Friday, April 26, 2013

Dauphin Island Bike Ride

Last week we were on spring break. One of the perks of both Ali and I being teachers is that we are off when our kids are off. We decided to keep things close to home, as neither of us were in a hurry to take another trip out of town. On Thursday we decided to get the kids (and our friend Simon who was visiting from England) out of the house and take our bikes to Dauphin Island. We have been to the island many, many times...but this was our first time trying out the bike trail. We started our ride at Fort Gaines.

The thing I loved the most about the trail is that it was separate from the road, yet wide enough for us to all ride comfortably. We had no issues passing other bikers or runners/walkers. It was smooth and paved the whole way, which made it easy for the kids to navigate. It was also really flat, so it was perfect for a long, leisurely ride on a gorgeous afternoon.

We had originally planned to just go a few miles, but the kids decided to keep going! About 4 miles in, we found the beach. We stopped to rest a few minutes and let the boys rest their legs.

The beach was absolutely beautiful and empty. We were a little sad that we hadn't thought to bring our beach gear and spend a few hours in the sun. At this point we decided that Ali would take the boys back to a little ice cream stand we had passed earlier, and Simon and I would ride on for another mile or so.

Here are the boys enjoying their cold treats. They sure earned that ice cream. They never once complained about being tired, hungry, or thirsty the whole day! Any parent out there knows what a feat that is!! Haha

From there we decided to head on back to the truck. Along the way we passed the water tower that welcomes everyone to the island.

Just a little distance down the road we encountered the most delicious smell coming from a road side barbecue stand. We decided to stop here for lunch. Ali and I had the brisket sandwich. It was soooo yummy! This little place was quite busy and the wait was a little long, but the food was good.

Our bike ride ended back at the fort. Ali and the kids rode 8.5 miles, while Simon and I logged 10.5. We had passed the ferry earlier in the day, so we decided to catch the ferry back across the bay. There are two ferries that run from Dauphin Island to Fort Morgan. During the slow season only one of the ferries runs. Here is what the ferry looks like empty...

And here it is full. It cost us $25 dollars to take my truck (and the 5 people in it) back across the bay.

Here is our crew. For once we got everyone looking at the camera and looking halfway normal. My boys are horrible at making faces when the camera is out. Haha.

After about 35 minutes on board, we were docking up in Fort Morgan. It was a perfect day to cruise across the bay. This is a trip that we will be repeating again this summer. Maybe next time we can bike all the way to the end of the island and take our beach gear :)

Do you have a favorite family activity to do on school breaks?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Boston's Freedom Trail

If you ever go to Boston, make sure you check out the Freedom Trail! The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile walking trail that connects 16 historical sites in downtown Boston. The trail is an actual brick (or painted red line in some places) path that you follow along. You can start the trail at Boston Common and work your way along, or simply jump in like we did. I later learned that there is an app you can download that serves as a tour guide of the trail! That would have been great! Here is what the trail looks like. We took this picture in front of the church.

The curriculum that I teach in my 5th grade classroom covers the American Revolution, so going to Boston was a dream trip for me!! There were so many places that I wanted I see. On the top of my list was the Old North Church. When we arrived at the church, it was like stepping back in history. I tried to imagine what the city would have looked like in 1775 when those two lanterns were lit as a signal to Paul Revere.

Tourists are allowed inside the church, and we listened to a short presentation about the significant role the belfry of the church played in the Revolution. I was glad for the little lesson, as Ali (being from England) was clueless about this part of American history. I have him the 5th grade version, and was glad to have the presenter give a little more detail. The inside of the church was beautiful. We were allowed to sit in one of the boxes to listen to the speaker, which I thought was so neat!! Here is a picture of the inside of the church.

After leaving the church, we followed the trail along and came to this statue of Paul Revere riding his steed and shouting out his warning.

Our tour continued as we followed the path of red bricks straight to Paul Revere's house. The trail sure made finding our next stop easy!! This marker was located right outside the house.

This is the house that Paul was living in when he rode on his famous midnight ride. The house itself was built in 1680, but Paul purchased it in 1770. I paid $3.50 to tour the house, which is decorated as if the Revere family were still living there. Unfortunately photographs were not allowed inside the house. The ticket guy overheard me telling another guest that I was a teacher, and gave me a teacher packet full of neat facts and activities to use in my classroom.

Look who I ran into in the yard!! It's none other than Henry Wadsworth Longfellow!! He is the poet made famous by his poem "Paul Revere's Ride". Of course this guy is just an actor...but he took on the role well. He was actually doing some readings of his poetry there at the house. He also had some writing activities for children to do while they were there.

