Tuesday, August 31, 2010

First Grade Report

So, Kylie has been in First Grade for almost 2 weeks and still loves it.  She thinks her teacher, Mrs. Syberg, can do no wrong.  Kylie was upset when a boy who was misbehaving was moved to the front of the class, taking Kylie's desk, which moved Kylie away from her BFF.  But she seems to have gotten over it and made a few new friends as well.
Hot lunch is a popular and actually inexpensive choice for Kylie.  She's been liking the choices and makes sure to take the fruit and/or veggie offered each day. 
Homework has started as well so we spend about 20 mins an evening working on that.  Her first spelling test is this week as well. 
I volunteered to work in the classroom this year.  Mrs. Syberg has 28 (!!) students so she asked for help from the parents.  She does have an assistant that she shares with the other first grade class.  I'll be helping every Thursday morning while Matthew is in preschool.  It will be nice to get a first hand look at what is going on in Kylie's class. 

Monday, August 30, 2010

Hood to Coast 2010

It’s 8:00 AM on Friday morning and I’m standing at the “timberline” part-way up Mt. Hood in Oregon. The start line is here, music is blaring, teams were taking pictures and sponsors had their tents up. The parking lot is filled with vans, most of them decorated with van paint that listed team names and other sayings. One saying that was very popular was “Road Kill”. Hmm, were we really going to count dead animals on this adventure??

This Adventure started back in May. Hood to Coast is a 197 mile relay race that starts at the timberline of Mt Hood (elevation 6000 ft) and ends at the Pacific Ocean. This was it’s 29th year. 1000 teams of up to 12 people compete each year. My sister, who lives in Portland, has run it two times and this year she invited Brett and I to run on her team, Crampons and Crayons (it was made up of mountain climbers and teachers). We knew it was an once in a lifetime chance, Runners World had this race listed as one of their “must-do” races. For a sneak peak at the relay, visit www.hoodtocoastmovie.com. This will give you an idea of what we were experiencing.

We live in Indiana so we flew out to Oregon on Thursday evening. Our plane into LAX was late so we had to literally sprint a mile to our correct terminal. The employee at the gate was paging us as we ran up to her, thank goodness we made our connection. We could not risk not getting to Portland on Thursday night since our team van was leaving at 6:00 AM to get to the starting line. As I sat down on the plane, I thought “well, that was the first leg of my relay race!”

We got into Portland on time and Sarah and her boyfriend, Mike who was our team captain were waiting for us. We head to their condo and go right to bed. With the time difference, it was 3:30 AM Indiana time.

We’re up and getting ready at 5:00 AM. Brett and I repack our running gear, double check to make sure we have everything we thought we could need. The weather was cool and the reports said it would be in the 30’s at the starting line. What a nice break for us, since all summer we’ve been training for our fall marathon in 90+ degree heat and high humidity! The rest of our van arrives (we have two vans, 6 runners in a van) so we head east to Mt. Hood, about an hour away. Our other team members were Jill and Jordan. Jill was a strong runner who had an amazingly positive attitude which came in handy many times. Jordan volunteered at this race last year and decided she needed to start running so she could be part of a team in 2010. So she had been training hard for many months. She was friendly and fun as well.
Mt Hood

The road was a little busy with lots of mini vans and cargo vans. All had their team numbers taped on the front and back windows, ours was 331. Most were decorated in some way. As we’re driving we can see the mountain and I keep saying to Brett, “You’re going to be running DOWN that huge mountain soon!” Brett had leg #2, which was the bottom ½ of the mountain. Mike had decided on our legs based on our 10k times, running experience and desire. I had a decently fast 10k time and really wanted to be challenged so he assigned me leg 5, which was considered the 2nd hardest set of legs of the entire relay. Brett had the 3rd most difficult set of legs. Here is the statement about the difficulty ratings from the H2C website: To determine leg ratings, distance was considered negligible, with elevation drops and gains considered the primary influence. The assumption is that in relation to an "Easy" leg, an "Moderate" is 10% harder, an "Hard" is 20% harder, and a "Very Hard" is 30% harder.

