Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Morning with Valor

What we do at Aunt Mimi's house.
 We dream big dreams.
 We do our chores.
 We get our exercise.
 We try to make friends with each other.
 We make messes.
We entertain ourselves.
 We fuel for our race the next day.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Des Moines Half Marathon

Are you ready for the full version of my first half marathon race? Are you sure? A half marathon is 13.1 miles long...

My friend, Amber, has been joining me on my long runs for the past two and a half months. About every other Saturday we would wake up early (4:45-5:00) and hit the road for 12-14 miles. She wasn't training for anything. She was just going out to run with me to see if she could do it. What a rock star! 

I was using the training plan of Half Marathon: Own It from Train Like a Mother for my trail races this fall. Essentially, I wanted a plan that would toughen me up for trail running. It happened to get me over 13.1 miles three times and all the way to 15 miles, which is my race distance I'm going for currently (25k). 

The trail race I was hoping to run filled up sooner than I expected and I didn't get in. So I thought, well, why not jump in the Des Moines Half? Amber, the awesome, said she'd join me. And that's how we found ourselves Sunday morning lining up with the masses in downtown Des Moines. 

I have the most pictures of this race because Bill and the kids came to cheer us on. Audrey manned the camera and documented the morning.

Here they are... walking towards the race course and walking away from the parking ramp, of which the exact location was forgotten and took a while to locate post-race.    

This is towards the beginning of the race, maybe between mile 1 and 2. I didn't know where they would be and when I spied them, I was obviously thrilled. 

Hahaha! I meant to show you this picture to highlight that when you're running, you look for things to look at and you can tell that from the other runners looking over towards us. But, if you look carefully, it looks like a giant water bottle is running. See? It has red shoes, blue tights... Ahahaha!

And then I attacked everyone in my family with a hug and kiss. 

And then Amber and I ran away, not knowing when we would see them again.

Since there were approximately 10,000 athletes over the weekend running the full marathon, half, 5k, my family took to a coffee shop for warmer spectating.

Then they were off to find another spot to watch us. Notice the clothes strewn along the sidewalk. No, there weren't any naked people running. 
There were a couple of things I didn't know how to deal with for this race. One was the parking and, thankfully, we found a parking spot very quickly. The other was the wait among the tall buildings before the race started. It would be about 35-40 degrees during that time and I wasn't going to be warmed up yet from running. I asked on Run Like A Mother's Facebook page about what to do and the loud and clear answer was throw away clothes. Layer up with old clothes for before the race then ditch them as you need to. So I grabbed an old sweatshirt from my closet and a pair of old sweatpants from Audrey's closet and wore those to the start. I took them off about 10 minutes before the start and put them on the sidewalk. A shelter service comes around, bags them up, and takes care of them for their uses.

 Looks like they found a spot.

 Good thing, too, because here come Amber and I. This is about mile 11. 
Note the girl with the blue shirt and yellow lei around her neck. She became Amber's target (in a nice competitive way).

We're still waving, smiling, arms out happy, but we are so close to the finish that hugs and kisses are going to have to wait.
The guy in black in front of us said he was sad because the yelling and cheering was for him, not us. I assured him it was also for him because I think you should take all cheering and all signs made for someone else as positive energy for yourself as well. He was wearing a shirt that said something about Parkinson's Awareness. I don't know why but I do know that a lot of people run for different things and it is touching and powerful. I couldn't think about those kinds of things during the race because it would make me weepy and I knew I was probably going to cry at the end anyway. 

I'm probably telling Amber that right now. We talked the entire race up to the last mile or so. A running buddy makes the miles fly by. 

All throughout the race bands and musicians are set up and play while you pound out the miles. It's mostly entertaining although I would say I would have liked them all to keep their soul searching music to a minimum. Race day is the day to have a set list that will make your fingers bleed. This band was chanting "One more mile! One more mile!" That works, too.

I love this shot that Audrey took because it shows how colorful the race was. It did help that the race shirts were bright green but mostly that people were pulling out their bright clothes instead of all black. The more I run, the more colorful I like my running clothes. I think it makes me feel more powerful. 
I also love the masses of people. It was that way the whole race. There is something very meaningful to me when I see thousands of people who have gotten themselves this far. When I look at this I don't see fast or slow paces, sizes or shapes. I see people who for whatever reason have put one foot in front of another and step by step have done something. All the small things have added up and today celebrates that. (See, I told you I get weepy.)

If you go a race, you should try to bring a sign. You should come up with something clever and fun. You should hold it up all the time. If it says Go Courtney!, there may be more than one Courtney out there and I think all Courtney's would appreciate the sentiment. Also, if you make a Go Courtney sign, I'll turn it into Go Mindy or Go Amber. I'm happy for Courtney but my name's not Courtney... I think you get the point.

If anything, you should cheer. Always cheer.

