plan: walk the 5K (it wasn’t timed, anyway, so why bother?), run the 10K (because while halfs are my first love, 10Ks are my mistress), and run/walk the half and full to finish, not to PR.  I felt good about it and looked forward to getting it started.  I ate dinner and went to bed early.  So early, in fact, that I forgot to call Rob to say goodnight, which I never do.  After confirming that I was really ok, I fell back to sleep and before I knew it, 4am was here and I was up and ready for the 5K.

I always love the vibe at Disney races because there’s so much positive energy and excitement.  It was a little cool and rainy, so I stayed in one of the gear tents, chatting with random people until it was time to move to the corrals.  I met up with Robert from Run Tampa on my way to the corral and chatted with him until we had to get ready to go since we were in separate corrals.

Let's get this Dopey thing started!

Let’s get this Dopey thing started!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I kept telling myself that it was “just a walk in the park, no big deal”.  Then the fireworks went off and I forgot everything I told myself.  I ran.  Starting slowly, but I ran.  I stopped once to take a selfie in World Showcase, but otherwise, keeping a slow, steady pace.  When I crossed the finish, I smiled and said “oops” to myself for not slowing down.  I got my medal and my first wristband, and headed to the bus back to my hotel.  I was excited that the morning had gone so well, and I started looking forward to the next day.  One race down.

One race down.

One race down.

I had forgotten a few things at home, so I went back after the race and picked those up, had lunch with Rob and picked the kids up from school to surprise them since I was supposed to be gone.  I left a little later to get back up to Orlando to have dinner and get to bed.  This time I told everyone I was going to bed at 8pm, so no one would worry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning arrived with warmer temps and high humidity, but still very nice.  I managed to drive a woman crazy on the shuttle because I was full of excitement and Spark (that was fun).  I again met up with Robert in the corrals and ended up corral-jumping reassigning myself to a lower corral in order to finish before the sun came up.

Round 2 - Inaugural 10K.

Round 2 – Inaugural 10K.

I reminded myself to take it easy because I hadn’t the day before.  I started out a little faster, but not bad and continued running since it was feeling so good.  I noticed my time and realized that I was on track to PR.  I knew I’d be in trouble with some of my friends who were telling me the day prior to slow down, but slowing down just wasn’t an option.  At mile 4, I saw my friend Jennifer working the water station in China, and I made myself stop to talk to her.  I stood there for a couple minutes, then took off again.  This course went along Disney’s Boardwalk, which was wood and really cool, but because of the weather, was really wet.  For the first time, I walked, more to prevent potential injury than anything else.  When I left the wood, I ran again and didn’t stop until I crossed the finish.  I was off my PR by 2 minutes.  I knew where those 2 minutes had gone, and realized that if I hadn’t stopped to chat and hadn’t walked the Boardwalk, I would have PR’d by probably 5 minutes.  That was pretty exciting.  I collected my next medal and wristband and headed back to my room to shower and stretch, before meeting Jennifer for breakfast at Animal Kingdom Lodge.  Once breakfast was over, I had a nap and waited for Carla to arrive to do the half with me the next day.  Two races down, two big ones to go.  She got there, we left for a very yummy dinner at Friday’s, then headed back to get ready for the next day and get some sleep.

2 down, 2 to go.

2 down, 2 to go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning was the warmest day yet, and considering it was only 3:30am when we left, I worried that it was going to get hot.  We took the shuttle, got through bag check and found JC who was waiting by the stage for us.  We did the usual pre-race bathroom stuff and then it was time to take the half mile trek to the starting line.  Except once we got to the corrals, we couldn’t figure out how to actually get IN them.  We ended up just climbing the barricade of the first corral we saw (turned out to be the LAST corral – ugh) and started the long wait for the race to start.  It finally started and we fought our way through the non-runners to get some distance.  The sun was already coming up because of our late start, and I was sad that they weren’t going to see the Castle at Magic Kingdom all lit up.  By the time we got there, the sun was up and there was major congestion through the Castle, but it was still (and will always be) so cool to run through it.

Look, JC - we found a castle!

Look, JC – we found a castle!

