Thursday, May 30, 2013

Getting Smudged

Back in September 2008 I was homeschooling Ashley. This story pre-dates this blog. She was interested in Native Americans so we took her to two places -- Churchvillle Nature Center in Pennsylvania and Plimouth Plantation in Massachusetts. 

I'll admit going into it, my expectations were much higher for Plimouth Plantation. After all they are a huge place with lots of staff and glossy marketing materials. Churchville Nature Center seemed to me the type of place you would pop into once and say "been there, done that, no reason to return." 

I could not have been more wrong.

Yes, Plimouth Plantation was nice, but we caught the place on a bad day, and let's leave it at that. 

Churchville Nature Center exceeded all of our expectations -- even the high ones we had for Plimouth Plantation. Our guide, Miss Patti, gave us the tour through all five stations (birthing hut, garden, games, hunting, and cooking) and answered our questions. We told her we were homeschooling our 1st grader. She said normally when she gives school tours they give the kids an arrowhead necklace and invite them to come back with their parents. Since we were already there, she invited us back, and gave Ashley an arrowhead necklace. 

We went back. Again and again and again. 

Since that time Ashley is now in her third Lenape outfit. She has been helping Miss Patti give tours, has helped Che teach summer camp, and spent a night in a Wickawam with Don during a survival weekend (again, pre-blog days). Last weekend she became an EIT -- Educator In Training. She is only 11. She is not allowed to lead school groups until she is 18 (which is a good thing, because the cannot take a day off from school in order that someone else can have a school field trip). Last weekend she was smudged during the ritual ceremony to kick off the summer gardening season (the weather this year has been so crazy, it took until now to start the garden). She and Don spend most Sundays between April and October at the Lenape Village, unless we are out of town or something else takes priority.

Ashley was recently granted her own station. If you take one of their Sunday afternoon tours you are very likely to have Ashley teach you about hunting. Last summer she created "scat" that is so realistic people refuse to touch it and naturalists have asked where did they purchase it. She is now in the process of creating foot prints. The idea will be guests will be asked to match the scat with the footprint with the animal skins (which sadly do not no have paws attached to them) to guess the animal. The presentation is a work in progress.

Once Ashley reads this and corrects me I'm sure there will be some changes. For now this is how I remember it all happening and that is the story I am sticking with.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Superhero Race

Up until now I've been very lucky weather-wise on race day. My worst weather to date was the 70 degree sticky humid start to the Princess Half Marathon, but at least that was dry (well, as dry as a humid day can be). Sunday's Superhero Race in Morristown, NJ was 58 degrees and raining. Fortunately that was the biggest problem for the day.

As soon as I heard about this race, I knew I wanted to do it. After all dressing up in costume is part of the fun of running a race. One of the reasons I signed up for the Rutgers 8K was that my friends were all planning on wearing their Sparkle Skirts. When I ran the Big Red Race two weeks ago I was the only one wearing a Sparkle Skirt, but I enjoyed the crowds comments about my skirt and the extra cheers I feel that generated. I still enjoy playing dress up.

The only trouble with this race was that I was not ready to run a half marathon. I ran one in February, and I am signed up for three in the fall, but I have not been training with a plan of running a half marathon this summer. This race has the option of running it as a relay. The course is two loops through Morristown, with a relay stop in-between. Perfect! Now who can I talk into running with me?? Hmm.... 

I asked Debbie (the Perfect Princess I met on the plane to Florida). She was already racing with Jen. 

I asked Sharon. She was already running the Bay to Breakers in San Francisco.

I asked Michelle. She was already running Color Me Rad race closer to home.

I asked Lisa. She prefers cycling to running.

I asked people on the PbRC Facebook group. Sarah and Becca said they were already running it.

I asked Don. If he can ride his bike 200 miles in a day, surely he can run / walk 6.4 miles. He agreed, but was in denial up until race day.

Jen took this picture of us at the relay station. Hard to tell, but I attached a purple cape to the back of my Princess Half Marathon shirt. If nothing else, it helped keep the back of my legs warm. Don is wearing the official Superhero shirt, with boxer shorts that have the Beatles Yellow Submarine on them, and blue cycling pants. He was too cold to take off his jacket. I'm glad I wore my running cap.

1700 people signed up for the race. Not sure if many bailed due to the weather. I ran the first (and longer) leg of the relay. The course was packed in the beginning to the extent that when it was time for me to do my first interval I did not feel comfortable slowing down to a walk. Thirty seconds later I could. At the time, I was concerned that by going out too strong I was going to hurt my chances of a good finish later. Those fears were based on past races when I have pushed too strong in the first mile and suffered before long. Fortunately that was not the case here.

I did have a stitch in my side during the second mile. Fortunately the cup of water took care of that problem and I ran /walked my 3:2 interval pace most of the rest of the run. I did walk up the giant hill. Whew! We don't have hills like that in Lawrenceville.

The crowds were the real superheros of the day. As we ran through neighborhoods, kids were sitting outside with their parents cheering us on. You knew that they were inconvenienced by having roads closed, but no one seemed to mind. I did see one man running with his dog against the flow of traffic in the park.

