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Italy at a Glance

Since the last time I posted, a lot has happened in regards to my Italy trip! I finally now have almost everything booked!

My flights were actually booked the next afternoon after posting. LOL. Gotta love the timing on that! I had been planning to fly British Airways, but Air Canada sent me an email with “Europe on Sale” in the title, so they reeled me in with that. My flight ended up being the exact price I wanted, which is awesome! Plus, I get the Aeroplan miles – woohoo! After this trip I might have enough points to get to Hawaii in December, but we’ll see. Knowing the limitations of those programs, I’ll likely want to go during their blackout times, but I’ll think about that later. I have a short layover in Toronto on my way to Rome (just enough time to stand up for a bit, use the facilities, grab a quick dinner and then jump on my next plane). On the way home I’ll have a layover in Montreal that’s another short one too, so I won’t have time to get too bored in either airport.

I land in Rome in the morning and will probably make my way straight to the Airbnb location that I’ve booked so that I can lighten my load a little bit. I’m not really sure what I’ll do for my 36 hours in the city, but I’ll definitely sleep and go to a restaurant or two (or three). I’ll be staying in an interesting looking area of the city, and based on the (many!) reviews of this place, it seems safe, comfortable and the hosts are friendly and willing to help you get around the city.

After my 36 hours are up, I’ll head over to the Termini and jump on an overnight train that will take me up to Venice, where my tour will officially begin. I’ll arrive at sunrise, which should be the perfect time to ride on a Vaporetto down the canal and to my hotel. Since our tour doesn’t officially start until that evening, my plan right now is to leave my bags at the hotel and pop over to the island of Murano (famous for glass making). I already know that we won’t be stopping here as part of the tour, and this is a place I don’t want to miss.

Then will begin 10 days of touring around Venice, Florence and then Rome with my group of new friends. When the tour is over, I’ll have a few more days in Rome before heading back home. I haven’t booked my accommodation for this just yet, but I know where I want to stay. I plan on doing a foodie tour at twilight on one of the evenings, but I’m not yet sure what I’ll do for the rest of the time. It all depends on what isn’t covered as part of the tour and what I really really want to see before I leave. I might just be happy chilling out and drinking bottle after bottle of wine and eating plate after plate of pasta. Hopefully I don’t come home 20 pounds heavier. ;)

So that’s my trip in a nutshell! In the past 10 days I’ve booked my flights, overnight train, one Airbnb and paid off the remainder owing on my tour (OUCH! The US exchange rate was a biiitch today. :( ). All that’s left to do is book that last accommodation and then I’m set. It’s so exciting to see it all fall into place!

What have I been up to lately?

  • Running. I’m training for the Sun Run, which is coming up in just over a month. My pace has steadily improved each week since January. For the last 4 weeks I’ve beat my PB time for 5km. A few times it was just by a second, but last Saturday I beat my 5km time by 5 seconds. Also, last Saturday I completed a 10.4km run around Stanley Park called the Hot Chocolate Run. It was a gorgeously sunny day and I had a great run and got some quality time in with a dear friend. It was also the fastest 10k that I’ve run since October. Pretty awesome!!
  • Stressing about my Italy trip. I’m SO, so, so excited, but I’m a little freaked out about two things. First, the cost of the tour. When I did up my budget, I planned for the exact cost that was quoted when I signed up. I’m going with a US-based tour company, and being the stupid idiot that I am, I didn’t take the exchange rate into account. Since the dollar is in the crapper at the moment, I’m looking at about $900 extra for the cost of the tour. I don’t have that kind of extra money. I had wanted to have all the money up front for this trip, but it looks like I’ll be paying off that unanticipated $900 for a little while after it’s over. Oh well. The second stress is my flights. Haven’t booked those yet. Because of the extra $900 that I didn’t budget for, I’ve had to slightly adjust my trip (I was originally planning to spend a few days in London on my way to Italy), so I’ve only been watching the prices for this cheaper option for about a week now. The price went up by about $200 the other day, but if it goes back down by $200 I’ll be pressing “buy.” Hopefully that will happen soon. These are totally first world problems, but it’s what’s been keeping me awake at night lately.
  • My mom is now a Canadian! She moved here almost 40 years ago when she married my dad. She didn’t become a citizen back then because the rules were different and she would have had to renounce her American citizenship, which she wasn’t about to do. About 3 1/2 years ago she started the process to become a Canadian, because it will make things so much better for her to be a full citizen (the right to vote, various legal and money benefits, etc.) and finally all the paperwork was approved for her to become a Canadian. The ceremony was surprisingly moving and educational. If you ever get a chance to go to one, I highly recommend it!

