Sunday, March 30, 2008

Shamrock Shuffle

We did it!! Johnny and I completed our first road race!!!! We joined 25,000 people at Grant Park in downtown Chicago at 9:30 a.m. to run an 8K (4.97 miles).

I cannot tell you how much fun this was! I highly anticipated this event, but I didn't really know what to expect. It was better than I ever imagined. These are the top things I enjoyed, and not in any particular order:

1) Cheering fans that yelled, "go runners!", making me happily realize that they were yelling for me! I was a runner!!

2) Thousands of runners covering the entire road and as far ahead as I could see. We were all out there for the same reason--run an 8K!

3) Running through downtown Chicago. What an amazing sight to weave through the huge buildings, cross the Chicago River (twice) and come around the corner near the finish line right by Lake Michigan. Simply incredible.

4) The weather. (Yes Jeff, my favorite topic!) I was very upset because the last few years the Shamrock Shuffle has enjoyed great spring weather. I knew that it was time for a cold one. Plus, after the winter we've had, I didn't see the sun making an appearance on March 30. I was right. The internet projected rain showers, high of 38 but (at the time of our run) but that it would feel more like 31. Brrrr. I guess the cute Nike sport top and dry fit shorts I got for the occasion would be better left in my dresser drawer. So, I wore my Nike pants, lined with Hot Chillys (from my high school skiing days--yippee, they still fit!), a sports top, a long sleeved dry fit top, a dry fit jacket, gloves, and a head band to cover my ears. I was a little chilly, but not too bad. Johnny on the other hand was not quite as excited about the event as I was and didn't think a whole lot about what he would wear. He ended up in shorts, two layers of long sleeved dry fit shirts, a baseball cap, and well, not much else. If he had owned a pair of pants he would have gladly worn them, trouble is, he is still operating off of a scanty Dallas wardrobe (for running clothes anyway!) I think he was half frozen when I caught up to him after the race, but he did survive with no frost-bite. ANYWAY, I was slightly chilly before the running actually began, but once I started running, it was perfect! No sun beaming down and making me hot, no wind to run against, just a crisp day for an 8K! I loved it!

5) The volunteers that stood out in the cold to hand out water and gatorade to "the runners." Not only did they hydrate us but they were very encouraging as well!

6) FINISHING my first race! I was tired and happy to see the finish line!

7) My training paid off! Before I got semi-serious about running, the best I could do was run 2 miles in about 22 minutes. I am pleased to report that I ran the entire 5 miles, without stopping once, and my official chip time was 48 minutes, 21 seconds. Folks, that is a sub-10 minute mile, a feat I had never before accomplished! Johnny had a great time as well, 43 minutes and 45 seconds (a sub-9 minute mile.) We won't talk about the fact that he trained a handful of times for this event vs. my run 6 days a week regimen and still beat me by nearly 5 minutes. Seriously, over the past 5 weeks I ran over 100 miles!!!

8) The post-race party! I had a great time hanging out with friends from Johnny's work. And I thoroughly enjoyed the very large burger and french fries! Here is a pic from the after-party. All of these people ran the race! Yay us!
I did go see a sports doc for the pain I keep having in my hip. (It caused a nagging pain all throughout the race and was very sore afterwards.) Luckily I don't have a stress fracture so I can continue running, but I will have to go to Physical Therapy for a few weeks to strengthen my hip an quad muscles. Evidently the tear I have in my right quad muscle that I earned playing soccer a few years ago is unable to absorb the shock of my running and has made my hip work over-time. But, not to worry, if I work to strengthen them both, I should be back in business soon. I plan to run a 10K in early June.

As for the marathon, I'm still working up to it....

Thursday, March 27, 2008


....snowing again. Just thought you might like to know.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

He Is Risen!

But very early on a Sunday morning the women came to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone covering the entrance had been rolled aside. So they went in, but they couldn't find the body of the Lord Jesus. They were puzzled, trying to think what could have happened to it. Suddenly, two men appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes. The women were terrified and bowed low before them. Then the men asked, "Why are you looking in a tomb for someone who is ALIVE? He isn't here! He has risen from the dead! Don't you remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again the third day?" Then they remembered that he had said this. LUKE 24:1-8 (NLT)

What EASTER looks like in WHEATON!

Halle, love the boots with the dress, sister!

Friday, March 21, 2008

This is just WRONG!

