Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Marathon

The Marathon. The single most demanding goal that I and my friends set for ourselves has finally been achieved. Wow. This was truly a team effort for ARG (Auerbachian Running Gals) and all of our supporters. We started our serious training program clear back in February, and we all stuck to our guns until the end. Of course there were injuries, pregnancies, and any number of other obstacles to overcome, but we did it. The entire team was there, and although not all of us ran the race, every single person there was integral to the effort. There is no way that I could have crossed the finish line without the help and support of everyone on the team. Between Marg making us believe we could all run a marathon, then designing our training schedule; Joss, Bryan, and Marg watching M for me during long runs; other members of the team making me practice when I didn't want to; and the group effort of encouragment and baby sitting during the marathon itself, it was truly a team effort. So, THANK YOU to Marg, Joss, Bryan, Logan, Mae Mae and Ki Ki (you know who you are ;-) ), Vicki, and Jen, and of course to my Jimmy whose long-distance pride and support both brought tears and strength. I love you guys.
Now a warning: feel free to skip to the end of the post if you don't want to read about every step I took during the marathon...

The blow by blow of the race: starting at 5:50 a.m. waking up after a night of almost no sleep thanks to the butterflies, quietly getting dressed and sneaking out of the house with Joss and Vicki (the other runners) while not waking up babies, in order to walk down to the pier and catch our 6:50 ferry. Ride ferry, arrive in Limone at 7:30. Proceed to gathering area, strip off outer layers to stuff in the official bag (that will be transported to the finish for us) to stand shivering in the cold morning for 2 more hours while waiting for the race to start. Mill up and down the hill several times thanks to conflicting directions from race officials, to finally end up in the correct starting position. Stand there for another 30 minutes while chatting with a fellow American and a Canadian we met and eyeing our fellow runners. Immediately spot many people who look as un-marathony as we do, which is comforting. Among these is a rather heavy-set man in dark clothes and a giant back-pack containing water and food, who is wearing a black beret and eating a hoagie sandwich. Name him "Chef Boyardee" (Thanks Vicki!), and decide that we should probably finish in front of him. Enter loud music and excited announcements in Italian (we understood the "Lake Garda Marathon" part), and the crowd starts to press forward. We are herded like sheep toward the starting line, when suddenly everyone breaks into a trot!!! We trot behind a "pacer" who is supposed to finish in 5 hours, down a street lined with cheering crowds, and the race has begun!!! The road is immediately lined with fellas whose backs are turned to us and in front of whom the plants are becoming very wet... just couldn't miss the start I guess. Luckily Marg had forewarned us of this strange marathon phenomenon. Now it hits us... we have started a MARATHON, in ITALY. It doesn't get much cooler than that! We forget our first walk break in all of the excitement, but the need for some quick breaks of our own brings us back to reality. Still, we are off to a great start, and it is hard to stop and walk like we should (it's part of our training plan). Before we know it 5k's are down, we stop for water, and Vicki moves on ahead. She has to take off her tights in Riva (where the rest of our crew waits to cheer) and wants to be far enough ahead to have plenty of time. Joss and I stick to our run walks and enjoy the beautiful scenery. (Part of the race was the road just above the water in the picture above.) This is fun! We are now close to the back, it is not crowded, and the folks we are with are taking a similar relaxed approach which is nice, until an official on a bike comes along and warns us that the road will be open to traffic in 10 minutes. Luckily in 5 more minutes we are in Riva del Garda, where we see the whole crowd of ARG supporters cheering like crazy... what a boost, and much needed after the relative loneliness of the tunnels and lake front. In Riva Joss decides she needs to slow down a little, and urges me to go ahead. I am worried, but also too full of adrenaline to go any slower at the moment. After a bit of inner turmoil I decide to go on ahead and strike out on my own. Soon I'm heading up the valley toward Arco, running through vineyards, along streets, and with a beautiful view of a castle on a cliff. My muscles are warm, everything is flowing, and I feel great, although the iPod is nice with only my thoughts for company. I pass Chef Boyardee and feel some inner satisfaction. Around 15k I spot a familiar short stature in a blue jersey ahead of me... Vicki is in my sights!!! With this sighting I have a new goal, to catch her, but damn is she quick! Every time she stops to walk I think I'll catch her, but then she starts running again. It takes me until 20k to finally get within yelling distance at a water stop. She turns and lights up, and I'm relieved that she seems to want my company as much as I need hers. Keep in mind that Vicki was intending to stop at the 1/2 marathon (the longest distance she had trained for), but we crossed 1/2 together (21.1 kilometers) and she decided to make a try for the end. Meanwhile I keep hoping that we will sight Joss, but no luck so far. I hope she's OK. Vicki and I now run our fastest 1/4 of the race, exhilerated by our new-found companionship (and in Vicki's case an apple-induced high). It is definitely easier to run when you have someone to pass the time with. The k's click by and we are feeling GOOD. We have our "peeps", people that we have been passing and re-passing... stinky green guy, yellow guy, glitter calves lady, red shirt lady, orange shorts guy. They help pass the time. Then comes 30k. The race seems almost over, only 12k to go, right? However, the course now turns back up the opposite lake shore, and we are faced with a long gentle up-hill slope and a hard wind in our faces. Suddenly the last 10k becomes a lot of work. We talk, we sing, we walk when it's time. Thankfully there is fruit and water available every 3 miles, because we need it! Pretty soon we are on autopilot, our legs moving forward despite the numerous aches and pains that are developing, and we find that it is so hard to start running after stopping that we skip our walk breaks. This is it, the push for the end. We are among the last 200 or so racers, so there aren't many peole to cheer, and we really need each other, sometimes just to look down and assure each-other that yes, our feet are still attached, and yes, they seem to be moving forward. A medical crew gives us a long look as they pass on a motorbike. Whatever...we're still running! Each kilometer seems like eternity now. I miss the sign for the 41k mark, and am elated when Vicki convinces me that we truly are in our last k of the race. FINALLY we round a corner to see the ARG team waiting for us, and the finish line, which we crossed in 5 hours and 18 minutes. The best part of the whole race was being joined by Joss (yes, she made it to 30k and then caught a ferry to the end to watch us finish), Marg, and Jen to cross the line together as a team. Because as epic as my description just was (sorry), the marathon really was just one day. The real race has been making it through the last 15 months sound in body and mind, and we are all here.