We went out the back and started the long road back to Epcot.  While it wasn’t sunny, which we were thankful for, it was ungodly humid and they added water stations to compensate.  We stopped at every one.  We got up the on ramp to head into the Epcot parking lot and a few cool things happened.  We passed a runner with two prosthetic legs.  Right then, every gripe I’d had felt shameful.  I had two good legs.  He was out there and he was getting it done.  I congratulated him and high-fived him.  The three of us looked at each other and just said “wow”.  Right then, in my ear I heard Quinn’s MCM song for me – “Love Like War” and the line “we go together or we don’t go down at all” came on.  I looked at them and said I just heard a line that summed up the 3 of us for this race and repeated it to them.  They liked it.  We agreed that we’d run down the hill and around the turn, walk up the overpass, then run the rest of it.  We came down to mile 12 and with only 1.1 to go, we turned it on.  There was nothing stopping our Trifecta of Awesome.  We were ready to finish.  We circled the fountain at the end of Future World and headed back toward the finish.  We came around the last turn where the gospel choir was singing, saw the finish and sprinted, stopping only to grab each other’s hands and cross together.  I’ve rarely gotten to finish a race with the people I started with, which made it even more special.

"We go together or we don't go down at all" - All Time Low

“We go together or we don’t go down at all” – All Time Low

We hugged, got our medals, JC and I got our wristbands for our respective challenges, and Carla and I headed for the bus back to the hotel.  Three races down, one BIG one to go.  After a good breakfast, a 20 minute yoga stretch session, an ice bath and a hot shower, I took a nap, grabbed a snack, and waited for the next set of reinforcements (Brandi) and my friend Tami to arrive.  Tami arrived and had lots of questions about running her first marathon so we chatted about that until Brandi arrived.  Once she got there, we headed out to dinner (carby, yummy pasta-ness) and then back to get ready for our very early wake up call for our very long run the next morning.

At 3am, the alarms went off and we were up and out the door quickly, stopping downstairs to eat breakfast before catching the shuttle.  This was the big one, the culmination of the last several days, and I was excited but nervous.  Brandi had just run a 50K the weekend before, so the fact that she even volunteered to come do this with me meant more than I could possibly convey.  The 3 of us headed to the shuttle which promptly got stuck in traffic before dropping us off at the Epcot parking lot.  We got through bag check and met up with JC, as well as Robert, Eric (doing his first marathon as well), Brian and David.

Run Tampa, plus Tami, ready to take the Mouse!

Run Tampa, plus Tami, ready to take the Mouse!

Our third Disney race together!

Our third Disney race together!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After lots of pictures and bathroom visits, we began the long walk to the corrals, this time strategizing how we were going to corral jump assign ourselves to the right corral.  We found Justin and we all piled into the corral together.  More than anything, I just wanted to get this started.  I was so happy that I’d already gotten this far, and I knew that there was no pressure to finish by any particular time.  JC and I had already agreed – we were there to finish.  That’s all.  The fireworks went off and we took off, but I immediately veered off to the trees because all the water I drank had caught up with me.  After several burrs in my pants, we took off running to give us space before the next corral was released.  We warned Tami several times that we weren’t interested in time, only finishing and reminded her periodically that if she wanted to take off, we were fine.  She didn’t.  After running through Magic Kingdom (much less congested this time) we headed out towards Animal Kingdom, taking a detour around the Richard Petty Driving Experience speedway.  While it was interesting, the pitch in the road was more than we liked, and we tried our best to stay to the bottom.  Once we exited there, we headed toward Animal Kingdom, taking back roads I didn’t know existed.  Once we got closer to the park, another Run Tampa runner (Patricia) passed by and chatted with us for a few minutes before she and her friend took off.  Inside the park, we ran until we saw Expedition Everest – and it was running.  Oh, heck yeah, we were riding it!  Tami, JC and I ran up to the line and we were let on the train.  Everyone on the train was wearing a bib, and to me, that was the coolest thing.  Here we are in the middle of a marathon and we stopped to ride a roller coaster!  Does it get any better than that?

What do we do at mile 12.8 of a marathon?  Ride Expedition Everest, of course!

What do we do at mile 12.8 of a marathon? Ride Expedition Everest, of course!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once we were done, we were very near the halfway point and the break was just what we needed to push us on.  We left Animal Kingdom and headed toward the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.  At mile 16, we saw Benjamin holding a sign and Brandi and I paused to get hugs before moving on.  We seemed to be in the complex forever and around mile 18, I was really feeling the effects of the previous 3 days.  My feet were killing me.  Not blistered, just really tired.  We ate bananas, drank water and kept on, stopping for bathroom and stretch breaks.  When we left the complex we were at Mile 20.  We made Tami pose at the mile marker because 20 had been her longest run.  Any step further was more than she’d ever done.  I remembered that feeling from MCM, and I wanted her to celebrate it.  After that, she decided that she was going to take off.  We were glad to have had her company for so long, but were also glad that she wanted to run her own race, and her last 10K belonged to her.  We ran here and there and walked quite a bit and finally made it into Hollywood Studios.