I think the video speaks for itself!

....and it's BACK!

The snow that is. I went for a lovely run outside yesterday in near 50 degree temps and bright sunshine, but I awoke this morning to winter yet again. That whole "done with the big snow and no more accumulation thing?" WRONG. This white stuff never ceases to amaze me! I'm not even including a picture because my yard looks the way it has for the past 3 1/2 months....covered with snow.

The good news is that we were warned of this sort of thing. Everyone said we'd get a spring day or two and then it would snow again. So, by my calculations, THIS, today, IS that depressing snow we were warned about, and it should be the last of it (right?!?!)

So I leave you with a few random thoughts: please pray for 55 degrees on Sunday, March 30. I don't want to run my first 8K race in snow boots (or require the use of snow skis!)

Secondly, I'm glad that Easter is more than just a day to hunt eggs. That in itself would be deflating in this weather! But celebrating our Lord's Resurrection when he conquered the grave after shedding his innocent blood to cover the sins of the world, well, when I think about that, even in the unwanted snow, I can have a smile on my face! Have a blessed and happy Easter weekend!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Parker's Latest Soccer Injury

Parker has another soccer injury. Last night his U11 Chicago Fire Jrs. played against The Galaxy, the 2nd place team in the indoor league. The score was tied 3-3 at the half! It was a good, intense game!Halfway into the 2nd half, the FIRE scored making the game 4-3! The boys were playing their hearts out! Then with just minutes to go until the end of the game, Jason shoots the ball and THE FIRE SCORES AGAIN!!!! Parker was so excited about the goal that was scored that he.....
...jumped up from the bench he was sitting on and scratched his leg! Luckily this knee injury required no stitches.

Final score 5-3! GO FIRE!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

March Madness

It's time again for the NCAA basketball tournament. As tradition has it, Johnny brings home brackets from work and we all fill one out--even Halle.

Here is who we each picked to win:

Johnny: UCLA
Jen: Duke
Parker: Duke
Gray: Memphis
Halle: U. Texas

Who do you think from our family will end up with the most points?

(Tip: After Grayson completed his bracket he said, "well, I might not do very good because the first half of the time I filled this out I thought it was for football!")

Run Outside? It's COLD!

My friend Jenny asked me if I have run outside yet. She is the inspiration behind the next several paragraphs of babble.....

I am tired of the treadmill. I sort of feel like a hamster on a wheel. So as not to complain too much, I will say 1) I am thankful for my treadmill. It has helped me to become a runner during a long period of winter 2) I am thankful for my husband who has been carefully painting our basement, one section at a time all winter. This has definitely given me something better to look at than white walls. 3) Our basement has a great view of a beautiful outside, so I'm thankful for that, too. 4) Also, I run a lot when Halle and I are home and everyone else is gone. I can't exactly leave her home alone while I run. The treadmill has helped me solve that problem. But as thankful as I am, I have run somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 miles on a stationary piece of machinery. I'm longing for the outdoors.

My biggest obstacle (besides the obvious cold weather) was not being able to track my progress. My treadmill tells me how far I've run, how long I've run, how many calories I've burned, and what my current running pace is. Getting out on the open road would leave me helpless! Well, enter Nike+. I played right into this marketing scheme. You buy a sensor for $30 that attaches to your iPod Nano. The other part goes into the sole of your Nike+ shoe. Great! Rather than fixing my problem, I added two more. 1) It doesn't work with the iPod classic (which is what I have). You MUST have a Nano. 2) My running shoes are Saucony's, not Nike.

I am now the proud owner of a new Nano. I have to admit, this thing is cool! It's so much smaller than my classic, which is definitely better for running. AND the sleek, new armband that I bought for $30 is made of Nike DryFit material which is way better than the old armband I had for my iPod classic! I didn't, however, run out and buy a new pair of shoes. I found a lacelid on eBay for $6.50. This little gadget attaches to the top of my laces and the Nike+ sensor pops right in. Works like a charm. OK, so I'm now in business. I'm just waiting for the warm weather.

I mentioned before that people run outside here no matter the temp. I guess I don't really know how to properly dress to run in the cold. I've always been challenged with running in the heat. But, my sweetie gave me some new Nike running pants for Valentine's Day. At Target the other day I picked up some Duo Dry long sleeve shirts from the clearance rack. I even found a nice Duo Dry jacket on clearance! Looks like I'm starting to build my wardrobe in the event that I get the urge to run outside.