That’s all for now. :)

A few of my bloggy friends have participated in this over the past few days and the questions were fun, so I decided to play along too. I’d love to hear your answers if you want to join in as well.

1. What is my current health-related goal?

I’m continuing to run, and focusing on improving my pace for 10k’s. I enjoyed the marathon training experience but training for a 10k is much more manageable time-wise.

2. What is my biggest irrational fear?

I guess the most “irrational” one would be the noises that I hear when my landlords go away for a time. I love being alone but when I’m the only one in the house, I hear things, especially at night. It freaks me out. I live in a very safe neighbourhood, so there’s really no need for me to panic, but panic I do.

3. Do I enjoy wrapping presents?

Yes! I find it oddly soothing and I’m very good at it. However, part of my job involves party planning and wrapping presents for said parties. I had about 500 presents to wrap between May and December this past year, and I was pretty done with presents after that. I never wanted to see another present again. Thankfully our family doesn’t do gifts at Christmas (we go on a family vacation together instead), so I think that by the time the next round of present-wrapping begins, I’ll be okay. ;)

4. What is my favourite cross-training activity?

Swimming! I don’t do it too often, and unfortunately on the days that I had cross-training workouts in the past 6 months, the pool at the rec centre I go to was always crazy busy or there were other things going on, so public swimming wasn’t an option. Any chance I have to jump into the water, whether it be in a pool or the ocean, I’m there! My parents used to joke that I was a fish or a mermaid, because I’ve been swimming since I was a baby and loved it so much.

5. If you came to visit me, what would we do?

I live in a suburb about an hour outside of Vancouver. While I love my suburb, there isn’t really all that much to DO around here, especially if you’re a tourist. I’d probably take you into Vancouver. We’d go walk through Stanley Park, grab some lunch at a restaurant with a view of the North Shore mountains, people watch on the steps of the Art Gallery with a coffee, and then if you came between October and April, I’d take you to a hockey game. I’d apologize (like a good Canadian) about my trucker mouth, but we’d have a great time talking and laughing and screaming obscenities at the players and the referees.

6. I have two weeks off work and two round trip plane tickets to anywhere. Where would I go and who would I take?

I’d go to Italy! Oh wait, I AM! Haha. My dream trip to Italy is happening in about 4 months. HOLY CRAP! I’m going to Florence, Venice and Rome and will have 3 days in each city. I’ll also spend a few days both before and after the tour, but I haven’t decided if those will all be in Italy, or if I’ll take some time to stop in London to visit my cousin. I’m going on a Rick Steves tour and I’m going by myself. I travel much better that way. I’m fine with being around other people, but historically I haven’t done very well when traveling with friends. This way I can be totally selfish and see exactly what I want to see, go at my own pace, and to not have to compromise on anything. I’m really excited for all the great adventures I’m going to have this spring!

7. What’s the most embarrassing thing to happen to me during a run or a race?

I guess mooning drivers while going pee during the marathon? The first time was a bit embarrassing, that’s for sure. But I had to go SO badly and there were no porta-potties nearby, so I did what had to be done, and a bunch of people got a show.

 