Hollywood Studios with Brandi the Mad Photobomber and JC

Hollywood Studios with Brandi the Mad Photobomber and JC

There we got fruit snacks (Monsters University – sweet!), saw April at mile 23, Dopey himself right after that, and headed out for our final stretch through Boardwalk into Epcot.  It was early afternoon and it was getting warm, although it had been very cool during the entire race.  I was feeling great, but definitely ready to be done.  I started to see people who had already finished with Dopey medals around their necks and I turned my head – I didn’t want to see it until it was around my neck.  We made it out of World Showcase and across the bridge into Future World.  Almost there.

 

Almost there.

Almost there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We came around the last corner and at 26.1, we saw Julie cheering for us, and we yelled and she took our pictures.  We grabbed hands and ran toward the finish, crossing it together, throwing our arms around each other as soon as we were through for a well-deserved group hug.  For Brandi, it was her 3rd marathon (after completing an ultra 8 days before), for JC and I, our second marathons, and the end of our challenges.

Done!

Done!

I did it!

I did it!

 

Group hug (I'm in there somewhere)

Group hug (I’m in there somewhere)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Challenge accepted.  Challenge completed!

We got our marathon medals, found Tami, then JC and I went to get our challenge medals.

We did it!

We did it!

Goofy and Dopey

Goofy and Dopey

I am DOPEY!

I am DOPEY!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was overwhelmed when I finally got them around my neck and once on the bus, I finally cried.  I hadn’t much at MCM except when I saw my family on FaceTime, but this time, I let what I had just accomplished wash over me, and I shed some tears.  I was also overwhelmed that the girl sitting next to me subjected herself to 26.2 miles after running 31.1 the week before all so that I wouldn’t be alone.  Not many friends would do that.  I’m pretty damn lucky.

I already thanked people on Facebook, but thank you, Carla for being my half buddy, Brandi for being my marathon buddy and MY rock star, and JC for being my partner for 39.3 miles and never leaving my side.  You 3 are the best.  Thank you, Tami, for being my Disney race buddy three times now – there will be more, get ready!  Last, I’m so eternally grateful to Rob for always supporting my adventures no matter how crazy and for cheering me on.  I love you most.

The reason I did this.

The reason I did this.

2013: What a wild, wonderful ride!

As this year comes to a close, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting over these past 12 months and while I didn’t document them like I wanted to (or should have, given my failing memory), the bottom line is this: it was a wild, crazy, painful, exhilarating, joyful, tearful, exhausting and WONDERFUL ride!

January:  When the year started, I had no idea that my life was going to change so dramatically.  I had no idea that 5 people I had met at a race three weeks before would be the catalysts in completely reshaping my life as I knew it.  I was urged to attend a group run, so on January 6th, I did.  From that day forward, I would never again do this running thing alone.  That day I was introduced to people who would become my extended family, and of those people, who would become my best friends.  I ran 10 miles with Yarisi and some girl named Alyssa who was really quiet, but seemed nice, and during that first long run, convinced them to run the Marine Corps Marathon with me, and also developed a weight loss challenge.  That one run was all it took.  I met a few other girls through our weight loss challenge and through more group runs, and I started to realize that all the cliches I’d read about your running partners knowing you better than anyone were actually true.  I completed the Disney half marathon, and a week later, the Clearwater 5-miler with my new friends Connie and Brandi.

(ok, right here – knowing what you know, how hard are you laughing?)

February:  I went back on my promise to myself to not run so much and ran the Best Damn Race half marathon – and PR’d.  I also started meeting Alyssa regularly to run and we always ended up having a lot of fun.   My cherub-faced little boy had his 7th birthday on Valentine’s Day and we had his party at a local movie theater, which turned out to be incredibly fun.  Alyssa’s and my birthdays were at the end of the month, along with two other girls I hadn’t met yet, and Brandi started planning a party for us.  I wasn’t sure what to think when Drag Queen Bingo was on the agenda, but I’m usually up for anything, so why not?  I visited Stephanie up at Disney while she was there for a conference, rode rides, ate amazing food and had a great girls’ weekend.  I ran the Gasparilla half marathon on the  24th (my birthday), and on the 27th, we had our group birthday party in Ybor, and it was incredibly fun.

March:  We had decided that it wasn’t fair that the kids usually had to sit around during their Spring Break because we had to work, so we decided to do our big vacation then.  We took the kids on their first cruise from Miami to Cozumel, Mexico, Belize, Roatan, Honduras, and Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands.  While the weather wasn’t great for most of the cruise, we did have a few nice days, and always managed to have fun.  There was a lot of “next year when we go…” and “next time we’ll try…” talk, so I know they had a great time.  I ran no races during that month.