I had 2 Very Hards and an Easy. Gulp.

We arrive at the top of the mountain with plenty of time to look around and take pictures. But before we knew it, It was 8:15 and time for Jill to start the race for our team. Her leg, rated VH, was 5.64 miles long with a 2000 foot elevation drop! We’ve heard leg 1 was notorious for shredding quads so she took it conservatively and finished healthy and strong. We drove the van down to the 1st exchange point and waited for Jill. Brett changed into his cow costume (we had heard costumes were popular in the race so came prepared). And they were right, everyone started taking pictures of Brett, including the “Team Cougars” who thought he was about the best thing in the race (had to keep my eye on these ladies!! LOL).

Soon Jill came running through the exchange area and handed the slap bracelet off to Brett. FYI – we thought the bracelet would have a timing chip in It to record each individual leg but it didn’t, the only timing device was a chip that the last runner wore on the last leg. We recorded each runners time and our team accumulative time on a clipboard with a stop watch (DO NOT TOUCH THE STOP WATCH!!). Brett took off like a bat outta hell and we hopped in the van with Jill to get to the next exchange. As we drive past “The Cow”, we yelled out the window for encouragement. It sure looked like he was flying! Turns out he was, he finished his 5.67 mile leg, with a 1500 foot decent with a 6:13 min mile pace!

At exchange 3, Mike was suited up in his womens pajamas outfit and was ready for the hand off. We heard a few people in the crowd laugh and say “The Cow passed off to the PJ guy!” We were having a blast already. Mike’s leg was not as steep and took him through a little town. Next up was Jordan with leg 4, her longest and most difficult leg. It was on a major 4 lane highway with rolling hills and was more then 7 miles long, which was a long ways for a newbie runner. We stopped twice along the way to encourage her. She finished strong with a smile on her face.

I was up next, leg 5. I had studied my map and elevation chart. The leg was 6.08 miles long with a steady downhill for the first ½ and then a 3 mile climb, with a 400 foot elevation increase. I started on the major highway which was unsettling, even with the large shoulder that I was running on. Just having huge semi-trucks hauling double trailers filled with massive logs passing me at high rates of speed freaked me out a bit. I started off probably too fast, reaching the ½ way point in 25 mins. Now the route turned off onto a single lane side road. The only vehicles on this road were other relay vans driving to the next exchange point so I felt safer. BTW, I was wearing a pink tutu as my costume so I was getting some yells and encouragement from other runners. I was passed or “Road Killed” as I later found out, by a few other runners who apparently train on hills much larger then we have in Indiana. My goal time was 50 mins and I also wanted to finish the hills without walking. The last mile was torture, a 200 foot elevation increase in only 1 mile. But I put my head down and pushed through to the end. I was darn happy to see my sister, in her purple tutu, waiting in the exchange box for me! Finishing time for my first leg was 53:25.

I was a little discouraged about being passed by several runners until Brett and the other team members let me know that all the teams put their best hill climbers and strongest runners on this set of legs. So I was going up against the strongest runners in the event and doing pretty good overall. I did have one guy tell me that I helped him get up the hill because he kept trying to catch me but couldn’t. So, I guess I wasn’t “road killed” by everyone!

Leg 6, or Sarah’s first leg, was 7 miles and had some rolling hills. We stop to encourage her but also have to get to the next exchange point pretty quickly to meet up with our Van #2 runners. They would be running legs 7-12. We had several young men in this van as well as a couple who was running their 10th H2C relay. Once Sarah finished and passed the bracelet to Jonas, we handed off the clipboard off to another team member and drove into Portland.

This was a nice break here. Sarah and Mike live in Portland so we were all able to shower, eat a yummy spaghetti dinner and get some rest. I also tended to Brett’s blister that formed on the bottom of his foot during his run. A pebble had gotten into his shoe and he was running too fast on a steep road to bother stopping to get it out. Unfortunately it resulted in a blister about the size of a quarter. We drained it and put a blister bandaid on the worst part.