8. Three best days of my life? Or at least the top three that come to mind?
April 13, 2001: Seeing U2 in concert for the first time
December 21, 2009: Going skydiving
December 14, 2014: Completing the Honolulu Marathon
9. Okay, so I HAVE to eat a fast food meal. What restaurant would I choose and what do I order?
I’d go to Triple O’s (the drive-thru version of White Spot) and get a Spicy Chicken Crunch burger (I LOVE their special sauce!), fries and gravy and a Diet Coke.
10. Have I ever met a celebrity?
Quite a few! Wayne Gretzky and Phil Keoghan (host of The Amazing Race) immediately come to mind, but the best encounter was with Canada’s Boyfriend™, George Stroumboulopoulos, when he came to Vancouver to film a few episodes of his old show, The Hour. I can’t remember when it was – maybe 2010 or 2011, but my BFF and I were in the reject room (at least we were IN the building!), and he came over to talk to those of us in that room. He made his way through some of the crowd shaking hands and saying hi. He did a double take when he saw me grin at him, grabbed my hand with both of his and said that it was so nice to meet me and genuinely thanked me for coming. It was only a few seconds, but he spent more time with me than all the hundreds of prettier girls that were there. I totally swooned. There were a few angry mutterings of “bitch! I hate her!” from behind me, but I didn’t care. George noticed me and that was awesome. #fangirlforlife
11. Share a pic of myself in non-workout clothes.
My profile pic on most social media sites. It’s a few years old and it was taken for a work photo ID card, but it’s one of my favourite pictures ever taken of me. I absolutely HATE getting my picture taken, so in most photos I look awkward and uncomfortable, but I like this one.
SA pic
12. If I could choose to have a “do over” and switch careers, what would I choose and why?
A travel photojournalist. Getting to see the world, write about my adventures and take pictures would be a dream come true. Or, along those same lines, a concert photographer. Getting to go to concerts, take a bunch of photos and then enjoy the rest of the show?! So cool. I’m sure I’d probably get stuck reviewing some crappy bands, but think of all the amazing new music I’d discover!
13. If I won an Olympic Gold Medal, how do I think I would react?
Tears. Many, many tears. Is there any other reaction?!
14. What do I want for Christmas?
Our family doesn’t do gifts any more, so it’s always so hard to know what to say when somebody asks me what I’d like as a gift. However, you can never go wrong with a gift certificate to my favourite used book store, Amazon or any other local/national book seller. I always have a list a mile long of books that I want to read. Adding to my book collection never fails to make me happy.
15. What skill do I lack?
A lot of them! Probably my biggest one is the ability to keep my house in some kind of order for any longer than a week. I have grand intentions, but I get lazy and my house just falls to shambles so quickly. I’m amazingly well organized in so many other aspects of my life, but my house is almost always a mess.
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Sorry for the weird spacing issues. WordPress sometimes does this for no explicable reason, and I’m too tired to attempt to fix it right now.

I really enjoy this way of wrapping up my year. Past years: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013.

What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?

Completed a marathon! It’s a total novel, but click that link if you want to read all about my experience and also see some pictures.

Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for this year?

I’m not much of a resolution maker, no matter the time of year.

Did anyone close to you give birth?

My cousin had her first baby (a boy!) on Christmas Eve! We met him 3 days later and he is tiny and perfect.

Did anyone close to you die?

We hadn’t been close in a long time, but my grandpa died shortly before Christmas. He was 92. There are a whole lot of issues we’re dealing with as a family around this, so in a sense it’s been good timing for this to happen so that we can talk things out while mostly everyone’s around for the holidays.

What countries did you visit?

Just the USA. I went to Washington a few times and also Hawaii, but that’s about it. Next year will FINALLY include some international travel, which I am SUPER excited about!

What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?

I honestly can’t think of anything. I have a house to live in, a steady job and a reliable vehicle. I couldn’t ask for more!

What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

October 26th – Ran my first half marathon!

December 14th – Ran my first FULL marathon!

What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Completing the marathon. Probably one of the proudest moments of my life so far!

What was your biggest failure?

Nothing of note.

Did you suffer any illness or injury?

Nothing too major, thankfully! I had a running injury in the latter half of the year which prevented me from actually running the whole time during the marathon, but that turned out to be not a bad thing at all. As far as illness goes, I’m very healthy, so I think the last time I was sick was a year ago over NYE. Woohoo!

What was the best thing you bought?

A deposit on my dream trip to Italy. I’ve been wanting to go there for SO many years, and in 2015 it will finally be happening! I’m going on a Rick Steves tour for 9 days, and will also have a few days both before and after the trip to explore on my own. In total I’ll be there for 2 weeks. It’s going to be amazing!!

Whose behaviour merited celebration?

Don’t know.

Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

Jian Ghomeshi. If you live in Canada, you’ll know who that is. If the news didn’t make it to your country, he’s a Canadian celebrity. He had a fairly well-known band (in Canada) in the 90s and until a few months ago he had a very popular radio show on the CBC. Throughout a series of events it became public knowledge that he was a sexual predator. The whole thing was very appalling and shocking.

Where did most of your money go?

I got myself a substantial loan in November so that I could buy a new(er) car. Also, saving up for my Italy trip. And of course the usual bills and other life expenses.