April:  Amy flew in from St. Louis for a long weekend.  We went to Disney (sans kids), went outlet shopping, and in general, had a great time.  I ran the Iron Girl half marathon the day after she left and while I finished, I wasn’t happy with my race overall.  We celebrated Rob’s 42nd birthday at Oystercatchers with Jeff and Melissa, and had a wonderful dinner and dessert.  I ran an interesting 5K race on the runway at Tampa International Airport, and later that afternoon, got together with the Run Tampa girls to celebrate Brandi’s birthday and see the “50 Shades of Grey” parody, Spank.

May:  On Mother’s Day, my mom and I celebrated by going to the animal shelter and adopting dogs – we adopted our pit bull, Scout and they adopted their chihuahua mix, Lola.  Sometimes I wonder if that was smart, but she’s been a wonderful (albeit, messy and sometimes frustrating) addition to our family.  My mom and I agreed that we would not do that ever again, though. We also celebrated my darling girl’s 12th birthday with a sushi dinner, and later, a party at Busch Gardens for her and about 10 of her friends (and some of their parents and siblings).

June: I ran the worst race of my career on June 1 – a “trail” race, and I use the term loosely.  Later in the month, I traveled to Emeryville, CA for work, got to see Lisa, and came home with a sinus infection.  Just in time to start training for my first marathon.  Something always keeps me on my toes.

July: I spent the entire month battling my injury.

August: More battling of the injury.  The kids started school with T returning to Lutz Prep for second grade and Q starting at her new school – Imagine – for seventh grade.  We celebrated our 16th anniversary with a weekend getaway in St. Petersburg at the Vinoy Renaissance, which was awesome.

September: The injury finally healed after weeks and weeks of limping, therapy, crying, being angry and tossing around “deferral” and I was able to return to training in earnest.

October: Finished training and on October 27, completed the Marine Corps Marathon in 5 hours, 37 minutes.  As far as accomplishments in my life, it ranks pretty far up there.  Graduating college, getting married to Rob, having our children, getting my master’s degree and completing that marathon are what I consider my greatest accomplishments.  And I will finally call myself a “runner”.

November:  I registered for a 30K trail race with the intent that it would be a training run for my upcoming Disney Dopey Challenge.  It got hotter than expected very quickly, and much of the race was not under the cover of trees, but rather the blazing late fall Florida sun.  Much as I wanted to finish the 30K, I wanted more to be smart, so I finished at the half marathon finish line.  My first DNF, and it was not a good feeling.  However, I felt good that I was smart and didn’t push myself to the point of injury or illness.  Later in the month, we drove to Missouri to see Rob’s family in Springfield, friends in Kansas City, and to St. Louis to spend Thanksgiving with my family.  It was a whirlwind, exhausting, COLD trip, but it was great to see everyone.

December: I held my second annual Champagne and Cupcakes bash with many more guests than last year, and it was a blast.  This year was a combination of running friends and school friends, and it was awesome to be surrounded by so many amazing ladies.  The following morning, Brandi, Connie, Candi and I ran A Christmas Story virtual 10K (complete with major award leg lamp medals!) where I had a new 10K PR of 1:10.  I had registered for one of my favorite races, the Holiday Halfathon (the race that changed my life) months before and looked forward to that the following weekend.  While I had run so well the previous week, I was not having a good race that day and ended up finishing about 13 minutes slower than the previous year.  After that race, I was feeling so defeated that I tried to sell my bibs for the Dopey Challenge as I didn’t think I could get through 48.6 miles if I could barely make it through 13.1.  My confidence was shot.  It proved to be too difficult to find someone to buy them all, so I committed to doing the races and just having fun, no matter how long it took me.  On December 18, my baby boy got braces and a palate expander, which put a damper on his holiday spirit a bit.  He had some difficulty getting used to all the metal and “stuff” in his mouth, but finally managed to start eating solid food again.  That weekend, I ran the Just Say No to Drugs 10K in Clearwater – and I PR’d again by a minute – 1:09.  I felt great about that time, especially since there were 2 very tall bridges to conquer.  Christmas came and it was probably one of the best Christmases I can remember – everyone loved their gifts, the kids didn’t fight all day long and we spent the day with my parents, grandma and mother in law, and it was a very nice day.  We ended the year with a low-key New Year’s celebration at home with just the 4 of us.

2013 was a roller coaster of a year, but it was an incredible ride.  Here’s hoping your 2014 is another wild and wonderful year!