Last Friday (3/15) the temperature was almost 60 degrees. Gorgeous by our standards! My mind started gravitating to an outdoor run. I mean, perfect running temperatures!

The warm didn't last--it was just teasing us. Rude, I know! Saturday morning dawned a CRISP 34 degrees. My running schedule told me that I needed to run 4 miles. I couldn't bear another 4 miles on the treadmill. I had been running outside in my mind for the last 24 hours. I decided to brave it!

I wore the following: Nike pants, a long-sleeve duo dry shirt, my duo dry jacket, silver glove liners (the ones I used to wear under my real gloves while skiing), and my headband thing that I wore for skiing.

Once outside, my legs were immediately cold. Especially once I started running. I thought that running would warm me up, but the wind cut right through those pants. The rest of me, however, was pretty much fine. I think my fingers could have used another layer. (I now have my eye on some Nike running gloves....maybe for next year!) I have a pair of hot chili's from my skiing days. I think those would be a perfect under-layer to help keep my legs warm. I plan to try this on Saturday. By the end of my 4 miles, I was sweating just a smidge. Not bad!

So how was the outside run? VERY refreshing! I can't wait to hit the trail again. I think the thing that I am the most amazed about is how much of Wheaton I covered in just 5 miles! I walked .5 miles to the prairie path as a warm-up. I took the prairie path to downtown Wheaton, and ran North on West Street to Northside Park. I hadn't run my 4 miles yet, so I ran around the entire Northside Park running trail (1 mile) and headed home via Wheaton North High School. This was just a tad over 5 miles by the time I finished (including my warm-up and cool-down). I can't wait to do this again!

Run, Run Farther, Run Faster

Right now, I'm all about the running.

And it's funny to me that I would even be in this place. I am a sprinter at heart. I was picked for the cross country team in 7th grade, and I hated it. I hated the training, and I hated getting up early to run 2 miles on a Saturday morning. Yuck! I quickly abandoned cross country for only short track races. (100M, 200M, 400M relay, 800M relay, etc.) After high school, running became nothing but an after-thought.

But the need to run has re-surfaced. It started mid-December when a long look in the mirror made me re-think my lack of exercise. I bought a fat-burning DVD and started the next morning. Wow! Was I ever out-of-shape!

Feeling better about my new level of fitness made me pick up a Shape magazine in the waiting room of Halle's physical therapy office. I was drawn to the healthy lifestyle of exercise and the idea that I could become a runner! There was a sample treadmill work-out schedule mentioned in the magazine that I could access on-line. (And considering the temperature in Wheaton at the time, I was limited to indoor running!) When I got home I printed the schedule and began running on the treadmill. They said to vary my work-outs so I was running sprints, walking inclines, and mixing in my fat-burning DVD. Things were beginning to turn-around.

I remember a few years ago in Dallas talking with my neighbor, Tracie, about running. General thickness around my waist kicked me onto the street to run about 2 miles around our neighborhood a few times a week. Tracie saw me one day and said, "Oh, you're a runner! I'm so jealous. I want to be a runner." I quickly helped her to see that I was nothing to be jealous of. A runner I was NOT! A guilt-driven jogger maybe, but not a runner.

Tracie works for State Farm insurance. When a natural disaster hits she has to pick up and go to the disaster site for months at a time. Shortly after our running conversation she left for I think Florida and was gone for many months. When she got back, she excitedly told me that she had learned to run and was running in a marathon in honor of her dad. Wow! I was very impressed, although I can't say that there was instant inspiration for me to accomplish this feat for myself. But, through the course of time, I have thought about Tracie and her running often. Her running definitely is an inspiration to me now!

All of this heightened my desire to BE A RUNNER. I decided to get a subscription to Runner's World to teach me how to run, but I also found it to be very inspirational. People of all sorts of shapes and sizes were running marathons! 26.2 miles. Seems impossible. But if they can do it, I certainly can, right? Well, we'll see. This is the first time in my life that I have actually WANTED to accomplish this. I've always been content to sit back and mumble something about not being able to run farther than 2 miles at a time.

Reading Runner's World made me determined to break through my 2-mile running limit. I began to read articles in my magazine as well as on-line to figure out what I needed to do. I learned that to go farther I needed to slow least at first. This works! I broke my 2-mile wall and was eventually able to run 3 miles, 4 miles, 5 miles! This is HUGE for me. And I have slowly been able to increase my speed and still go the distance!