What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Crossing the finish line of the marathon and making my dream trip to Italy a reality.

What song will always remind you of 2014?

Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off.” It is SO damn catchy!! I don’t like country music, but I absolutely love her new album, and this song is the best. I put it on my running playlist for the last few months of the year, and every time I’d hear it I’d giggle and dance around. It’s so fun.

Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder (b) thinner or fatter (c) richer or poorer?

(a) Happier

(b) I’m not thinner and I’m not fatter – I’m just more muscular. I have to say my legs have seen the greatest improvement this past year. Running several times a week does wonders for those!

(c) I guess a tiny bit richer. I passed probation at work in the spring and got a nice raise at that time, and then on my one year anniversary I got another small raise. Since I work for a non-profit, my salary isn’t what it would be if I was working for a for-profit company, but I’m not in this job for the money. Most people who work at non-profits aren’t. ;)

What do you wish you’d done more of?

Spend time with friends, but it was a little difficult due to my running training. My dad and I joked that training was a part-time job, on top of our already full-time jobs. Friends had to take a back seat for the last 6 months, unfortunately. But now that my time won’t be so consumed with working out for hours and hours every day, this will change.

What do you wish you’d done less of?

Nothing comes to mind.

How did you spend Christmas?

At my parents’ house. It was very low-key and relaxing. I slept in, we had coffee and then made our way downstairs to living room where the tree is and where my dad had set a fire earlier, so it was nice and cozy. We had small stockings, so we opened those few things and just relaxed. We had a lot of delicious food and alcohol throughout the day. The highlight was pulling 3 fresh crabs out of the crab trap that was in the ocean just in front of my parents’ house. It was so fabulous having that for our Christmas dinner feast!

Did you fall in love in 2014?

No, and no plans or desire to do that any time soon.

What was your favourite TV program?

The Good Wife (the last 2 seasons have been phenomenal!!), Outlander, Suits, Call the Midwife (not sure when a new series of this starts, but I binge-watched everything I could find) and Parenthood (only 4 more episodes before it’s done forever, and I’m so heartbroken). I watch a lot more shows than that, but these have been the best this season so far.

Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I don’t waste energy on hatred. It’s poisonous.

What was the best book you read?

The Outlander series. I had been hearing so much about them because of the TV show, so I bought the first 2 books on sale and thought I’d give them a try before watching the show (hey kids – ALWAYS read the books first!). I was hooked! I started on book 4 when I came up to my parents’ place for Christmas and have book 5 with me if I manage to have the time to finish number 4. There’s a lot of sex in the books which was interesting for the first two, but now I’m over it and kinda roll my eyes whenever the main characters get it on, which is fairly often. I’m mostly interested in the historical aspects of it anyway.

What was your greatest musical discovery?

That Taylor Swift actually is awesome?! LOL. I’m very anti-country, but her new album is totally 80s pop, which I am in love with.

What did you want and get?

A new car! Finally!! I’ve been wanting one for years, and finally it was forced upon me just over a month ago. But I’m oh so glad it was!

What did you want and not get?

Nothing. I’m very content!

What was your favourite film of this year?

Veronica Mars. I really want to see Unbroken sometime soon, though. I read the book a few years ago and thought it was amazing, so I’m looking forward to the movie adaptation.

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 34. It was on a Thursday, so obviously I had to go to work. Nobody at my office knew because I’m not much of a birthday person, so I don’t talk about it at all. I’m not sure how I managed to fly under the radar, as everyone’s on a birthday list and is usually celebrated at the office, but somehow I did it! I doubt I’ll be able to hide next year, but we’ll see if I can swing it. Anyway, I obviously didn’t do anything too spectacular or memorable because I can’t remember a thing beyond being at work. I’m sure I treated myself to a tasty dinner and some good wine or vodka, and probably watched hockey or one of my favourite TV shows (all the good shows seem to air on Thursdays).

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Nothing! 2014 was a great year, even though it seemed to fly by in a flash.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?

Simple, simple, simple. Low maintenance and effort.

What kept you sane?

The lovely people in my life. The fact that my dad and I were training for the marathon together, even though we live in different cities. It felt like all we talked about in the last 6 months was running and our training and what we’d learned, etc., so it was nice to have someone who knew exactly what I was going through and could relate to all the struggles that training for a marathon brings.

What celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Probably Matthew Goode (he plays Finn Polmar on The Good Wife). As much as I was heartbroken about Will dying on the show at the end of the previous season, Finn is a hottie and I like the chemistry between him and Alicia. By the time the show took a break for the holidays a few weeks ago, I was yelling at the TV for them to just make out already every time they were on screen together. LOL.

What political issue stirred you the most?

I can’t think of anything. I mostly stay away from politics.

Who did you miss?

Friends whom I’ve lost touch with.

Who was the best new person you met?

My cousin’s new son, even though I didn’t even hold him during our first visit. He’s very tiny and cute, and a new baby in the family is always a wonderful thing. It’s interesting – just as my grandpa was dying, the new little one was making his entrance into the world. Life often happens that way – someone comes into the world as someone is leaving. Truly the circle of life.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.

That anything is possible if you’re willing to work hard. There were times throughout the year that I seriously doubted my ability to complete a marathon, but I did it! My perseverance and dedication paid off immensely. Aside from the blisters (which were pretty unavoidable, given the weather), I felt so fantastic the next day, and had so much energy that I felt like I could have run a 10k. I attribute that to the good training I’d done for all those months. Without that discipline and hard work, I doubt I would have been feeling so good the next day.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Nothing’s coming to mind.

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Happy New Year!

Honolulu Marathon recap

I finished.

It’s hard to believe, even a week later. It was hard to believe in the moment. I worked my ass off for months, spent hours and hours and hours of time on the road (in ALL kinds of weather), on treadmills and on the track, and spent thousands of dollars on gear, clothing, physical therapy and nutrition. It was worth it.

I got to Honolulu on December 10th. The next morning we walked over to the expo, which was an interesting experience. It was a mass of chaos, crowds of people, and more signs in Japanese than in English. We all commented a few times that it felt like we had entered another world. This was definitely not geared towards North Americans, which was so strange, since we were in the States. That made it a bit frustrating, attempting to navigate things (even the literature/maps about the race were mostly in Japanese!), but we eventually found our way around and got our numbers. We also picked up some energy gummies to eat during the race, which ended up being total life-savers.

We kept things fairly low-key in the days leading up to the race. We did our scheduled runs, but otherwise just laid on the beach, ate well and enjoyed the sunshine. The night before, we went out for a carb-filled dinner and since we had to get up at 3:45am, we all hit the sack early.

gear

Most of my gear, ready to go.

Normally the night before a big race, I toss and turn and barely get any sleep. I don’t know how to explain it, since this was the biggest race of my life, but I had an amazing night of sleep. I didn’t wake up once and woke up about 20 minutes before my alarm feeling well rested and ready to go, but of course slightly nervous.

We ate a small breakfast, got ready to go, and met our friends downstairs in the lobby. We stepped out of the hotel, and into the rain. Crap. I had planned for every eventuality except rain. It had never occurred to me to step out onto our balcony and check the weather before leaving our room. Even if I had, there was nothing to be done about it. I only had tank tops and knee-length pants that were running-appropriate, so I wouldn’t have been able to wear anything different. That threw me for a bit of a loop. I swallowed down my panic and frustration, hugged my mom goodbye and started the slow 2km walk to the starting line. We didn’t talk much, as all of us were needing the quiet to calm our nerves and figure out how we were going to deal with the rain. There were a LOT of people who were wearing garbage bags or ponchos, and while that seemed like a good idea, I knew it would never work for me. Despite the rain, it was very humid and I knew that any other item over top of me would make me feel like I was in a sauna. I decided to make the best of it, and that negative thinking would be detrimental. I chose to focus on the positive – that it wasn’t going to be a scorching hot day, so I wouldn’t have to worry about heat exhaustion, dehydration, or getting a sunburn. All very wonderful things to not have to think about!

selfie

Pre-race selfie! It’s 5am! We’re about to run a MARATHON!!!

The starting line was a bit chaotic. There were no corrals, which is so strange. Normally all huge races have corrals based on your estimated finish time, to make sure you’re running with similarly paced people. That was a big frustration for many people. We heard talking, but we weren’t near a speaker, so we couldn’t hear clearly a thing that was being said. I think someone sang the anthem, there was a starting gun, and the line started to slowly move. I can’t remember if the fireworks went off before or after this, but regardless, it was a phenomenal show!

 fireworks

It’s a crummy picture, but fireworks – yay!