Race Day Recap – Marine Corps Marathon (or The One Where a Short, Chubby Mom of 2 Became a Marathoner)

20131104-194623.jpg

It’s hard to know where to start with this post because I held off posting about it for so long.  I didn’t want to say much in the weeks leading up to it, and I wasn’t feeling particularly wordy, so I wasn’t posting at all.

That said, get yaself a drink and make yaself comfy because this is gonna be a long one.

In previous posts, I talked about my injuries and dealing with those, but I don’t really think I imparted to you how soul-crushing they were.  There were days that I worried I wouldn’t even be able to walk normally ever again, let alone run this marathon.  Every time it started getting better, the next day would be 3 steps back.  I was on a treadmill that I couldn’t get off and it took it’s toll on my mood, my psyche, my family – basically everything around me.  I felt like I was being punished, but I couldn’t ever figure out what I’d done that I deserved what I was getting.

And then, almost as quickly as it came on, I was better.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, it took 10 weeks of pain, tears, therapy and sheer will to overcome, but when it decided to be done, it was done.  Pardon the pun, but the injury to my ass was suddenly behind me.

I made it through my 18-miler, my 20-miler, my dropdown 12-miler (with a hangover, no less – I will never say “I’m only running 12 tomorrow” again, because you know what?  12 miles is still 12 miles!!).  My second 20-miler was the first time I’d actually hit a wall and I had to stop at 16.  I knew what I’d done wrong, so I knew how to fix it.  I wasn’t upset that I didn’t finish because I knew I could, I just hadn’t prepared adequately.  My next 12-miler was really good, and my last 8-miler was great.  My weekday training had been lacking (a lot, actually), but I felt good about my long runs.  What happened next was something I’d really only heard about and didn’t believe it.  And then it hit.

What started eating me alive was after the second 20-miler, we began tapering.  Anyone who has done distance running knows about the Taper.  You run less often, your miles are fewer, but your hunger doesn’t change.  You’re not clocking those miles anymore, but your stomach is screaming “FEED ME, SEYMOUR!” as loudly as it can – and often!  You’ve been eating well while training?  Well, guess what – you’re going to eat crap from here on out because that’s what the Taper wants, and you’ll do anything to quiet it.  You know what happens when you DON’T quiet the Taper?  It whispers.  It tells you all sorts of horrible things – like your training wasn’t enough, you’re not tough enough, you’re not ready, you’re going to fail.  It doesn’t let you sleep.  It creeps in at all sorts of weird times and shakes your confidence.  The only way to silence it is sneaking out for the run you aren’t supposed to do, or scarfing down Twinkies (not that I would know anything about that).

And then it was here.  I packed for days to make sure I had anything I needed for the race.  My outfit and shoes were in my carry-on 3 days before I started packing anything else.  I didn’t care about the rest of my clothes, because all I really cared about was race day.  I did eventually pack, although I didn’t pack well in the shoe department (you mean wearing tall boots after running 26.2 miles isn’t a good idea?  No, no it was not).  All my documents were printed out, my flight was checked in, my playlist complete with songs I requested my family suggest to remind me of them was updated, and despite a couple things I hadn’t been able to find, I was ready to go.

Rob dropped me off dark and early Friday morning at the airport, I got my bag checked, chatted with a handcyclist who was also participating in the marathon [sidebar: I was running it.  He was USING HIS ARMS.  Yes, I was humbled], and waited for Johanne, who promptly showed up 5 minutes later.  We went through security without a hitch, got our coffee and sat down and waited to board.  We were nervous, but excited, and just wanted to get there and see everyone.  Although our flight to Atlanta took off about 30 minutes late, we still landed on time, and shockingly (really – if you’ve ever connected in the ATL, you’ll appreciate this), our gate was only 7 gates down from where we landed.  THAT NEVER HAPPENS.  We took our time and boarded our next flight and were finally DC bound.

We chatted with various people as there were many runners on our flight heading to DC for the same thing.  One lady in the row behind us asked for my email address and sent me a very inspiring email about remembering why you’re running THIS marathon.  By the time I’d finished it, my eyes were flooded with tears.  I was even more excited to get this race started.

We landed (roughly!) at Reagan, got my suitcase, and walked to the next terminal to meet the rest of our friends who had flown in that day.  We bought our Metro cards and boarded our trains.  After a couple of incidents, we got off at the correct stop and tried to find our hotel.  After a bad case of Google Maps, we had lunch and found our way to the Key Bridge Marriott.  We checked in, which proved to be an endurance sport all it’s own, got to our rooms, unpacked and headed out to the expo.  After a long and very scary cab ride (in a Prius, no less!), we arrived at the DC Armory, where we picked up our packets with our bibs.