The Pictures

M and I in Limone

What's cuter than kids at the zoo?
(M and Jills)

Villa Angelica

A typical waterfront.

(This one is in Lazise)

The Travels

Aaaah. Home again after a week gallivanting in Italy. Our (meaning Joss and the boys, Vicki and the girls, Marg and Jills, Marg's parents, Jen, and Marion and I) trip to Lake Garda was phenomenal. Joss and I had a beautiful drive down following the "scenic route" over a narrow winding pass south of Munich that took us past several gorgeous alpine lakes (or Sees as the are called in Germany). Upon arrival in Riva del Garda we wandered around a bit before finding Villa Angelica, which we eventually were guided to by Marg, but it was well worth it to discover a restored Italian villa complete with huge grounds with gardens, fountains and courtyards. We spent the next several days exploring the quaint (although "touristy") lakeside villages, all of which had lovely waterfront areas that reminded me of the Mediterranean coast. We took a trip to the zoo that Marion, Jills, and the boys particularly enjoyed. My favorite outing was a trip via ferry to Limone, a village on the west side of the lake (and also where the Marathon started). Limone is squeezed between the cliffs and the lake, and as a result is built as a series of terraces. The buildings are piled on top of each-other with narrow stone-lined alleys between them. The alleys are full of planters and balconies and are very picturesque, and each opens onto a terrace that is planted with citrus or olives. Especially interesting are the lemon terraces that date back to Roman times. They are lined with huge pillars, and some have a network of dark wooden beams covering the terraces... perhaps to hold some kind of screen for frost protection? Whatever the reason, they are both ancient and beautiful.
In addition to the scenery there was of course the food. We cooked a fair number of meals for ourselves, but with a ready supply of delicious olive oil, pastas, sauces, etc. available at the grocery store, the results were quite wonderful. We also ate our fill of gelatto, pizza, pasta, and coffee. Mmmmm.
I will post a few pictures, with more to come when we get done sharing!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Empty House

We are leaving for Italy tomorrow. Marathon week has finally arrived (the actual race is Sunday). The butterflies are fluttering in my stomach, but my overall feeling is one of excitement rather than dread. I really think this is going to be fun, and as I told one of my friends, we are going to NEED a marathon to burn off a week's worth of Italian dining!

In preparation for our voyage, I took Casper to the kennel tonight (makes for a smooth departure in the morning). It is so strange not to have his happy nervous little self around. It is shocking to realize that he has been in my life for over 8 years now... his absence is definitely noticed. No-one to quiver at the door when loud noises happen, or to happily clean up Marion's "droppings", or to groan loudly as he settles into bed. Sigh. Luckily he is at a nice kennel with Zephy and Tilly (two of his doggy friends), so he probably won't miss me at all.

