Thursday, December 30, 2010

What I have learned about running

Yesterday was my first run in 2 weeks.  I have had a funny pain in my left leg for a few weeks and was worried that I had another stress fracture.  I may have a bit of a hypochondriac personality in me when it comes to stress fractures.  Anyways, after a visit to the sports doc and a bone scan, I just have a strange case of shin splints.  So, with the green light to run, yesterday I put on my Vibrams and ran 5 miles.  It felt so good to run again.  And as I was running, I began to realize that I have learned a lot about running over the last year.  Many things that can also be applied to the spiritual life.
1.  As much as you think you know, there still is a lot to learn.

2.  There is more to running than just lacing up your shoes and hitting the pavement.

3.  There are people, the saints experts, that have run these trails before you.  Read what they have to say.  Follow their instructions.  Some of it may feel counter intuitive, but try it.  Remember they have run the race successfully.  They will help you get to the finish line better than if you tried to wing it.

4.  Running takes having faith in yourself.

5. It takes having even more faith in God.

6. It is good to be cautious.

7. Sometimes you need to throw caution to the wind.

8.  There will be runners who are faster than you, have better form than you.  It seems that it all comes naturally to them.  But everyone has the same critical decision to make when the alarm goes off in the morning.  Snooze? Yes or No? Run? Yes or No?

9. It doesn't matter that there are people who are more gifted runners than you.  Just run

10. Running is more mental that physical.  It is the constant choice to take another step or to give up.  Press on.

11.  There is an amazing community of living saints  runners right outside your door.  Lean on them.  Develop friendships with them.  They will help you get to the finish line.  And make the journey more enjoyable too!

12.  Running in Vibrams, through snow = cold, wet toes!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Grand Illumination

 After the race we headed back to where we were staying for a late breakfast. A took a nap and J and K went into the Jacuzzi. After getting cleaned up, we headed to our favorite Mexican restaurant in Williamsburg and then made our way to Colonial Williamsburg for the Grand Illumination.

In the 18th century an illumination was used to celebrate a military victory, the birthday of the Monarch or the arrival of a new colonial governor and was celebrated by gun fire and fireworks. But today, the Grand Illumination marks the beginning of the Christmas Season and the birth of the King of Kings.

This was the first year we had come to Williamsburg for the Grand Illumination. I had heard it was beautiful, so I was happy that we were able to come down at the time of Grand Illumination. As we drove down the road next to Colonial Williamsburg, we noticed that there were cars EVERYWHERE. People were walking from a far distance to make their way into Colonial Williamsburg. Cars had driven over the curb and were parked anywhere there was open grass to park. My hubby decided to drop us off at one of the entrances and then go look for a place to park. Once I got the boys completely bundled (it was, after all, COLD), we headed to the Governor’s Palace.

The Grand Illumination occurs at four different places throughout Colonial Williamsburg; The Capital Building, The Market Square, The Magazine, and the Governor’s Place. At each place, a stage was set up and various entertainment was occurring. There were Colonial actors putting on Colonial period entertainment. After that, a local choir sang Christmas songs and conducted a sing along. Shortly after we arrived, it became dark. The area had large basket-like torches burning to keep the crowds warm, and to light the area. There were thousands of people just by the Governor’s Palace alone.

We were standing to the right of the Palace, close to the stage. The boys were getting restless. One was complaining that he was cold; the other was complaining that he could not see the stage; and A just yelled to get down and run (there was no way that was happening in the dark, with the large crowd we were in). The choir finished up and the fife and drum band came to the stage. Silence. Silence among all my children. It is like the fife and drum corps has a magical power over them. Suddenly they were all well behaved and captivated by the sounds coming from the stage. The entire fife and drum corps was present that evening, but split between the four different stages around the town. The senior members, along with the leader were performing on our stage. They performed for about a half an hour and then the fireworks began.