As we walked out of the yard, we ran into our friend Tristan!! She was out walking the trail while her husband was resting up for the marathon. Ali decided then that he'd had enough history lessons and walking, and he decided to follow Steve's lead and rest up too. He headed back to the hotel, and Tristan and I continued along the trail.

Our next stop on the Freedom Trail was the Old State House. The Boston Massacre occurred just in front of this building. This is also the site where the Declaration of Independence was read aloud to the public in 1776!

This brick design marks the site of the Boston Massacre. Here I tried to imagine what it must have been like that night when the colonists were taunting those soldiers. I could imagine the tense atmosphere and anger that they must have all felt.

Inside the house we found a coat that had belonged to John Hancock. Doesn't it look hot and stuffy? Those poor guys wore this kind of thing even in the heat of summer! Imagine wearing this many layers in a crowded meeting hall with all the doors and windows shut tight. No wonder these guys were moody.

Our tour ended there for the day as we both wanted to get back to our husbands and get ready for dinner. I had such an amazing time exploring this part of American history. There were just a few places left on my list of "must sees" that I didn't get to on this trip. We had planned on visiting the Boston Tea Party on Monday after the race, but unfortunately that didn't quite work out. That is ok though, as I would love to return to Boston with our boys at one point in the future. It would be a great stop on a summer road trip!!
This last picture was taken at the Public Garden in Boston Common. What a beautiful place. I look forward to returning one day soon.

Have you ever been to Boston? Are there any historical sites you would love to visit?

Young Life 5K

On Sunday, April 21st Tyler and I participated in the Young Life 5K. This race benefited the Young Life organization. This is a non denominational Christian organization that helps teach children about God and how to make good choices that can have a positive impact on their future. What a great cause!!

This race was held at the 5 Rivers Delta on the Causeway, and we could see downtown Mobile in the distance. Five Rivers is a Delta Resource Center. There are outdoor classrooms and many exhibits that feature plants and animals from the Alabama Delta ecosystem. This was a great place for a 5K! Part of the course was on pavement, part on gravel, and part on woody trails.

The race started at 4:15, after the one mile fun run. It was pretty warm at race start time. The course that we had to run took us around one loop twice. I'm not really a fan of running past the finish line halfway through a race...but it was nice to see the spectators there cheering us on. Ali and Darby chose not to run this race, so Tyler and I signed up with our friend Simon who is visiting us from England this week. Tyler was ready to "beat Mommy". He sure takes after his daddy with his leg speed. At the start he blasted ahead of me. Here is a great picture of Tyler starting his race.

And here is Tyler coming around mile 1 1/2! Notice Simon and I are nowhere in sight! I was worried about Tyler running in the heat, so I was glad Ali was there to make sure he was ok and offer him some water.

And here he comes around mile two, already on his second loop of the course. He was flying!

Here come Simon and I to begin our second loop. It was sooooo hot!! I was glad that I had a bottle of water to carry with me. I think I drank most of the bottle along the course. I really wanted to pour it over my head! Simon was having a hard time with the distance as he wasn't used to our Alabama heat and humidity. After the first loop we split up so I could keep my pace. I was so happy to see the finish line at the end. I was a little disappointed though, when I realized that the course was a little short. My Garmin registered my run as 2.8 miles :( I didn't complain too much though, as I was ready to be done and head to the cookout.

Tyler had an awesome race! He finished in 23 minutes and would have set a PR if the course had been a full 5K. He was very excited to have finished ahead of me and Simon. He was waiting at the finish line to cheer us in.

And here I am trying to cool off after the race. I wore my Run Boston shirt and Sweaty Band that I got at the Boston Marathon Expo. After the race there was a family style cookout. There were hotdogs, hamburgers. And a crawfish boil!!! Those crawfish sure were yummy. Tyler insists that was his favorite part of the race. He says the hardest part of the race was cracking those shells! He is so silly :)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Boston Marathon Expo and the Boston Marathon

This post was difficult to write. I even debated on not writing it at all. It is told from a spectators view point, as of right now Ali has no interest in reliving his Boston run. That may change in the future...we will see. Why did I decide to write it anyway? Because I must admit that I loved being in Boston and am very proud of Ali's run. We didn't get any post-race celebratory or medal photos, but I made do with what we had.

Sunday morning after I finished the B.A.A. 5K we headed over to the Boston Marathon Expo. This was, by far, the largest expo I've been to recently. The only other expo that I have been to that would compare is the London Marathon Expo. There were thousands of people in there it seemed. The first place the guys went was to get their jackets. The marathon jackets this year are blue and yellow. I love the bright colors!! Here is a picture of Ali, Dale, Jim, and Kenny.