With the idea of a marathon in the back of my head, I decided to research on-line to see how one might go about training for a marathon. I realized that before you can train for a marathon you have to be running a fair amount of mileage 5-6 times a week. So, for people like me, they have a pre-marathon training schedule. I picked this up and started immediately.

I also read that it's good to sign up for shorter races: 5K's, 10K's, etc. Not only does this give you race experience, but it gives you smaller goals to work towards. Johnny signed us up for an 8K to be held on March 30 in downtown Chicago. 8K=about 5 miles. I can do that! I won't break any records or even finish in the top half of the some 30,000 people running, but I expect it will be a good time! (Several people from Johnny's office are running this race as well. I am really looking forward to the post-race party!)

When the 8K was 5 weeks away, I abandoned the pre-marathon training schedule and switched to a training schedule specifically for an 8K. There are 3 separate schedules depending on your level of running: novice, intermediate, and advanced. Can you believe I fell into the intermediate category? I was pumped.

We are now 2 weeks out from the race. I am plugging along at a good clip. I did pull a muscle or something in my hip, so I'm laying off today, icing it, and praying that it will be ready to run on tomorrow. I'm thinking that the 7 miles I put in yesterday didn't help my situation!

Anyway, there's my story on my journey to become a runner. I probably haven't arrived yet, but I'm on my way. One day, my current long runs will be my short runs!

Track my progress on the blog side-bar under Jen's running log. Feel free to post encouragement here!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Going, Going, ALMOST Gone

We had a slight shift in temperatures late last week resulting in inches and inches of snow slowly disappearing to reveal the still green grass. (That's WEIRD, huh?) The areas that are in the shade or that were piled high with shoveled snow are all that remain white.

I was feeling very optimistic about the warming trend. In fact, Friday was BEAUTIFUL! I didn't even wear a coat--and I haven't been able to say that since November. I think we were near 60 degrees. I seriously saw people in tank tops. Now THAT'S a bit premature, but when you've experienced below 0 temps, 56 feels pretty warm by comparison.

The weekend was pretty blah with temps in the low 40's and not much sun. Today wasn't much better, and boo, hiss, more snow flurries this evening. Luckily nothing stuck. I am not TOO upset as my expectations have been correctly set to expect this sort of thing. I DO think we are out of the "big snow" woods, although I'm sure it could still happen. I'm hoping not.....

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Fun in Downtown Chicago

Jerrod and Marianne came to visit so we made the trek into Chicago to show them around. Our first stop was Millennium Park. This giant bean is so cool! Check out the skyline and the clouds in it's reflection.

Here, the kids are actually underneath the bean. It's a very interesting structure.

We were also able to go ice skating at Millennium Park. The kids all really enjoyed it. Grayson especially!

Halle wasn't able to keep her balance without assistance. I have to give her credit for her persistence, though. She wanted to skate and really put out a lot of effort to make it happen. She tired quickly but didn't want to stop! By the end of our skating time, she had really improved. I need to give Johnny the award for patience, though. He was so sweet helping Halle around the rink. I'm sure his back was killing him, but as long as she wanted to skate, he was going to hold her up!

Here we are altogether.

With Jerrod and Marianne with us, Johnny and I were able to cruise around a few times by ourselves.

Look at these cute boys!

After skating we took a walk down Michigan Avenue. The Chicago River was still green from the festivities the previous day. It's a tradition to dye the river green for St. Patrick's Day. There was also a huge parade. It does bring an additional 2 million people into the city. We decided not to attempt to hang on to 4 kids in that crowded situation. Sunday in the city was much more relaxing!

I am happy to report that we were able to find a little bit of Texas in downtown Chicago. There is a cool building that has pieces of stone and brick from all over the place. We found a piece of the Alamo. There are also pieces from the Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall, and other neat places. What a cool idea!

Another great trip to the city. Wish you were here!

The Gardenhire's Visit!

Jerrod, Marianne and Ethan came to visit us! We had so much fun!!!!

On Saturday we took the kids to an Easter egg hunt at Cosley Zoo, just minutes from our house. This was a new one for all of us Texans.....hunting Easter eggs in hats and gloves! It was pretty cold--somewhere in the upper 30's. After the egg hunt we came home, started a fire, had hot chocolate, watched soccer and played cards!