About 5:00 we drive to downtown Portland where the next van exchange was. This place was crowded and very busy. It was also the start for the Portland to Coast walkers team, who stagger started at 2:00 AM, and the Portland to Coast High School challenge who started while we were there. Nike was giving away free socks and another booth had light up pens, which came in very handy while writing on the clipboard in the middle of the night later.

Jill was up first and got the handoff from Daren. Her leg was pretty flat and along part of the river walk. It ended in an industrial area. She ran strong, road killing several other runners. Brett was up next and took off, limping a little. It was pretty hot at this point so when we passed him about a mile into it, he yelled for water so I threw a bottle out the window for him. He was wearing his cow costume and a long sleeved tech tee so he was pretty hot. We got to the next exchange and waited for Cow to come in. Mike donned a mullet hat and some other redneck type clothes and was ready to run. Brett said his blister had gotten worse and was very painful. It had grown so we put some more bandaids on it and hoped for the best.

It was after 6 by this time and race rules required each runner for the next 13 hours to wear a reflective vest, blinking light on the front and back and have either a head lamp or flashlight. Mike finished in the dark and Jordan ran her shortest leg, 3 miles, into the next town. I took the bracelet from her and was ready to run hard on my second leg. This leg was 5.69 miles long and rated “Easy, basically flat terrain on paved shoulder along Highway 30”. I really wanted to race this fast since it would be my easiest leg of the relay. I had a quick turn from the parking lot to the main road and felt a sharp pain in my ITB. Oh no. I run about .2 in pain and decide to stop to stretch it for a few seconds. I’m quickly passed by two runners, no big deal. I start running again, adjusting my head lamp which was driving me crazy and cursing my knee. About ½ mile in, I’m considering calling Brett on my iPhone and having him take over my leg because I was hurting bad and running at a 11:30 pace. But then I remember that other times when I’ve had ITB problems, if I run faster, the pain lessens. So I gradually pick up the pace and pass (my first road kill!) one of the guys who had passed me. This plan works so I know I can finish. Soon I’m out of town and it is dark. Very dark. I get a little nervous since I don’t have any idea where I’m going but I soon focus on a blinking red light about 200 yards in front of me and follow that. I hear my van mates cheering me on as they pass me, on the way to the next exchange. Now, this leg was rated Easy and flat but apparently Oregon flat and Indiana flat are not the same thing. It was a steady incline for the last ½ of the leg. I keep focusing on my pace and enjoy the moment. Soon I see a volunteer who shouts “runner 331” to the exchange person so the runners on deck would know who was coming in. Sarah shouts my name and I hand her the bracelet. Finishing time was 49:38, not bad considering the minute break I took to stretch.

We hurry to the next exchange where we would find van #2. We’re now in the country and on all back roads. The exchange though was swamped with hundreds of vans, volunteers, Honey Buckets (the porta-potties) and runners. Brett and I spot people in sleeping bags throughout the designated sleeping areas who don’t look like they were getting much rest, considering the noise level and headlights periodically shining on them. We remark that it’s going to be another sleepless night ( we had only slept about 4 hours the night before and not since then). We find the other van and get to the exchange. Sarah ran a little faster then we thought and was waiting for us, opps. She wasn’t upset though and we piled into the van and drove about an hour to the next van exchange area. Mike spotted a H2C field about a mile from the exchange that was nearly empty. We pull into there for the night which worked amazingly well. It was pretty cool, about 45 degrees but the tarp under us and the sleeping bags kept us toasty. I look up at the stars and tell Brett that I’ve never slept outside without a tent before and how thankful I was for being part of this amazing race. We both slept very well, without being disturbed by many other vans or runners. Mike really picked the best possible place for us to rest.