It didn’t take long to get up to the starting line, thankfully, and then we were off! Due to the problems I’d been having with my hip/IT band, the plan was to walk the majority of the race and run as I was able to. I am always worried about the first KM of a race – I tend to get all amped up on adrenaline and start off like a shot. Thankfully I was able to keep myself calm (having a friend with me probably helped with that), and did the first KM at a very good but manageable pace.

The first part of the race was through a very boring commercial district, so it helped that it was still pitch black outside. There wasn’t much to see, except for car dealerships, businesses and lots of boring buildings. I’m not sure at what point we passed it, but we soon came upon the ‘Iolani Palace. I recognized it a fair distance off and smiled. I told my friend that this building is used in the TV show Hawaii Five-0 as the task force’s office. A few people around us had overheard and joined in the conversation about the show. Literally 5 seconds after we finished talking about it, we came upon a high school band who were playing the show’s theme song. I dissolved into fits of laughter. The timing was so awesome!

Throughout the race, we decided that we needed things to keep our minds occupied and distracted, and as there were a ton of people in costume, we decided to rate every one that we saw. The rating was on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being boring, but at least they’re in some sort of costume, and 10 being amazing. We decided that we were an 11 because we were fabulous. ;) Some great costumes we saw throughout the day were lots of newlyweds (the best was a couple all in white [the woman was also in a white tutu], and they each had half of a red heart on their side, and they were holding hands the entire time), Minnie Mouse, many MANY Santa’s and Mrs. Claus’s, Mario, a tiger and a guy in a wig and full on French maid costume, whom we gave a 12 because he was phenomenal and was still able to run at almost an elite pace while in that getup.

Also throughout the day, there was a big issue with our bladders and the need to relieve them. There were porta-potties throughout the course, but unfortunately there were always super long lines. There was no way we were going to stop and wait in line, as we knew our muscles would seize as soon as we stopped for longer than a minute or two. So, we ended up finding trees, bushes or whatever to hide behind and drop trou. At some points it was necessary to use the median of the road, so the cars that were driving on the other side of the road might have gotten mooned a few times. I was a bit embarrased the first time, but after that I didn’t care a whit. I had to go, so go I would, and if people got a show, so be it. It’s amazing how quickly your inhibitions drop when you have an extremely full bladder and know you’ll never see any of these people ever again. ;)

pee

As a result, this sign (seen at about 27km) made us laugh hysterically.

At the 8.5km mark (or thereabouts), we were at the pre-arranged meeting spot. My mom and two of our friends were planning to meet us with food, sunglasses (which I took, even though it was still pouring) and other things. It was so great to get a quick hug from them and shove some sustenance down our throats. We didn’t stop very long, but getting to see them and to get that hit of nutrition was just what we needed at that point.

When we were at about 11.5km, we were at a point in the route where it intersected with people who were nearing the finish line. It was at this point that we saw what turned out to be the female winner. There were several police on bikes and motorcycles surrounding her and getting spectators out of her way. Some people were disheartened to see her, as we weren’t very far into the course at that point and she was almost done, but my friend and I were SO inspired, we got goosebumps. Seeing her run and seeing what the human body is capable of was just awe inspiring. The crowd around us just ROARED with applause and cheers for her accomplishment, and I’m getting goosebumps again, just thinking about it. It was a very cool moment. For the next little while all of the elites passed us by, including several athletes in wheelchairs. We cheered everyone on.

When we were at around the 14km mark, my friend’s husband met up with us to give us more food, tell us about the course and give us an update on my dad, who was about 40 minutes ahead of us. He ran ahead to meet my dad and then us at a further point. Shortly after he left us, the rain just got out of control. The wind was howling and the rain was smashing us in the face. It wasn’t very comfortable. Thankfully we weren’t cold at all, due to the humidity, but the rain was annoying, especially for me. I had to constantly be wiping my glasses off so that I could even SEE properly, it was raining that hard. At one point the wind was so strong that it blew the hat off of my friend’s head, despite it being secured to her hair. Thankfully a lady behind us was able to catch it and give it back to her.

rain

Smiling through the rain!

Some of our friends were waiting for us at the 15.5km mark, standing on top of something, jumping up and down so that we’d be able to see them. They walked with us for a while then they turned around to go back to the finish line. It was SO wonderful to have so many people to meet us throughout the course – the encouragement and support was amazing, as was the food.