Marianne and I are attempting to keep warm while the kids hunt eggs!

This giant bean is located in Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. It's pretty neat. You can see the reflection of the whole city in it, as well as yourself. Parker took this picture for us.

We went ice skating at Millennium Park. Sunday was the last day of the season to skate!
We also took a little time to shop and look at the GREEN Chicago River. It was dyed on Saturday for the big St. Patrick's Day parade. We opted to venture into the city on Sunday when the extra 2 million people that watch the parade were at home!

Chicago is FUN....even in the cold! Come and see us!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Easter Egg Hunt, Wheaton Style

This type of hunt involves hunting eggs at very low temperatures! At just under 40 degrees, we were slightly uncomfortable!

We had some friends visiting from Texas. Here are the kids with Ethan before the hunt. This is a first! We have never hunted eggs with gloves on!

The egg hunt was more like an egg "grab" but the kids had fun anyway!

The egg hunt was at our local Cosely Zoo. Before the egg hunt we got to look around at the animals. We got to see a 2 day old ram! Isn't he cute?

Maybe Easter Sunday will be a little warmer. Here's hopin'!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Visitor

A few weeks ago as I was running on the treadmill (my new favorite past-time) I saw a VERY LARGE raccoon out the basement window. He appeared to have a hurt paw. I called the kids to come and see as I can't say that we've ever had a visitor like that in our yard before.

Over the last few weeks, I've seen the raccoon several times. I'm sure they are complete pests, but I rather enjoyed watching him hobble around our yard. What a fascinating creature God made!!

On Monday morning, TRASH DAY, I noticed a considerable mess in front of our house. It appeared that something had a hey day with the one trash bag that didn't fit into the lidded trash container. A dog I thought. (I know now, clearly, it was our friend, the raccoon.)

So Wednesday night I popped into the garage to put something into a soccer backpack, and there was our friend, that raccoon, in the garage, helping himself to our trash. I surveyed the situation. Hmmmm. It's 9 pm, the garage door was still up, the light in the garage was on, and there was a bag of trash that didn't quite make it into the lidded trash container. Either this raccoon was really smart or through a comedy of errors, we actually invited the raccoon to dinner.

I was very surprised to see him, but he didn't seem very surprised to see me. He looked up at me as I opened the door. Our eyes met. I said, "get out of our garage." And he just looked at me. Kinda like my kids do sometimes like, "whatever." Then he looked away and returned to pawing through our trash.

Alright, you asked for it, raccoon!! I called the exterminator immediately! "Johnny, there is a raccoon in our garage!" "OK" came the reply (a little reluctant I might add...) So my hero chased the creature out of the garage with a broom. He did get hissed at, but all is well.

In hindsight I realized a few things. 1) We have cabin fever. The sun was out yesterday and it warmed up to somewhere in the 40's! WOW! Why close the garage door? 2) Parker needs to be talked to regarding the importance of completing a task. Placing the trash bag in the garage beside the trash can=not quite good enough....must put it ALL the way in, AND CLOSE THE LID!

My only regret? Not taking a picture of that silly thing staring me up!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Yep....still snowing....

For those of you keeping track, there are still snow flurries today. It's 24 degrees at 2:20 PM. But spring will be here soon.....I just KNOW it!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Steve, Andrea & Lexi

We had some more visitors from Texas! My sister and her family came to see us!

It was a quick trip, but while they were here, we went to Grayson's school program, and Grayson's soccer game. On Friday the kids were out of school so we headed into the city. Parker has wanted to go to the Chicago Institute of Are since we moved here, and he finally had his chance!

After the museum excursion, the boys all went home and left the 3 of us girls alone to shop on the Magnificent Mile!!!

Here is Lexi in the Hershey store.

Also, sweet Lexi offered to stay with the kids while she was here one evening so that Steve, Andrea, Johnny and I could go to dinner at the Cellar Bistro in downtown Wheaton. We had a really great time! The four of us have birthdays in May, and it has been a tradition for many years that we all four go out to dinner to celebrate. I've decided to count this as our birthday celebration! Then maybe I won't be so sad when May rolls around and our birthday buddies aren't here. Instead, I can reflect on this great meal and time spent with GREAT friends!

I hope they come back soon! We had such a great time!