Over the years, I have seen many fireworks displays. I have seen them in parks growing up, special fireworks celebrations, and even 4th of July fireworks in our Nation’s Capital, but none compared to this fireworks display. And, to be honest, I am not sure why. Maybe it was the fact that they were taking place in such a historical location. Maybe it was because, as they shot off into the air, they illuminated the 18th century Palace behind them. Or maybe it was just because it was the Grand Illumination. But, whatever it was, this was the most memorable fireworks I have ever been to. The fireworks displays throughout Colonial Williamsburg were all the same and all timed together. As we watched the fireworks in front of us light up the sky, we turned around to see the exact same ones lighting up the sky behind us. There were fireworks that sounded and looked like gun fire. There were fireworks that mimicked cannon fire. The photographs throughout this post do not do justice to the beauty of the night.

The fireworks lasted for about 20 min. Once they were done, the crowd slowly began to thin out. Entertainment began on the stage again, so we decided to stay. The first band was the Richmond Pipe and Drum band; a Scottish bagpipe and drum corps. They were wonderful and the boys were entranced. After they were done, more of the Colonial Williamsburg fife and drum corps played various period instruments. We stayed until they finished and then headed back to where we were staying.

The night was a beautiful night. I would recommend anyone try to see it if they can, if you do not mind the cold and the crowds. It was a memorable experience!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mother and son cross the finish line

I wrote this post while still on vacation, but I went "unplugged" and could not post until now.  The race was Dec.5th

 This past Sunday was the Christmas Town Dash 8K. J and I had been registered for this race for a while and he has been running and training for it since October. The past few weeks of training had been lagging. Everyone had been sick and between that and Thanksgiving, J had not logged many miles lately. I was excited for the race, but nervous for my little guy. After all, he is only 7, and tackling 5 miles is quite an accomplishment.

We got down to Williamsburg Saturday afternoon and headed straight to the expo to pick up our race packets. The race was sponsored by Chick-fil-a, our favorite family restaurant, so there were Chick-fil-a cows and free samples to be had. K decided he would go up to every cow there and tell them that he would be running with them tomorrow! There was and Chick-fil-a cow dressed as an elf there and K proclaimed that he would beat that cow!!

When we went up to the table to pick up our packets, the woman looked at J and said, “Oh, are you doing the Running with the Cows fun run? You need to go to that table.” I looked at J and J said, “No, I am doing the 8K.” The lady looked stunned and said, “Oh, really!” Then she got his race packet for him. J got a few comments like that at the expo, and I must admit, I was worried. Maybe I should not have entered him in the race. Maybe 5 miles is too much for him. He had run 5 miles in training, but maybe he is just too young. But, even with my concerns, we enjoyed the rest of the expo and ended up with tons of free food coupons from Chick-fil-a, including 5 free peppermint chocolate chip shake coupons (yummy)!!!!

There is the Elf Cow K was determined to beat!

K before the Running of the Cows
The next morning, I woke up early, got ready and then woke the rest of the family up to feed them. The Running with the Cows race was at 8AM and the 8K at 8:30AM, so we left at 7AM to get there and get settled. The race took place at Busch Gardens. Cars were streaming in when we got there. We got out of the car, packed everyone up and started walking to the start. We were promptly told that the races were delayed a ½ hr due to a major accident on one of the highways. We headed back to the car to stay warm. Oh, did I mention yet? It was COLD!! It was in the low 30’s at that time of the morning and the high for the DAY was only supposed to be in the low 40’s, so we were bundled. I had layers on everyone.

At about 8:15AM, we ventured out of the car and began to make our way to the start. There were 2,000 registered for the 8K, so it was pretty busy and there were people everywhere. My husband, A (in the stroller) and K lined up for the Running with the Cows. They had to line up by age, so because my hubby had the stroller and K was younger, they were in the back. J and I stood on the side to try to take a picture of them. They rang a cow bell to start the race and everyone was off. I was searching for my hubby in the crowd to try to get a photo of K. All of the sudden, I saw K sprinting to catch up with the cows! He had left my hubby far behind and just took off with a huge smile on his face!! I think he is going to be a sprinter! The fun run was a ½ mile long, so they did disappear out of sight for a bit. A minute or two later, the group was running back. I really did attempt to get a picture of K running, but instead I did get a few shots of some random adults who were trying to keep up with their kids! K did beat the elf cow, just as he had proclaimed the day before. And, when he got his “Running with the Cows” dog tag at the end, he could not have been more proud of himself.