Remember my friend Amanda? About eight weeks ago, while on a marathon training run, she had a little mishap with a car. I know! Nothing was broken, just a severe sprain that took her out for pretty much 6 weeks of running and sidelined her marathon plans. Bummer. BUT... she was able to run the half. We celebrate because she wasn't more hurt or killed and also that despite not running she still crushed 13.1 miles into tiny little bits.  

There aren't anymore pictures of us after we last passed Bill and the kids because we were flying at that point and they were far enough away to not see us finish but I will tell you how it went down...

We passed them and looked at our time. We knew we wouldn't break two hours: sort of the magical goal number for most runners. Amber pointed out that we could break 2:05 though. We were feeling great and what was the worst that would happen for the two of us who were just going out for a nice long run with 10,000 other runners and didn't really have a time goal to begin with? Exactly. We would still finish and it would be our best run yet! 
We had been getting progressively faster the farther into the race we got so turned up the speed even more just to see if we could do it. Amber is great motivation for me. She's strong in the parts where I'm weak. We had been consistently passing people for the last 4-5 miles except for one person: the blue shirt/yellow lei lady. I didn't notice at first but Amber said we would get close to her or side by side and she'd burst on the speed to stay in front. Whether we were her competition or her motivation, we don't know but Amber was slightly competitively annoyed while I found it humorous. I let her go. I was running my own race. I was focused on the time goal and was nearly going all out when we reached the bridge where the finish line was and there she was off to our left and we are in her blind spot. I hit the gas and pass her for Amber's sake. We cross the finish line, hug, and I get a little teary, only the teeniest bit. 

Then we sort of stand around in a daze. We can't believe we just did it! We can't believe we ran as fast as we did. We finished in 2 hours, 4 minutes, 31 seconds! We ran a negative split, meaning we ran the second half of the race faster than the first half!
We get our timing chips cut off our shoes (held on with zip ties), a medal is handed to us and then we stagger off. By now (around a minute later) our muscles are screaming at us. My hip flexors have flexed enough they say and my right calf wasn't as pumped about those last miles as I was. We will our bodies to walk but people are stopping us to take our picture. They say they need a picture of the two women in pink. Are we famous? Do you know you probably can't color fix our shirts to match in Photoshop? Is the bagel I've just taken a bite of showing in my teeth? 

Speaking of food, there was plenty for the athletes, however, we cut the food line, grabbing only chocolate milk, chips and orange slices and bagels. (Why was the fruit at the end of the line?) Jimmy John's is handing out small sandwiches and those look yummy for a little bit later on. We skip the BBQ sandwiches (I know! I love me a good BBQ sandwich but not right after 13 miles.), pizza slices, cheese and queso, and beer. There was a lot of great food but we just couldn't stomach it. 

We want our families, heat, a shower and maybe a nap.   

This poster may be Audrey's not so subtle suggestion that she needs to see this immediately. I agree. 

And this is the coffee shop where they hung out before. We made a return visit on the way to the car. Come to find out, the barista was hitting on our daughter and gave her a free shot of espresso with her drink. Bill beat him up and pulverized him in the coffee bean grinder and all is right with the world again. Actually, its all just funny. Don't be mad at that guy and visit them for a cup of coffee if you happen to be in the area. 

After getting in our car, I started checking text messages. I tried to while running but couldn't get my fingers to work long enough to read them! It was still fun to read them afterwards. (I have a very cute video of two nieces doing a cheer for me while one nephew picks his nose but I can't get it loaded on here!)

We were off to Ben's soccer game in another part of Des Moines. I wore my medal all day. When we stopped for lunch, a lady asked if she could see my medal and asked about my race. I asked her if she ran (which she wouldn't have asked to see my medal if she had but I didn't know how to respond) and she didn't but she came to cheer and said it was so inspiring and then she quickly walked away because she was starting to tear up. See? It's not just me! 

Thanks for reading about my first half marathon. Like I said, I never really intended to run a half and this is another part of my running goals, but it was a lot of fun and I'm glad I did it! I'm glad Amber joined me, too!

Note: If you are reading this for half marathon course information, here's my take on it. It is flat. There is only one slight incline and that is crossing the bridge around mile 10 and it's not very long nor steep. The course is well marked, water stations are well taken care of by lots of volunteers and the whole experience is well done. The atmosphere is friendly and cheerful. If you are looking for a good first race, this is a great choice. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread and Marshmallows

I want to write something deep about some things that have been stirring in my soul for a while. About some things that I have wrestled with and have rocked my world once I started taking hold of them. That kind of writing is going to require me to sit and sit and think and tap out and backspace and walk away and come back and down a cup of coffee. Sort of like the scene in You've Got Mail when Tom Hanks is working on the perfect reply to Meg Ryan as to why he stood her up the night before. Except I'm hoping my would be deeper than that.