1422441_10202420229096749_502996577_n397505_10202342537794515_497082688_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whoa.  Bib.  Number.  This is REAL!  This is actually going to happen!

We headed into the expo, got our shirts, wandered around, met my friend Debbie from Canada, found Yarisi and Alyssa (and Rich), took some pictures and then headed out.  We chose the Metro on the way back to avoid any potential dismemberment by crazy DC cabbies, dropped our stuff at the hotel and went to the bar for a drink.  Which turned into a snack.  We headed to the First Timers Pep Rally, which after we got our pins turned out to be pretty lame, so we headed out again, this time in search of dinner and a grocery store.  After all of that had been done, we eventually found our way back to the hotel where we immediately collapsed and fell asleep.

1398240_10202342610196325_1645769761_o 1399577_10151960083779530_2058153410_o1378851_10202274555966224_2127668820_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day proved to be a comedy of errors as Brandi and I couldn’t figure out where the bRUNch was being held – went all over and it turns out it was right by our hotel.  Once we realized we were too late for pretty much any part of it, we got our own breakfast, met up with Johanne, went to a street flea market (I scored a silver bracelet!) and CVS, then headed back to our room to get ready for dinner.  We dropped Jo off downstairs for her dinner and headed out to meet Alyssa, Yarisi, Tori, Nicole and Alaina at a kabob restaurant.  The food was good, the company even better, but soon it was time to head back to the hotel to get ready for the next morning and get some sleep.

1381285_10202352277117992_1395515906_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sleep did not come easily, and it didn’t stay when it finally happened.  It was a fitful night of tossing and turning, worrying I’d miss the 3 alarms we’d set, my mind too full to settle down worrying about the race, and having to get up from responsible hydration.  When the alarm finally did go off, I wanted to sleep.  But, sleep was not on the agenda – running this marathon was!

We dressed and got mostly ready before heading down to breakfast.  We ate and got back upstairs to grab the rest of our gear and make our way to the Metro station.  It was jam-packed, but through all of the people, Alaina managed to find us and the four of us crowded on to the train together.  Because of the race, the Arlington stop was closed, so it was a straight shot from our stop to the start line.  We exited and slowly made our way out of the station and into the cold morning air.  Our excitement was building, as was the need to pee.  Again, side effect of good hydration!  We got bags dropped off, met up for a pic or two with some of our Run Tampa peeps, stood in the port-a-potty lines, then Brandi and I headed to the start.

554959_10202363674242913_279480458_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We found Alyssa, Yarisi and Haley and stood together trying to stay warm.  As the sun started coming up, it warmed a little and I was grateful that there wasn’t much wind.  The amount of people in one place was staggering.  I’d done the Disney half which was only a little smaller, but this just seemed huge.  I looked up and noticed several parachutes descending, one carrying a huge American flag while the National Anthem played over the PA.  It was really cool – and this was really happening.  Right at 7:55am, the Howitzer went off and the race officially started.  We walked slowly to the start line, taking in all of the crowd around us.  There were so many spectators – yelling, waving, holding up signs, and our excitement grew.  Finally, after about 25 minutes, we crossed the start line, started our watches, and it was on.

487966_10202363703763651_1723485999_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’d been warned about the hills during our training, but I don’t think anything could have prepared us for how long that first hill was.  It was almost 1.5 miles long, and elevation increased by 200 feet.  For a girl who is used to training in flat Florida, that hill was a killer.  Midway up that hill, I threw off my sweatshirt because I was not cold anymore!  I never thought I’d have to walk so early into a very long run, but in an effort to save my legs, I slowed down and walked up the steepest parts.  I looked around and there were a lot of people walking up parts of that hill, so I didn’t feel so bad.  At one point, the hill leveled off and I looked at the sign for the cross street.  It said Quinn.  I smiled and turned to Brandi and Alyssa and pointed out the sign.  I then kissed two fingers and pointed at the sign in tribute to my baby girl and I picked up running again.  The first water stop was on the downward descent from the hill and I walked through it, found my girls again, and we took off.  The next few miles were all downhill – in a good way.  The elevation descended again and we were able to pick up speed.  Miles were flying by and I was feeling really good.  At the bottom of the hill, the Potomac was to our left and above it, Georgetown University.  It was truly beautiful, and people slowed to take pictures.  The next hill loomed in front of us, so we dug in and made our way up, regrouping at the top before we ran through Georgetown and down a very steep hill.  Our time was good, the weather was perfect and all four of us were feeling great.  So great that I took off with Yarisi up the next hill and kept going.  I’d hit my stride and I didn’t want to waste it while I had it.  The only problem was that I really had to pee.  Really bad.  Like so bad I was considering just doing it in my capris because the port-a-potty lines were so long.  I stopped near a stone bridge to stretch my Achilles and noticed several girls behind it.  I yelled “Is this the unofficial?” and they laughed and said yes, so I joined them.  You lose all shame as a runner because everyone around you has done it, too, and no one is going to judge.  I got back on the road and took off.