Running with the Cows

Heading to the start
 With about 20 min to go before the start of the 8K, I needed to head to the port-a-potty line. The line was long. The family waited in line with me and I finally made it to the front of the line with 1 min to go till the start. I was in the port-a-potty when they said “go.” Since we had timing chips, I was not too concerned with when we crossed the start. But, I ran out of the port-a-potty, ripped my winter jacket off, ripped J’s winter jacket off of him and we headed to the start.

We ran through the start and about ¼ of a mile into the race, I looked at J’s hands. No gloves. “Um, J, where are your gloves?” His response, “Mom, when you took my coat off, they fell off too.” Oh, boy. Did I mention it was cold? My hands were numb with gloves on. “J, you need gloves.” So, I took mine off and put them on him. I called my hubby in hopes that he would get the message and be able to find us somewhere on the course to bring J’s gloves so we could both have gloves again before I got frostbite. Ok, I am exaggerating, a bit.

The first mile and a half of the race was through the parking area of Busch Gardens. We looped around the parking area to make our way into a side entrance of the park. The course was thick with runners. J was running really well and was around an 11 min mile for most of the first mile. I had to slow him down a few times because I did not want him to go too fast and to burn out before we got to the finish line. During that first mile, he got MANY comments too. People all around us, would look at him and say things like, “Wow, look at that little boy run.” Or “He is going faster than me!” One woman passed us and she slowed down, looked at J and said, “You are doing such a great job. That is wonderful that you wanted to do this. You are running strong!”

Once we passed mile marker 1, we took a 1 min walk break. I had planned on doing this every mile. It gave J a chance to catch his breath and it ensured he would not run too fast, because we were running faster that he had during his practice runs. I think the excitement of the race, naturally made him go faster. Plus, anytime someone would say something to him or cheer him on, he would naturally start going faster too.

Once we were at about 1.5 miles, we headed into the park. I had never been to Busch Gardens before, so I did not know what to expect. Right now, they have a Christmas Town going on. The whole place was decorated for Christmas. It was beautiful. We ran on “cobble stone streets”, wooden bridges over a stream. We ran past a castle, an Irish town, a German town, and Pompeii. We saw giant Christmas trees and a giant snow man. Christmas music was playing throughout the whole park. It was so much fun to run through. The miles in the park went by quickly. There was so much to look at and so much to see, that it did not even feel like we were putting forth any effort at all. Also, in the park, the Navy and Marines were there to cheer us on. One of the Marines in dress uniform gave Joshua a high five. And, while we were crossing a bridge, a Marine looked at J and said to him, “Now that is motivation. You go little man.” Of, course J picked up the pace, and a tiny smile lit up his face.

Looking good at 4 miles!
 At 3.5 miles, we headed out of the park to make our way back to the finish line. I had called my hubby, who had taken the other boys back to the van to watch a movie and stay warm, to tell him where we were. J had been consistently running about 1-2 min per mile faster than I expected, so we would finish faster than anticipated and I wanted my hubby to be able to see him finish.

Our pace slowed a bit out of the park. The parking lot was boring compared to where we had just run, and I could tell J was starting to get tired. At about 4.3 miles, we were running up a hill and at the top of the hill, my hubby, K and A were waiting for us. They were cheering and yelling. A ran out on the course to come see me and I picked him up and gave him a big hug. We ran past, said “See you at the finish line” and took off again. We had just a little bit more to go and we would be done. We had to run around a turn and then headed down a slight hill to the finish line. As we ran up to the finish line, people started to cheer. Our names were printed on our race bibs, so people were cheering J by name. They were clapping and saying “Go, J!!” Well, he took off! He sprinted through the finish line! A woman placed the finisher’s medal around his neck and he had a huge smile on his face.

We stayed for a bit. The Chick-fil-a cows were entertaining the crowd by having a “dance party”. We grabbed some of food and hot chocolate. I conversed with a woman wearing Vibrams (I wanted to know if her feet were cold. I was going to wear mine, but my hubby thought my feet would be too cold in them.) After hanging out and watching the festivities for a bit, we decided it was too cold and headed back to our place.