3:00 AM Saturday morning and we’re up. We quickly pack up and I make some turkey sandwiches for the group while we drive to the exchange. Jill is wide awake and ready to run her last leg. The parking lot was insainly crowded with volunteers doing their very best to get vans in and out safely. We double park so Brett and I wait in the van while the others go to find van 2 for the exchange. Soon they are back, minus Jill, and we drive to the next exchange. It is pitch back in this area, named Mist. The fog is low and it’s cold. Brett wasn’t too awake but he was ready to get his last leg started. As he’s waiting in his exchange area, a guy asks him where his cow costume was – apparently he was becoming famous among his other leg 2 runners. He was running without it since it was 4:30AM. His leg was 5.77 miles long and rated Hard because of rolling hills but he had a ½ mile downhill to finish. We drive to the next exchange and wait for him. Mike changes into his running clothes, giving the ladies in the van next to us a peep show. LOL. This exchange had a local fire department and church selling coffee and other breakfast foods so I grabbed the best coffee I’ve ever had and warmed up while we waited for Brett to come in. He finished faster then he thought considering his massive blister and was happy to be done. On to the next exchange!

Mike finished strong and Jordan started her last leg as well. We drive to my exchange and I get changed in to my Tinkerbell costume. Now, this leg, number 29, was rated VH and from what I had read on-line, was considered the most challenging leg of the entire race. It was 6.11 miles long, with a 3.5 mile hill with a 650 foot elevation increase, 300 of those feet in the last mile of the hill. Then it was a 2.5 mile, 450 foot decent. This “hill” was actually a mountain in the Coastal Mountain range. The team member who ran this leg last year lost an hour on it. I was nervous but also up for the challenge. I had gained some confidence in my hill climbing after the first leg and confidence in my mental strength after pushing through my ITB problem in my second leg. Plus I knew it was my last leg so I wanted to put it all out there and enjoy it. I wanted to finish in under an hour but would also be happy with not walking! The sun was up by this time, 7:00, so I didn’t need to run with any night gear, thank goodness.

Jordan meets me for the exchange and I take off. The hill for the first part wasn’t bad and I actually enjoyed the scenery around me. There were creeks, huge moss-covered trees and wildflowers. My van passes me, cheering out the windows. About a mile up the road, there they were again, stopping to encourage me. I get passed by a few runners, all who said something encouraging or commented on my costume. The van passes again along with a few others, all yelling “Go Tinkerbell” or “Great costume!” I’m really enjoying this leg and feel very strong. As I’m pushing up the hill, I keep thinking “I am getting stronger with every step” and “I’m never going to fear hills again” and “I’ll be running my first full marathon in 3 weeks and this is making me more prepared for it.” Good thoughts the whole way. Then I hit mile 2.5, which signaled the start of the really steep part. And it’s noticeable so put my head down and just push through. I’m slower but still running, not walking. I get passed by one or two very strong runners who encourage me. My mental attitude is strong, I’m enjoying this! Next thing I know, I see a bunch of vans and realize that I’m at the summit of the mountain. I get a huge smile on my face and wave at my team who was waiting again for me. One of the race’s sponsors was at the summit as well taking pictures and passing out water (only the second water stop we had seen the whole time). I thank them for being there and start to fly down the hill! It’s a steep decent and although I know I could lean in and really fly, I didn’t want to shred my quads so I take it conservatively. I am passed by several more runners but we all complement and encourage each other. My team drives past, shouting out encouragements again. I check my watch and see that I had 2 miles to go and only 15 minutes to hit my 1 hour goal so I lean forward some and pick up the pace. While I’m running, I think about the fact that out of my whole team, the captains chose me to run the most difficult leg. They had confidence in me and I was holding my own on it too. What a thrill! I also see an older man, probably close to 70 ahead of me. I pass him (one of only a few road kills I had) and we chatted for a minute. He said “let your fairy wings help you FLY!” How inspiring to see this old man taking on this epic mountain! Very cool. Too soon, I see the exchange point and decide to go for broke. I sprint as hard as I can to my sister, hand her the bracelet and yell “I love you!!” to her as she takes off. Brett screams from the sidelines that I finished in 58:58, I made my hour goal! I get a little emotional, knowing that my part was finished. Brett sees this and gives me a big hug and tells me how proud he was and happy that we were there. I was too.