That kind of writing, however, is not going to happen tonight and I'll tell you why.

It is Thursday night. I have had ten minutes to sit at my computer and somehow that is just long enough to convince myself I can tap out a quick blog post. I remember daily I have a blog and also that I haven't written anything, so if you think I've forgotten, I haven't. Today has been my calmest day of the week. I think. I had Bible study this morning. Bible study now involves me picking up Mama B and Baby K and taking them to church so Mama B can work in the nursery for two hours. She calls it one of her jobs. (Including this one, she now has three. All three occur during the day hours although if you ask her about one shift of one day, she calls it the night shift because she works starting past noon.) Chaos surrounds her. She gets in the car and dumps. I don't know why. Is it because I'm the first outside person she can talk to? Is it because that's what a person so lost in themselves does, not once thinking of me and wondering how I'm doing? I don't know. It's not my decision to make. But I do secretly cry out about the chaos that surrounds her. It makes me laugh out loud sometimes at how ridiculous it all is and yet she can't/won't or is somehow unable to escape it, save for Christ. So I share with her the gospel over and over. She needs Jesus. From where I sit, He is what she needs. So I pray even more and I beg you to continue to pray.

Later on I mop the floor. This is nothing compared to someone knowing Jesus and the God math should always win out but for some unknown reason, I was granted an entire afternoon home, alone, with me and my mop. If I die tomorrow, please know I went out with a semi-clean floor. It's how happy I feel about being able to mop my floor. 

On Wednesday I let Ben sleep in because he had an orthodontist appointment in the middle of the morning. In fact, he skipped school altogether because it was an early out. He was very happy about that. We instead filled our time after the appointment with a little bit of clothes shopping (in a sports store, so he mostly didn't die), grabbing a cup of coffee for me and a big cookie for him and then buying him a hermit crab. It's his third one. After doing a little bit of reading, Ben thinks the first two croaked because we didn't give them enough space to be a hermit crab. I have no idea but now I need to find a 10 gallon tank because that's apparently enough room for one. On the ortho note, Ben will eventually have to have braces as he has an overbite that keeps getting worse instead of better. The good thing is that Bill is very involved in Ben's orthodontics. He gets up from his chair and asks all the questions. Ben is second generation braces on Bill's side.

I don't remember much of Tuesday. I think I did stuff during the day. Like maybe start laundry, which was finally all folded and put away today (so again, if I go, know that Bill has enough undershorts to get him through a week but then someone help out and do a load or two please). Oh, yes, Tuesday. I asked Bill out for a lunch date. We ate at House of Chen. I ordered the Chicken Pad Thai and the Hot and Sour Soup. He got the Honey Shrimp and the Egg Drop Soup. 

It's my week to drive the youngest kids in our little carpool to their school. The drive takes about ten minutes. Four boys: 1 early kindergartener, 1 kindergartener, 2 second graders. The drive is somethin' else, I tell ya. Here's the conversation I overheard Tuesday morning. 
LW: "My mom made cinnamon pull apart bread yesterday."LH: "Actually, all bread can be pulled apart."DH: "Yeah, that's right!"CH: "I have marshamallows in my lunch." 
That right there, my friends, is good logic. 

In a very longish way, that's how I'm getting to my what 2 eat. I made cinnamon pull apart bread Monday afternoon because somewhere between helping a friend move stuff into her new art studio and all the rest of life, I thought it a good idea. I originally pinned Joy the Baker's recipe but ended up using Pioneer Woman's recipe, which is her cinnamon roll recipe, which by the way baffles me. I have no idea how only stirring milk, yeast, sugar and flour and then letting it sit an hour only to add baking powder and baking soda in at the end is able to produce a dough that is immediately usable as bread dough. It goes against all my years of bread making. But if you are new to bread making or now have your interest piqued by my description of her method, then you should give Ree's recipe a try. And if you aren't up for it now, go for the marshmallows. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Spiced Carrots and Honey Mustard Chicken

Ben and I harvested the carrots the other day. Besides our cherry tomatoes, this was our one crop that turned out well. At first he wasn't thrilled to join me but then he got to see what all those months of watering and waiting had produced and went to town pulling the rest for me.

He liked pulling the really big ones.

To Ben's right is a good crop of kale, in the middle are the carrots, and to his left is the broccoli that never would be.

We didn't thin them as recommended and so we pulled several clumps. 

I've had this carrot recipe for a long time. I made them for the first time when I needed to feed a bunch of guys who came over to help our re-roof our first home. In the kitchen I had help from the guys' wives: Marcia, Michelle, Miranda, Mindy and me. We cooked up a feast for our hungry bunch and these carrots were on the menu. They were a hit then and they are a hit now.