We had hoped that we’d run into my dad at some point on the course, and we did at about 24-25km (he was at around 30km). It was so good to give him a hug and spend a few seconds with him. Even though I was running low on my energy gummies at that point, I could see that he was struggling energy-wise, so I gave him the rest of mine. I knew we’d meet up with my friend’s husband within about 4-5km and he was holding a few extra packs of these for me, so I figured I could make it until we saw him again before I’d need more.

Runners often talk about “hitting the wall,” and I hit it with a vengeance between 26-27km. My feet were aching like crazy, I was tired and had low energy and just wanted to quit. I didn’t say anything to my friend, but just tried to power through it. I took an Advil, which was a huge help when the pain relief/muscle relaxants eventually kicked in. It was a tough slog, though. In my training, the longest distance I had gone was 28km. When we passed 29km, I cried, knowing that I’d gone further than I ever had before. If I’d made it to 29km, another 13.2km would be nothing! Okay, maybe my friend said that, but I tried to believe her. ;) At 30km we met up again with my friend’s husband, who then stayed with us for the next 10km, which was fantastic. We could see people on the other side of the road from us who were barely past the halfway point, which was incredible. We cheered all those people on as loudly as we could, as I could tell they were all exhausted and had so many more kilometers in front of them. I couldn’t imagine hitting the halfway point after like 7 hours. That’s amazing. I never ended up hearing how long it took the slowest participant, but I can imagine it was a hell of a long time. One of the last participants we saw was a couple in FULL tango dress, doing the tango slowly. They had someone taking video of them, so we assumed they might have been going for some sort of record. They got a great reaction from everyone around us.

Finally the weather improved at around 35km and while it would sprinkle every now and then, the sun came out which was very welcomed. I actually had need of my sunglasses! There was a fairly decent hill at the 38km mark, so we ate a bunch of gummies in advance and kicked ass up that hill, passing many people in the process.

sun

Unfortunately at 39.5km I felt a massive blister on the ball of my right foot. The pain was indescribable. I won’t get into all the gory details, but I’d had enough of it slowing me down, so finally I stomped down hard and popped it totally, so that I was able to finish the rest of the course. I was so glad it hadn’t appeared sooner.

My friend’s husband left us not long after that, and I gave him my fuel belt to carry so that I could run easily when we came closer to the finish line. When we saw the sign saying there was 1km left, I started to cry. I couldn’t believe I was almost done!

diamond head

When we could see the gated off area coming up, we decided to start running, even though the finish line looked like it was miles away. A few of our friends were standing at this point, cheering us on, so we were pumped. I could see the finish line getting closer and closer, I was running as hard as I could, tears were streaming down my face and I was gasping for breath.

almost there

I finally saw my parents and another friend who were closer to the finish line, and I started crying even more. Finally, we were there! The finish line! I was so overcome with emotion and exhaustion at that point that I could barely function, but I did remember to lift my hands in celebration. My face was bright red and I was gasping and sobbing, but it was the most incredible feeling in the world. I’d just completed a marathon!

finished

*

overcome

My official time was 8:17:11. My goal was to finish, but I’d hoped that I’d be finished in around 8 hours. I definitely managed that! Once we were shortly passed the finish line, we were given a shell lei and a few more photos were taken.

done

They had volunteers handing out gatorade and water, which I gladly gulped down. Once we exited the secure finishers area, all our friends and family were there to give us hugs and towels so that we could warm ourselves up a bit. Thankfully they knew where all the important tents were, so they walked while we hobbled our way over to the food, medals and t-shirts. I’d heard that they would have malasadas (Hawaiian donuts) and I was REALLY looking forward to these but had kind of expected they’d be gone by the time I was done. Thankfully they weren’t, so I stood in line and got myself probably the best donut I’d ever eaten. It was piping hot, soft, doughy sugary goodness. Heavenly!!

Next it was time for the most important thing, the finisher’s medal:

medal

Once we had these hanging proudly around our necks, we were pretty done, so it was time to hobble the 2km (ouch!!) back to our hotel. We got many congratulations from people we passed, as well as all the staff of our hotel, which was very sweet.

I’ll write more about the rest of our trip as well as the rest of the evening, but this post is approaching novel-length, so I’m going to stop shortly.