Lots of police, fire and EMT support. Speaking of support, at one of the water stations the volunteers dressed as Mario Brothers. That little bit of extra helped me keep going after the big hill. 

Before I started, I told Don expect me between 1:15 and 1:30. I made it to him at 1:17! I was lapped by 5 half marathoners (God Bless them and their speed!). We took a quick picture at the swap and he was off and running. Meanwhile, I changed into dry clothes and took some pictures of other people in costume.

Unlike the Big Red Race where he beat me by at least a mile a minute, Don kept a similar pace to me and finished with a smile at 2:32. We came in 125th place out of all relay teams. We each earned a finisher's medal.

After the race Debbie said she would do it again. I'd have to agree. It was a nice race. Well organized. In the "room for improvement" side would have been an extra water station and one set of port-o-pots. Since the race was a loop, the one set of bathrooms was at the beginning, middle and end of the half marathon -- or the beginning and end of the relay. Fortunately that was not an issue for us.

I'm especially pleased with how well I did because this weekend called for two long runs in anticipation of the Dumbo Double Dare at the end of the summer. Saturday I ran 5 miles around the Lawrenceville School and the Lawrence Hopewell Trail. Following that with Sunday's Superhero race was a test for me as to how I would feel running the 10K and Half Marathons back to back. I was happy with how I felt mentally and physically. 

I've lately realized how cool the swag is features in my enjoyment. The shirts are awesome -- girl-cut tech in Boston Marathon yellow and blue. The finisher medals were the same for the relay and half marathon people -- I did anticipate ours would be smaller to reflect the smaller effort we did, but was very happy we were not slighted. The vast majority of the runners did the whole half marathon.

I don't know if I could have finished the whole half marathon with a smile, but  my legs had enough in them for another few miles. Ideally our swap would have taken place just before that giant hill at the 3.5 mile spot (which reappeared at the 10.2 mile spot) and let Don do the last few miles. That wasn't an option.

We celebrated our victory with greasy sandwiches from the Minuteman of America restaurant -- a local restaurant that has been open since 1962, and one I remember going to as a child when we'd visit Aunt Debra at Jockey Hollow. I cannot find a website for the place, but it is modernizing -- they now offer WiFi, a service that did not exist when we went there last on Boxing Day 2011 with my parents. Maybe a website is in their future.

An online article about the race with a few pictures:

Friday, May 17, 2013

Celebration Week

Eleven years ago we realized the middle of May would always be a busy week for us, filled with many celebrations.

I suppose it all began 20 years when we decided to get married on May 15. I love the weather this time of year, plus knew we wanted to take our pictures at our alma mater (Trenton State College), but didn't want a bunch of college students in our way. It was as we were interviewing florists when we first realized our wedding would always be near Mother's Day (it was the following weekend that year).

Fast forward to fall 2001 when we realized our baby's due date was May 13. There was a good chance the baby (we didn't know until Ashley was born that she was a girl) would be born near our anniversary.

Ashley was born on May 17.

That makes three holidays in one week, every single year.

New this year was ArtWorks opening reception for "Unchained," an exhibit that includes Don's first time being chosen to be in an art exhibit.

It is also Bike to Work week. Don has been busy encouraging co-workers to ride to work. As I type, they are enjoying the cookie cake I made for the celebration and will take a group photo later today with their bicycles. Seven employees (just over 1% of the 600 employees in his office) rode their bikes to work this week, including three who rode from Philadelphia to the Mount Laurel office for the first time.

Life is good. We are blessed to be able to have so many reasons to celebrate. As the school year draws to the end -- there will be more celebrations. Father's Day ... Last Day of School ... races

We've got our health, and we've got each other. What more can we ask for?

Trash Walk

Most mornings after the bus picks up Ashley behind our house, I take a 3/4 mile stroll through the neighborhood and take the long way back to our house. Most mornings I see litter (especially along Bergen Street where the backs of the houses face the street instead of the fronts). Most mornings I tell myself to bring a bag with me to clean up the litter.

Today was the day I finally remembered to bring that bag.

Part of me felt guilty carrying a single-use plastic bag with me, after all I've really been trying to cut down on our collection. This was particularly true as I passed a fellow committee member who has been much more successful with his efforts to ban plastic from his life than I ever will be.

Other part of me, the part that was happy to be doing something nice for the neighborhood won out. The overall pile was not very big, but on Monday when I take the same walk, I'll be happy to not see the same old trash AGAIN.

If we each do something small, together we can save the planet.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Unchained--Don's first Art exhibit

Last night was a lot of fun! We attended ArtWorks opening reception of the exhibit Unchained: the art of the bicycle. This was his first juried exhibit. The guidelines were that you had to submit art that involved bicycles in some way, shape, or form. there were many photographs and drawings, and a few sculptures. 

Don wore his "Don's Double Century" polo shirt.

This tricycle has a camera mounted on the front and pictures taken by that camera on the wall behind it.