Traffic at this point is a bear. Vans are backed up heading to the next exchange. We were about ½ a mile away and Jill decided to hop out of the car with the clip board to find Van #2 for our last van exchange. Sarah catches Jill while we’re sitting in gridlock and they run to the exchange together. We were about 15 minutes early but they were ready and waiting for us (no cell phone coverage for the last several hours to keep the other van abreast of our times so we were going by our estimated exchange times only). They had spent a restless night in the front yard of someone’s house with a few hundred other runners. But they were ready to bring the team into the finish.

We head into Astoria for breakfast and enjoy a large, calorie dense meal. Then we drive to Seaside, which was the finishing line. The town was already packed with vans and runners/walkers. We walk up to the beach/finish line and head to the medical tent to have Brett’s blister looked at. This tent is my only complaint about the whole race. It was staffed by one doctor and numerous chiropractors. The doctor took a look at Brett’s blister, told him to peel off the bandage, which ended up peeling off most of the outer layer of skin. So Brett just got up and left, figuring the doctor couldn’t do much anyways. Walking on the sand was pretty painful, though. We took a little nap by the water and waited for van #2 to finish. We get a phone call about 1:30 from them and hurry to the finish line and see Daren running towards us. As he gets to our group, we all run together across the finish line while the announcer calls out our name. What a thrill!! We get our medals and team picture taken. Our overall finishing time was 29:24.48, overall place 671, but 175th for mixed category. We were very happy with our time, just under a 9 min mile pace for 197 miles!!

After a great team dinner at a local restaurant, we say goodbye and drive back to Portland. We drive on part of the route and re-lived our runs. A couple of beers at a local brew pub and we were ready for bed. At the airport the next morning, you could pick out the runners by their slow walking, tee-shirts and bananas. We would all catch each other’s eye and say hi. It truly was an epic adventure and I’ll remember it forever.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

So..Kylie starts 1st grade tomorrow.  We've both a little emotional about it.  She was crying some at bedtime tonight, mainly just nervous.  I was crying a little on the patio after putting her down, mainly  just thinking about how fast these nearly 7 years have gone. 

We met her teacher this afternoon, Mrs. Syberg.  She is young and very pretty.  She is also expecting her first baby in December so will be out for a month or two this winter.  Mrs. Syberg let Kylie pick her desk as well.  After a few tries, she settled on one by the teachers desk.  Kylie's day was made when not only is her BFF, Lindsey, in her class but they picked desks next to each other.  Hopefully they don't talk too much. 

Her dress is laid out with her new laces shoes.  She's nervous about wearing those shoes because she doesn't want them to come un-tied and then not be able to tie them herself.  She can tie her shoes but it takes time and she gets frustrated.   But I also told Kylie that I didn't pay $44 for fancy Twinkle Toe shoes if she wasn't going to wear them.  So we'll double knot them and see how it goes.

Kylie is going to have a blast in first grade and it's going to be fun to watch her. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Our newest family member!

We got a puppy!!  Brett knew someone who knew someone who had a large little of mixed breed puppies that he was giving away.  We've been talking about getting a dog for several months.   The kids have been very responsible when we've watched Brett's parents dog, Irish.  So we really thought this would be a great opportunity.  We wanted to surprise the kids so Brett and I drove to the owner's farm out in North Salem.  We met, Gracie, the mom who was pure-breed Miniature Australian Shepherd.  She was a beautiful dog, pale blue eyes and very sweet.  There were 4 pups left, out of a litter of 13.  The man didn't know anything about the father so we have no idea what the other 1/2 of the puppy is.  All the puppies looked the same, 2 with longer hair and 2 with shorter hair.  Three boys and one girl.  We were drawn to the girl, she just layed in the back of the stall and seemed very relaxed.  And she had shorter hair.  So after carefully checking out all 4 pups, we decided on the girl.  It was a little sad to watch the mom and puppy interacting for the last time, I made Brett split them up, I couldn't do it. 
We drove home, she whined a little big.  A quick stop at the local pet store for some pet food and we were heading home.  We were thinking of names and Brett mentioned "Black and Tan" since that is what color she is.  I said it was too long but "Guinness" would be a good possibility. 
So we pull up to the house, Brett grabs a camera and heads to the back yard where the kids were waiting for us.  I come around the side with the puppy in my arms.  Kylie came towards me and said "Who's puppy is that?" and I said "Ours!"  And she said "We got a puppy?!"  Here is the picture from when I told her:
Matthew was also excited but not to the extent as Kylie, more in his mellow way.  Both kids ran up  to lock the gate and came back for some petting time.  Kylie asked what her name was and I said that we had to decide on one as a family.  She immediately said "How about Sparkles?" Ugh, no.  So we decided on Guinness.
Brett and I noticed a few days later that Guinness had no energy and seemed sick.  I made her an appointment at the local vet.  He agreed that she seemed very lethargic for a puppy so he ran some tests and we found out that she was anemic.  Which was much better then parvo, which would have been deadly.  So some fancy food and she should be better in a few weeks. 
We did notice that her energy level increased by the end of the week, as she got more used to us.  Housebreaking has been challenging but we're doing better with it every day.  We love her!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