The sense of excitement in the expo was awesome! Ali picked up his race bib and finishers shirt. We snapped this pic as we were walking into the merchandise area.

Ali had gotten an email about a free gift from the Rock and Roll table for any runner who qualified for Boston at one of their races. Ali qualified at the New Orleans we wandered over to see what they had. He received this awesome Brooks hat, and I got this cool water bottle for wearing my RNR bag :)

We must have wandered around from booth to booth sampling protein products and hydration drinks for an hour!! After we had our fill of free samples, we decided to hit the Freedom Trail and tour Boston a little. Lucky for Ali, we ran into my friend Tristan... so he was able to return to the hotel to rest up while I toured the city with her. I'll post about that later this week :)

Monday morning came very early for us. Ali got up very early to start hydrating, and to walk to the bus that would take him to the start of the race. He was out the door by 6, yet the race wouldn't start for another 4 hours! I got up a little later and wandered on down to the finish line to meet Tristan. She had gotten down there very early to reserve us some amazing viewing spots! How awesome is she?!? She even bought some cool seats so we wouldn't have to stand the whole time. It sure made our 5 hour wait much more enjoyable!! We sat in front of the Lenox, which was prime spectating territory.

Here is a picture I took of the finish line before it got crowded with runners. It was amazing to see how many volunteers were working "behind the scenes" to get ready for the athletes to cross the line. The first racers started arriving before we knew it. I really enjoyed seeing the wheelchair racers come through. They amaze me. I have so much respect for anyone who has that much upper body strength! They came flying across the line. A few hours after the start we started getting anxious to see the elite runners come down Boylston Street. The very nice woman police officer who was standing in front of us was kind enough to keep us updated on the status of the runners. Whenever she got an update, she'd pass it along to us. I felt like aVIP!

Here is a great photo of Tristan and me waiting patiently on our husbands and friends. We had a great system going in order to keep track of our crew. This year the B.A.A. had a great app available for tracking runners. I downloaded the app on my iPhone and iPad. We received regular updates on my phone until it died an hour into the race. I then began trying to log onto wifi in the area to continue with our coverage on the iPad. Too bad for me that I couldn't get logged on to a very good connection. Thankfully Tristan had her phone too...though her battery was quickly dying on us too.

The app let us know approximately when the guys would be coming our way. Our friend Kenny was the first one we saw. He was flying and finished with a PR in 2:49:18!!! Ali came running through next in 3:02:56. I was so proud of him. I was glad he knew where I was standing, or else he may have missed us in the thousands of people that were around us. The noise level from the cheering crowd was amazing, and my cow bell didn't seem to be very loud. Haha!! Next came Steve (Tristan's hubby). He ran on over to the barricade and gave Tristan a huge kiss!!! It was the sweetest finish of the day. We missed the rest of our group due to the sheer number of people finishing at that time, and because we didn't know what they were wearing.
It was a challenge getting to the family meeting area, but we eventually made it. Tristan and I split up there to find our husbands. It had been a fantastic morning, and we were ready to celebrate a job well done by the guys!!

Unfortunately, our jolly moods were soon shattered as Ali and I headed back towards the finish line area. We had been back in our hotel room so he could shower and change when we decided to wander back down to enjoy the atmosphere and do a little site seeing. As we neared the finish area we heard the two explosions. The day quickly turned into a waking nightmare. The events of that afternoon left me nervous and shaky for nearly a week. Hours of excitement and fun was ruined in a matter of seconds. I pray every day for the unfortunate victims of that act of terrorism.

Will we ever attend another large running event? Absolutely. Will we sign up to run in a world famous venue ever again? Without a doubt. My family and I will keep running and racing. We will continue to stand at the finish lines and cheer on our friends. Will we ever forget how we felt on that Patriot's Day? NEVER. But we will only use that to make us stronger.

The Boston 5K

Writing this recap was very therapeutic for me tonight. I have been struggling with the events that occurred at the marathon finish line, and writing this blog post helped me to relive some of the joy I felt in Boston. Here are my memories of the B.A.A. 5K:

Ali and I landed in Boston late Saturday night. Thank goodness we found a room close to the AT the airport! We stayed at the Hilton at Boston Logan Airport. It was so convenient to be able to walk off our plane, and on over to Terminal E where the hotel is located. Check in was really quick considering there was only one guy working the desk. We found our room easily and started making our preparations for the next morning. I laid out my race gear and set my alarm extra early. We had to be out of the room by 6 in order to catch the hotel shuttle to the T station. We were going to have to catch the train into the city so I could get to race packet pick up.