Miles ticked off 8, 9, 10… I needed to stretch.  My hamstrings were feeling tight and I knew it was because of the hills.  It wasn’t remnants of my injury – it was just elevation messing with my legs.  I pulled over and was stretching when The Song came on.  I sighed, said “OK, Gerard” and took off again, picking people off at a 9:30 pace. Mile 10 was for my friend Lesa’s friend Brian Rogers who was a Clearwater police officer, a Marine, and had been in a shooting the day before. I was feeling great.   And then… I wasn’t.  I kept running, slower, but running and then realized I had hit mile 12.

Oh, mile 12.  Mile 12 was not a problem for me as a runner.  Mile 12 was difficult for me as an American.  Mile 12 was known as the Avenue of the Fallen.  Along the mile, there were posters of fallen service members.  I moved to the left side of the path where the posters were and I touched every single one as I ran by.  With every touch, my heart grew heavier.  Some of them were children – no more than 18, 19 years old.  Some of them HAD children – their pictures were with their children.  All of them were loved by someone, and clearly, missed by someone.  By the end of that mile, I was sobbing.  That was it.  That was why we were there.  As I was looking at these faces, I noticed the song in my ears was My Chemical Romance’s “The End”.  Though it’s a bit maudlin, it seemed appropriate right then.

999514_10202363743204637_2002693700_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I pulled it together and made it to the nutrition stop and grabbed a couple of gels.  I needed ibuprofen – I was long overdue – but there was no water.  I looked at the pills, then looked at the gel.  I threw the pills in my mouth, squeezed a bunch of chocolate flavored gel into my mouth and swallowed hard.  The pills went down.  I finished that packet and opened another.  I took most of that one, then picked up running again.  Quinn’s song All Time Low’s  “Love Like War” came on, and I smiled to myself.  After the turn was the water stop, and I downed some Gatorade and some water.  I was halfway.

Right about then, my stomach let me know that I needed to find a port-a-potty.  Soon.  Every one I saw had a line at least 10 people deep, so there was no way I was stopping for it.  I was walking more than I had planned (or hoped), but my walk pace is actually pretty fast, so my time was still good.  I was at Tristan’s mile (14), so I did the best I could.  When my stomach would calm down, I’d take off again and run for as long as I could, sometimes a mile, sometimes not, but always kept going.  Again, although more slowly, the miles ticked off …15, 16, 17.  Mile 18 came up and I could see the Capitol.  I’ve been there before, but with it towering in front of me on that beautiful October morning, it had never looked more incredible.  One of the things I was constantly reminded of before I ran this race was to look up every so often and look around me.  I made sure I did that, and felt a sense of pride as I looked around.  This was the capitol of my country, and it’s pretty amazing.

I came down toward the Bridge – the infamous bridge which the term “Beat the Bridge” stems from, and started running across.  I hit mile 20, and then realized that anything I did after that was more than I’d ever run before.  For the first time since before the race started, I checked my phone.  I had a couple of texts, but I only read the one from Rob which told me he was tracking me and I was killing it.  I smiled and replied that I had just passed 20 and I was beating the bridge as I typed.  Then in true Jenny fashion, finished with “fuck you, bridge!”.  I wish I had known at that point that the bridge would be saying to ME in 2 more miles “fuck YOU, Jenny!”, because I might not have been so flippant.  I had no idea the bridge was over 2 miles long, all concrete, had hills, and oh by the way, was a highway overpass.  It seemed to go on forever.  It finally ended at mile 22, and then it hit me.  Mile 22?  I’ve only got 4.2 miles to go!

1378541_10202363913728900_773704624_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a struggle, but I did manage to keep running when I was able.  At mile 23, which I had dedicated to Quinn since her birthday is the 23rd, Tristan’s song, Katy Perry’s “Roar”, came on.  I thought of them, and of my friend and training partner Stephanie who said it was her marathon song and started to cry.  I couldn’t believe I was actually going to finish this.  I still had about a 5K to go, but at this point, it didn’t seem like much.