Above is a picture of Marion enjoying her finger painting. She is becoming such a little character. She did three amazing things today. First, as we were preparing to leave for the kennel, she went to my purse and put her sippy cup in it for me to bring with us. Amazing planning on her part!
Then, as we were riding in the car, she was singing her version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, which goes like this: "Twinko Twinko it-tle stoooor, HOW ooo ARE, Upppa BaaBaa HIGH, Ika HIGH". (New words are added every few days.) She manages to carry the tune very well through the whole thing. At any rate, she was singing and I started to sing with her, and she stops and says to me "NOOOOoooo". Apparently I am no longer allowed to butt in on her solos. Fortunately she says "No" in a very adorable way which involves shaping her lips into a very exaggerated O that looks almost like fish lips. I say fortunately because she is becoming quite the little tyrant who is bent on discovering her limits and every one else's! Luckily she is still basically sweet so it is more cute than anything (although I would never tell her that... she takes these things very seriously!).
Her final miracle of the day was that she had her post-dinner poo poo diaper, and as soon as she did it she promptly walked over to her diaper bag (in an exaggerated sailor's swagger thanks to her "hot seat"), pulled out a clean diaper, and presented it to me for changing. Pretty soon she's going to be running the household!

Monday, September 15, 2008

IKEA to the Rescue

Marion is now at the age where she longs to have control over her world. She is frustrated by her inability to express her desires, and she loves play-acting with toys so that she can tell them what to do. Part of this fantasy involves being able to interact with the objects around her, which is difficult when those objects are all giant-sized. When we visit her friend Jills' house, she immediately gravitates toward the kid-sized furniture. To remedy this tragedy, my friend Joss and I took an emergency trip to IKEA today. Marion got a pint-sized table and chairs, plus a baby-san chair for the living room. She now has a little nook all her own just off of the dining/living area (under the stairs, for those who have been here). She instantly took advantage of the situation, and I look forward to much future crafting, coloring, etc. Yay IKEA.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Today was the first day that it truly feels like fall is in the air. It was chilly enough that I ran in tights and a jacket rather than shorts, and I found it necessary to don a fleece jacket more than once. I am excited that a new season is on its way, but a little sad because we never had a truly hot summer this year. I'm sure Jimmy would beg for the weather we are having, gut unfortunately it doesn't ship very well.

Marion got her first taste of fall too, and was enthralled by a drift of leaves on our sidewalk. The majority of the trees are still green, but every windy day drifts more yellow leaves along the roadside.
Jimmy and I also got ourselves a beautiful Spanish cabinet bar for our anniversary. It will be a multi-functional piece of furniture in our household. The picture is the cabinet still at the furniture store, but it does look lovely in our home.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Beginning of the End

Tonight I attended what is called a "Town Hall Meeting" in our community, the main subject of which was organizational aspects of the end of the RBLT. This is the first time it has felt really really real, and it is SOOOO exciting. I have to talk myself down out of the clouds a little, because in reality it is not quite happening tomorrow, but it is good for my heart to feel the way it does right now.

In other news, Marion is now consistently calling Casper a Good Boy, which she pronounces as "GooBouy", which is adorable and well-deserved on Casper's part as he is frequently being told this by her as she bounces up and down on his butt or pats his eye repeatedly. He really is a good boy, and it is heart warming to see the way that he has warmed up to her.

Now I am abandoning my sink full of dirty dishes and heading to bed, as my level of exhaustion makes the sink-full-of-day-old-stinky-dishes penance I will have to do tomorrow well worth it.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The First Post

Okay, so after much resistance and procrastination, and after reading and enjoying the blogs of my friends for months, I have finally become a blogger. Sigh. No promises of frequency or consistency will be made, but I will do my best. The reality is that our family is unlikely to be really settled for many years to come, and with so many friends and families to keep updated, this is the most sanity-preserving way that I can think of. SO. Here we go!
I am also making no attempt at catching up with the past, as those whom I really want to read this already know most of the things that are referred to, and if you don't, you can always ask!

After such a stunning beginning, there isn't anything too monumental to report at the moment. There are two huge events looming in the life of our family, those being 1) The marathon at Lake Garda, Italy that I and my friends have been training for since January, and 2) The end of Jimmy's Ridiculously Long Business Trip henceforth known as the RLBT(Thanks Marg!) , coming up in a couple of months. In preparation for number 1, I just completed a 22-mile-run (followed by a mile-long walk to get home) and lived to tell about it, a feat of which I am very proud. I am no longer worried that I have it in me to run the marathon, which in comparison will be flat, and supported, meaning that I won't have to carry 6 pounds of water on my back. Piece of cake! (I figure those things will negate the remaining 4.2 miles that I haven't run yet.) Event number 2 has left me feeling a bit rushed to finish projects that I have been procrastinating starting for over a year, mostly organizational and de-cluttering in nature, but none of which I absolutely HAVE to complete before he gets home, it would just be nice. No pressure though, or so I tell myself. Really if I didn't get a thing more done and he could come home tomorrow, the world would be a happy place.