Sunday morning we were up at 5:30 to get ready for the day. I threw on my race gear and packed a bag of warm clothes to change into after the race, and we flew out the door. We were disappointed when the shuttle we needed to get on filled up and left without us, but another shuttle pulled up just a few seconds later. Our shuttle driver was awesome!! Not only did he take us to the T station, but he walked us inside and showed us on the map where to get off for Copley Square. He then marched over to the ticket machine and showed us how to purchase our 7 day transit passes. Talk about customer service!! With a "Have a great time in Boston!" he was out the door before we could even give the guy a tip.

The ride on the T was quicker than we expected too. Switching lines was easy, and even with our luggage the trip went very smoothly. We arrived in Copley Square around 6:45, just in time to pick up my packet and find a port-a-potty. It was FREEZING outside and the wind wasn't helping. Thankfully the packet pick-up was held inside a heated tent. I received my bib number and took a look at the map of the course I would be running. I hung out inside the tent next to a heater and did some stretching. Ali made his way to our next hotel to drop off our luggage. Luckily for him, our hotel was less than a half mile away. Here is the map of the 5K course from the BAA website:

About 30 minutes before race time, the announcer directed everyone to the starting line. I reluctantly left the warmth of the tent and ventured out into the cold once more. Once outside, we were directed to find a place near our predicted pace per mile. I positioned myself at the 10 min mile there was no 12 minute mile sign. I was really nervous as there were only a handful of people behind me! I didn't want to be the very last soul across the finish line. Luckily for me, the chute slowly began to fill up as more people made their way to the start. At this point I began to pray that my KT tape and knee brace would be a magic combination. I also realized at this point that Ali had my sunglasses. I quickly called him and asked him to hand them off to me along the course.

The National Anthem was sung, and before I knew it we were off! It was very crowded in the beginning, and I had a hard time getting going at a steady pace. The roads were very crowded, and then someone had the bright idea of jumping up on the sidewalks. The poor spectators were quickly enveloped as the runners descended down on them. By getting off of the street, I was able to develop a steady stride by the time I saw Ali at around a 1/2 mile. He was waiting by the Public Garden at Boston Common. I was so happy to see him!! He took this photo of me as I was reaching out for my sunglasses.

I was feeling really good at this point and I was just beginning to warm up a little. I continued around the perimeter of the garden and saw Ali again! I let him know I was feeling good and continued on my way. I spent most of my run looking up at the buildings. There are so many beautiful old buildings and churches to see. I am surprised that I didn't fall and break my neck as I did trip a few times on the uneven roads.

Around mile 2, I realized that my knees were feeling fantastic!! I believe I had some huge cheesy grin on my face the whole time beyond this point. I was feeling elated at how well I was running. I hadn't run more than two consecutive miles since the Double Bridge Run in early February. This realization gave me the boost I needed to carry on though to mile 3. I surprised myself by not needing to take a walk break along the way. The only time I slowed was to grab water at two of the water stops.

The most memorable part of the course for me was turning into Boylston Street. There were spectators cheering loudly on both sides of the street...and I could see the finish line in the distance!!! The atmosphere gave me even more energy and I started running downhill towards the finish line. I picked up the pace and my goofy grin turned ridiculous at that point :) I heard my name being called, and looked over to see our friends Steve and Tristan cheering me on. Moments later I heard Ali calling me from the VIP stands on the finish line. I waved to him and crossed over the line. My goal was to finish in 36 minutes...and I completed the 5K in 34:51. I took great satisfaction knowing that I crossed the marathon finish line before Ali would! That will be the only time that would happen. Haha.

I made my way through the finishers chute and was given a food bag and an awesome medal. I was not expecting a medal for the 5K, so that was a huge bonus for me. I made my way back towards the finish line and found Ali and some more of our friends who would be running the marathon the next day. I was so touched that they came to watch me race. I may be as slow as molasses, but I felt like a winner with them all there. The runner's high I got that morning lasted well into the evening for me. After the 5K we walked on to the marathon expo, and then walked part of the Freedom Trail. The day was perfected by a pre-marathon carb loading dinner out with our group of friends. Stay tuned for my thoughts on the marathon expo, and Ali's recap of his marathon experience.

Here I am before the race, and with Ali afterwards.

We were given really cool race shirts too!! Here is my shirt, bib number, and medal. Too bad the shirt fits a little big. It may find its way into Ali's closet.

And here is my big finish :) I crossed the line before Ali!!