The course rounded the Pentagon and out on to Jefferson Davis Highway.  Less than 2 miles to go.  I walked, I ran, I turned my music a little louder and I pressed on.  As I exited the highway, I hit Mile 25.  It was all downhill from there with the exception of the last hill to get to Iwo Jima.  I shuffled through my list looking for Rob’s song, found another one I wanted to hear, and pushed on, picking people off right and left.  I finally found Rob’s song, turned it on and ran as much as I could.  I could see Mile 26.  I was getting excited.  More than anything, I just wanted to stop running, but it was so exciting that despite everything I’d been through, I managed to get to this point.  The song ended and I wasn’t there yet.  I backed up 2 songs and listened again.  About 2 minutes from Mile 26, Rob’s song came back on.  And I pushed as far as the hill.  There was no way I could run that hill, but I walked it as quickly as I could.  Marines were lining the hill, high-fiving and cheering on every single runner, offering that last bit of encouragement to get us through the end.  The crowd was huge and it was just the adrenaline surge I needed to push me through the finish line.  I picked it up and ran through the finish with Capital Cities “Safe and Sound” blaring in my ears.  Rob had brought me in.  And I had done it.

I had just finished a marathon.

I hadn’t even received my medal and I was already trying to FaceTime Rob and the kids because theirs were the only faces I wanted to see right then.  It didn’t work, so I got my medal, was saluted by the young Marine officer who hung it on my neck, and took my picture with him.  I then redialed and saw the faces of my darlings, and I got choked up.  These people who had put up with my moods, my injuries, my hours of being useless after a long run were cheering for me, and it was the best feeling in the world.  I talked for a few minutes, but then let them go so that I could go find people I knew.  I didn’t see anyone so I took my finisher picture and checked Facebook to see who had finished.  I saw a post from Johanne about wanting to give up at mile 12 because she was in pain, and I worried since I didn’t see her.  Right as I started to leave, it popped up that Yarisi had just finished, so I ran back to find her.  We hugged and cheered and cried, and then did her finisher photo (and one together, too).  Right about then, Haley finished, then Alyssa and Connie finished, so we ran over to them and then we saw Brandi.  We were all in, we had all finished.  I couldn’t find Johanne, so I checked and she had finished just slightly after me, so I knew she was ok and had made it in.

1394462_10151736108148499_1033587839_n996040_10202426312088820_2036797746_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We set off to find beer, Rich, the rest of our peeps, and rest.  We were all spent, and many of us in need of a bathroom (especially me who had literally been clenching trying to not shit my pants for nearly 14 miles).  I told Alyssa “let’s promise to never do this again”, and she laughed and agreed and we hugged.  I told her and Brandi at mile 3 (which was their mile as they are my 3-way) that I couldn’t imagine doing this without them, and I truly couldn’t.  Nor could I imagine doing this without Yarisi, and Mile 4 was for my Dream Team (Brandi, Alyssa, Yarisi and Stephanie) who kept me from going insane when I couldn’t run and wanted to quit.  I wish I had taken more pictures, looked around a little more than I did, taken more of it in.  I want so badly to remember every single detail of that day, because it was truly amazing.  I achieved a goal I never thought I could and I did it with some of the best friends that I could never have imagined.

999557_10202363950289814_2047109835_n945448_10202363970970331_352555118_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We finished out that incredible day with a fabulous dinner at a place suggested by Michele.  The food was fantastic, but nothing could beat the feeling of being surrounded by a room full of the amazing people that I spent so much time with this summer.  We had gone through hell (literally – do you know how hot it is here during the summer??) together, and had come out the other side together.  Whether we were first timers, or whether our time wasn’t what we wanted, or whether we had achieved a PR, we had all finished and that alone is something to be proud of.

There’s a saying that the person who starts the marathon is not the same person who finishes.  I could not agree more.  Because I started that race as many things – a wife, a mom, a project manager, a daughter, a sister, etc, but when I finished, I was something I never dreamed was possible.

I was a marathoner.

1381669_10151740113483499_232210495_n

 

Quoth My Progeny

If your dinner table is anything like my dinner table, some very weird conversations occur around it.  The usual weirdness typically starts with the Boy and his toilet humor and devolves from there.  Last night was something altogether different, much less offensive, and a whole lot funnier.

Boy (after a conversation about how much we hate lima beans): Remember that book where the girl at the lima bean and turned into a dresser?

*silence*

Girl, with the most amazed look on her face:  How high do you have to be?

*high five*

Girl, continued: No, I’m serious!  How high do you have to be to come up with something like that?

Boy:  Have you read that book where the girl wakes up and has rainbow stripes all over her body?

Me: Like Fruit Stripe gum??

*long pause*

Girl:  Again, how high do you have to be to come up with this stuff??

As we later learned, the girl did not turn into a dresser, she just woke up with stripes all over her body, and the book is called “The Trouble with Stripes”.

 

The dresser was way funnier.