Spiced Carrots 
  • 5 large carrots, julienned or sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
Place carrots in saucepan; cover with water and cook until tender, about 8-10 minutes. Drain. Pour butter, sugar, salt and cinnamon over carrots and toss to coat. Serve immediately. Serves 4-6

Depending on the size of carrots you are using, this may or may not make 4-6 servings. I'd say, make more than you think just in case your kids gobble them up. 

I served them with Honey Mustard Chicken. This recipe comes my friend Jayme via our church cookbook, though I've made some modifications for boneless breasts. You could replace the chicken with pork chops and it be equally yummy.

Honey Mustard Chicken
  • 4-6 chicken breasts or boneless pork chops
  • 1/2 c. butter, melted
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 1/4 c. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
Place chicken in a baking dish. Combine butter, honey, mustard, curry powder and salt and pour over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes until tender and cooked through. Baste occasionally. 

I'm not a food stylist or food blogger, but this is still a yummy plate of food.
Are you enjoying this What 2 Eat series? Is it helping with your own weekly menu planning? 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Always On the Go

Audrey. Sophomore year. Fall. Growing up. 

Let's all come to an understanding that no one stays in band nor joins marching band for the uniforms. She's in it for the fun, the music, the friends.

Explanation of uniforms: both girls are in the correct marching band attire; boy on left is in the correct marching band drum major attire; boy in suit and crown is in the correct Homecoming king attire, except he forgot to grab his mouthpiece, which is why he is smiling and pretending to play. (Audrey got his solo that night. It was two notes. I didn't notice.)

Ames Homecoming, '13. Same group of friends as last year, different boy. New dress, though. You may notice he doesn't have a flower. I dropped the ball on that one. Do either of them care? He thinks they're uncomfortable; she thinks they're kind of stupid. Win- win! 

Very shadowy on the faces. We were fighting daylight, late arrivals, hungry boys and high heels. It all worked out.


Homecoming date from last year. Is it weird that they also match? 

I have an announcement: Audrey has her school permit!!...!

She'll be driving herself to musical practice now!

I'm not sad or scared at all!!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Lake Vacation

Have you ever had one of those super relaxing vacations? The kind where there was very little work, you could shut down and play and the only thing you had to worry about at the end was when the raw spots on your elbows would heal. 

That was the kind of vacation we had at the beginning of July. Our good friends, Brian and Michelle, invited us to spend the Fourth on their lake in Missouri. We took them up on their offer and never once regretted it. 

 We spent most of our time on/in the lake. The kids had never water-skied nor tubed nor been on a boat or really played in a lake. Bill is a fantastic teacher and we have some pretty determined kids. Audrey worked and worked at getting up and staying up on her skis and by the end of the second day she was up for a while. 

 But most of the time she preferred hanging out on the boat, catching some rays. She also spent some time getting to know Karina. We became friends with Brian and Michelle when we all lived in Ames. Audrey and Karina are about six months apart. We have pictures of them playing together. It took a while for them to get comfortable hanging out with each other. I mean, their moms and dads are friends, so there's no pressure or anything. 

The dads climbed aboard the tube and Michelle tried to give them a run of it.

Did I mention how relaxing this weekend was? 

 Karina has been working on slalom skiing for a while. It took some mental conquering but within a few attempts she was up!

The whole boating, tubing, skiing thing to this kid is just another thing to master. 

He and Steffan took to the tube and each other right away. 

This kid did not take to the boating thing right away. 

Brian pretty much gave it all he could to whip these girls around. Karina thrived while Audrey endured.

We coaxed Luke out of the boat and on to the tube and guess what? He liked it! He likened going over the waves to going over a whoops section in motocross (it's never out of our minds) and wondered if Villapoto ever tubed. 

Sometimes holding your head up against the pull of the boat is tiring.

And then you're done.

This is a different kind of whoops. 

Bill took a turn at skiing and did well. I strapped them on, as well, and got up right away but couldn't stay up. After more than a handful of wipeouts and wedgies, I was done.

Our kids and Brian and Michelle's kids are all within months of each other. Audrey and Karina; Ben and Marissa; Luke and Steffan. Of course, Ben wasn't going to play with Marissa just because she is his age, so Audrey and Karina stayed by her side and Luke tagged along with Ben and Steffan.

I told you he was determined. The boy was soaked clear through to bone but he got up and stayed up.

And then there was fishing in the early morning. They caught and released and enjoyed the quiet. 

 Since we were there for the weekend of the Fourth, they took us to see the fireworks on the lake. We watched from the boat and it was fun but driving back in the dark on the lake with all the other boaters was not fun.

Michelle and I got to spend some time chatting here and there, even though neither of us are pictured. We all hung out with all of their lake friends, enjoyed a rib supper, set off our own fireworks (legal in Missouri but not in Iowa), floated in the lake, lounged, talked some more. *sigh* It was, sincerely, such a great time.

Thanks for inviting us, Brian and Michelle, we'd love to come back.