This pooch is made out of bicycle chains.
Don's artwork was pictures he took at Walt Disney World and turned into a calendar. Rather than submitting the calendar, he turned it into a collage. Even enlarged, it is hard to distinguish the images. January was taken at Epcot (near France). October and December were both taken in MGM (before it became known as Hollywood Studios) in the back lot area. The rest were taken in Animal Kingdom. If you love the image, ArtWorks is selling it for $25 with all proceeds going to ArtWorks. Or perhaps a deal can be made with the artist.

What made the evening the most special, though, was seeing so many people from different stages of Don's life. There were the usual Trenton cycling crowd (Jacque, Kate, Mike, and Wills), Lawrence cycling friends (Dennis and his wife, Laura), friends from college (Mike and Debbi, with their boys), and friends from our former church (Jen and Ben). I know as Don reads this, he will remind me of others who turned out for the opening reception. It was so much fun seeing friends from different parts of life come together to celebrate. One of the biggest reasons I have been keeping this blog is to help us to remember special moments in our lives such as this one, and to share those moments with those of you who live too far away to share them with us in person.

His art will be on exhibit through June 13. I encourage you to go to celebrate Trenton's rich art culture. ArtWorks is most easily found by taking the Market Street exit off of Route 1 South. When you come off of the highway, the building is across the street from the exit.

Trenton Times article about the event:

Big Red Race

The Big Red Race held on May 5th on the Lawrenceville School campus will always hold a special place in my heart. In 2010 it was my first 5K. I ran the race with Jean at the lightning pace of over 15 minutes a mile (47:07). Four races later and my time is down to an 11:15 mile (34:58). 

The course is very scenic and extremely flat. It is a community event, so we tend to know people running the course. This year we saw Emily and her dad, but not the usual neighbors. This year the Broad Street 10-miler was on the same day, so I suspect some our or friends were there instead.

This year, rather than running with Jean (who has since moved), Don signed up to run the race "with" me. "Don, run?" you say. Isn't he a cyclist. Well, yes. I asked him to do the Superhero race with me on May 19 as a relay team (I'll run the 6.7 mile loop, he'll do the 6.4 mile loop -- stay tuned for that blog post). Within a quarter of a mile he left me in the dust finishing at 31:33 (a 10.09 minute mile) a speed I can't even imagine ever handling. I figure I can either work on speed or endurance, and for now I want to work on endurance. I love the medals that come with the longer races.

In the crowd cheering us to the finish line were my parents, Ashley and niece, Aimee -- all wearing matching day-glo yellow "Team Pillsbury" shirts. They were quite easy to pick out of the crowd. I was easy to spot, too, in my Sparkle Skirt. I saw one other running skirt, by no other Sparkle Skirts at this race. I know I won't be the only wearing a costume at the Superhero race.

Great job Don! See you at the finish line in Morristown.

Marathon Expo Volunteer

Last weekend I spent a painful 8 hours volunteering at the New Jersey Marathon Expo for the Trenton Half Marathon. My job as an Ambassador was to encourage people to sign up for the November 9th race. My compensation for spending a gorgeous Saturday indoors was free race entry, a windbreaker from last year's race, and a broken promise about lunch. 

As with last year's half marathon the organization made lots of promises they just could not fulfill. The biggest one was that lunch would be provided. As the event ran from 10-6, this was important. There was no food to be found at the Expo (which was held at the Monmouth Racetrack) or within walking distance of the Expo. Elyce, the woman in charge of the event, tried hard, but she knew the day before that this was an issue and still only brought lunch for herself. Even an email saying "hey, ladies, sorry but there is no food at the event, please bring your own lunch" would have solved my crankiness. Even packing a few bottles of water or sports drinks would have helped. She did give me a granola bar.

The expo itself was fine. The usual vendors. The Bondi Band table was packed all day. I hope to see them at another Expo when I have to really study their product without feeling as if I am at a Filene's Basement sale. I was hoping either Sparkle Skirt or Team Sparkle would be there so I could pick up another skirt for my next race, but I guess the race was not girly enough for them.

I did see Brian as he was gearing up for his 50th marathon. Go Brian! Brian and I went to TSC together (before the name change). 

Also spotted was the Barking Mad About Running and Running at Disney bloggers.

The woman also working the table with me was selling the race as if she made a commission on each sign up. Her energy level was impossibly high. This is a woman not much older than I am who has been to all seven continents and has climbed most of the highest mountains. Of course a measly half marathon was no challenge to her, even though she had only taken up running a couple of months before last year's Trenton Half Marathon (which was her first race).

Standing at the table for 8 hours was not hard. It was even fun. They gave me a windbreaker leftover from last year's race. I had a sneak preview into this year's medal. The promises broken was reminiscent of last year's race. They readily admit they were given a pass last year on what went wrong (mostly the parking issues, though I think the 45 minute late start was a bigger issue), we'll see if they learn from their mistakes. At least the swag was great. Hopefully they'll team up with the Princeton Half Marathon people and offer a "New Jersey Marathon" for completing two halves within 7 days.

This November 9th I will run happy in the knowledge that at least I "paid" for the race with time rather than money. Hopefully I will have learned a lesson or two and at least pack my own water and a sense of humor.

Side note: the link to the ambassador program is broken so I can't confirm the long list of promises.