This was the best race I have ever run in. I had the most fun during this race. The t-shirt is cute and the medal is beautiful. The course was fun. The cows were fun to watch too!

But, the real reason this race was so memorable was because I got to do it with J. I am beyond proud of him for working so hard to cross the finish line. I enjoyed every step with him!

After we finished

Monday, December 6, 2010

Amazing woman up for canonization

Last week, I went to a Holy Hour for women at a local parish.  During the gospel reflection, the priest told the story of the life of Elisabeth Leseur, a devout Catholic married to an atheist whom, after her death, became a priest.  Please read their story here.  It is so beautiful.  And, I like to think of here when I am on the verge of complaining how hard my life is!

Friday, December 3, 2010

7 Quick Takes

1.  We are packing up for vacation!  Well, we are leaving tomorrow and I should be packing.  We have finished school and I still have a bunch of other things to do today.  I think I will be up late packing.  I am beginning to wonder why I am writing a blog post.

2.  On this vacation, J and I will be running our 8K on Sunday.  I am excited and nervous for him.  But, I am looking forward to taking each stride with him.

3. Homeschooling has been going really well this week.  And I needed that.  After having several weeks where, at least, once a week, I would hide in the laundry room, call my husband and tell him that we would be enrolling J in school the following day, I needed a good week.  All work was done without much complaint, we got through all of the work before noon, which left extra time for us just to be together, to read together and play together.  I realized something this week, too, about how to make things go more smoothly.  School MUST be started as soon as breakfast is done, beds are made and teeth brushed.  If there is ANY down time after the morning routine, J resists (a lot) starting school.  This means, no morning errands, and, I am sad to say, no AM mass.  9 AM mass is just too disruptive to our AM schedule.  And unfortunately, the 8 AM mass is too early for my youngest, who loves to sleep in.  So for now, no daily mass.  Praise God their is grace in the vocation of motherhood!

4. Marathon training is . . . going.  I am finding that I am worrying alot about running (I have to have SOMETHING to worry about, right??)  But, there actually is a reason.  Last year, at this time, I ran my first half marathon and got a stress fracture in the process.  So, here I am, running distances that I have not run since BEFORE I had the stress fracture and I am worried.  Worried I will get another one.  Worried I will not make it to the marathon.  Now, there is nothing to validate these concerns, but they are there.  I have actually been thinking of running the same half marathon I ran last year, again this year.  It is in two weeks.  I would run it more as a training run, so I would not try to run fast.  But, there is part of me that feels I need to run it to prove to myself that I will be fine and I will not get another stress fracture.

5. Does anyone else's kids go on "hunger strikes"?  A has been on one for months.  He used to be an amazing eater.  He would eat ANYTHING I put in front of him.  But, now he refuses to eat dinner.  Meatballs, which he would eat 5 at a time?  Nope.  Chicken and rice, which he would gobble plate after plate? Nope.  Now, he will eat fruit and most breakfast foods that my other kids won't touch (A loves oatmeal and cream of wheat), but after breakfast, the eating stops unless it is crackers or fruit.  I am trying not to give in.  And there have been nights that he goes to bed hungry because he will not eat dinner.  But, other than that, I am at a loss.  I am not sure how to get him to eat normally again.  Any advice????

6. I love Advent.  Our Jesse Tree is up,  the Advent wreath out and Christmas/Advent music on the CD player.  We do not have our Chirtmas tree, decorations and lights up yet and will not do so for another week, but the celebration of Advent is in full swing.  It has put me in a giving and giveaway mood . . . so watch for a possible giveaway!

7.  We went to Medieval Times last weekend.  Everyone loved it and I have been listening to mock jousts and battles in my living room ever since.  The boys fly at each other!  Last night I asked the boys to go get ready for bed.  While they were upstairs, I could hear the rumble of a battle going on.  When they came downstairs K's lip was bleeding . . . . but there had been no crying?   I asked him what had happened.  He just said, very plainly, "J and I were battling and he kicked me in the face.  I'm fine."  Oh, BOYS!

Have a great weekend everyone!!  Go check out Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes.

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"The Gettysburg Address"

This is a great video of the Gettysburg Address. Beautifully done!