I’ve been asked if I’ll keep up the running, and my answer is unequivocally, YES! I just won’t be running crazy long distances again (or, at least for the next year or two). Training for a marathon takes up SO much time and is a crazy commitment – it totally overtakes your life and I’m not willing to put in that kind of time again any time soon. It was an amazing experience and something I’ll remember forever, but I’m very happy to go back to running 10k’s and improving my time and pace on those. That’s much more manageable!

I completed a marathon – how freaking cool is THAT?!?! :D

Some Sunday randomness

It’s been a while since I’ve done a meme. It’s Sunday and I always need to have something to do while watching hockey (commercial breaks, intermission, etc.), and my friend Melissa gave me the idea, so here we go.

Four names that people call me other than my first name:

  1. Thora
  2. Big S
  3. Sharonah
  4. Can’t think of any others

Four jobs I have had:

  1. Daycare worker
  2. Mascot
  3. I don’t remember my official title, but I worked at an Orange Julius
  4. Camp counsellor

Four movies I’ve watched more than once:

  1. Pride & Prejudice (A&E version, i.e.: the only version worth watching)
  2. Anne of Green Gables
  3. Pitch Perfect
  4. Fast and Furious

Two books I recommend:

  1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (the TV series is good, but read the book first, kids!)
  2. Masters of Rome series by Colleen McCullough

Four places I have lived:

  1. Belfast, Northern Ireland
  2. St. Paul, Minnesota
  3. Seattle, Washington
  4. West Vancouver, BC

Four places I have been:

  1. Johannesburg, South Africa
  2. Paris, France
  3. Scheveningen, The Netherlands
  4. St. Petersburg, Russia

Four places I would rather be right now:

  1. Honolulu (I will be there very soon, thankfully)
  2. Italy (coming up in 2015!)
  3. A good restaurant
  4. On the moon (I’m fascinated by space)

Four things I don’t eat:

  1. Dairy
  2. Most meat products (I’ll never give up seafood and I’ll eat poultry once in a blue moon, but everything else I won’t touch with a ten foot pole)
  3. Peppers (green, red, orange, yellow – blech)
  4. Brussels sprouts

Four of my favourite foods:

  1. Ahi tuna (I cannot WAIT to eat ridiculous amounts of this in Hawaii this week!!)
  2. Coffee (that counts as a food group, right?!)
  3. Pasta
  4. Sourdough bread

Four TV shows I watch:

  1. Reign (trashy, historically inaccurate crap for teenagers, but I love it!)
  2. Suits
  3. Parenthood
  4. How to Get Away With Murder (or, as the Fug Girls say, MUUURDER)

Four things I’m looking forward to next year:

  1. Going to Italy! My dream trip is finally happening!
  2. The latest Fast & Furious movie, coming out on my birthday
  3. Focusing on getting better at 10k runs (the marathon training has been great, but I’m looking forward to running more reasonable distances)
  4. Nothing else at the moment

Four things I am always saying:

  1. Blarg
  2. Oy with the poodles (5 points if you know this reference)
  3. SHOOT THE PUCK!!
  4. I know, right?!

George the 3rd

The last two weeks have been insanely busy and stressful, both in my personal and work lives. Not helping matters was the panic of attempting to buy a car as quickly (and cheaply) as possible. Thankfully I got some help from a family member who regularly does business at a dealership in downtown Vancouver, so I knew I could trust that they would treat me well and fairly. But unfortunately that meant a few trips into downtown Vancouver, usually during rush hour traffic. Ugh. It was stressful.

Thankfully it all ended well, and last Saturday I drove home in my sparkly new ride, christened George the 3rd:

new car

 

It’s a 2014 Ford Fiesta, and while it’s used, it’s a barely used vehicle. I had contemplated going new, but the fact that the value depreciates SO significantly the second you drive it off the lot, I decided it wasn’t worth it.

So I’m very happy with my new baby, and while it was a few thousand more than I had wanted to pay (I forgot to factor in taxes, stupid me), that’s okay. That’s what loans are for, right?! ;) It arrived just in time for some bad weather – it was a very wet week and then on Friday night it snowed. I got up early yesterday morning to go to the gym and it took a while for the car to defrost, as it was covered in ice and a small layer of snow. But the thaw was definitely a lot quicker than it would have been, had I been in my old car.

Hooray for a reliable vehicle at long last!

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