So back to our FL vacation.......

Thursday Brett and I needed to get in a good, long run.  Now it was hot and humid all week and we had each attempted to run earlier in the week, which didn't go well.  But we were committed to running this together.  We had to run through sand, pavement and the woods.  It was miserable but we gutted it out.  Here is some evidence of the brutality of it:

Thankfully, we spent the day hanging out at the pool and lake.  It was so nice to be able to play with the kids but relax as well since it wasn't just Brett and I watching the kids.  It's impossible to relax around water when it's just one-on-one because you have to be on top of where the kids are the whole time.  So having an extra set of adults there to help was really nice.  I got plenty of sun too!

That evening we drove to the other side of Orlando to have dinner at John's favorite restaurant The Black Hammock.  It was in the middle of nowhere on the banks of a lake whose claim to fame was having the most "gators" in all of Florida.  The food was ok, the scenery was pretty good and watching the kids eat gator bites was memorable (they really do taste like chicken). 

After dinner I was on the receiving end of a little surprise birthday party!  Dick and Sharon had gotten me a cake and we enjoyed that while I opened presents.  I got a new pair of Tinkerbell earrings (which I had picked out earlier), a black dress jacket and money to buy and iPhone with! 

Friday was our next planned day at Disney.  This one was going to be special, we were going to Hollywood Studios which  happened to be having one of their annual Star Wars weekends that day!  Brett and I dropped the kids and Dick and Sharon off at the park because we had to go to ESPN Zone to pick up our bibs and theme park tickets for the Expedition Everest Challenge on Saturday night.  We did wait for the kids to get into the park before leaving so we were able to see two Storm Troopers walking on top of the entrance, doing a little skit.  Boba Fett showed up there and Matthew got really excited to see him, he's one of Matthew's favorites.  We knew today was going to be a fun day for our Little Man.  

Brett and I headed out to the ESPN Zone where they were gearing up for the World Cup's first game.  We had to burn an hour before packet pickup started so we watched the beginning of the World Cup which was a little crazy with the fans there.  Once packet pickup opened, we grabbed our stuff and free tickets and headed back to Hollywood.  We found the kids standing in line to get Darth Vader's autograph!!  Of course we had to get a family picture.

We saw many, many character from all the Star Wars movies.  Kylie even got excited about seeing them.  We also rode some rides and enjoyed the Block Party Parade.  Kylie was brought out into the parade to dance with the cast members and had a blast getting down. 

We also saw Princess Leia and we were getting her autograph and Matthew was playing shy with her, as usual.  While we were sitting there, all of a sudden Chewabacca walks up to us!  He was heading for a break (can't blame the guy, he was huge, wearing a full fur outfit and it was 90 degrees outside).  He must have noticed Matthew playing shy and decided to stop.  What a treat!  Kylie got a hug and Brett called him a "walking carpet" which brought quite the reaction from Chewy and Leia!  We enjoyed a delicious Italian dinner at Mama Melrose's.  The food was SO good.  I had no problem finishing my plate!  It was a perfect way to spend my 35th birthday.