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Saturday, April 23, 2016

It's Go Time!

SO, finally, the night before the race, the half marathon in Nice, France. (Click on photos for full view)
I was so happy to finally arrive, get to the hotel, get to the race expo, pick up my stuff and see my name on the list of runners!
It's been great to see signs for the semi-marathon, to meet up with my group, to share nerves and excitement and feel finally ready to do it.
At least I hope I'm ready! I've been drinking water like a fiend and we had a great group dinner tonight.
My clothes are ready, my number pinned to my shirt, and now I just need to get some rest, eat some breakfast and get ready for go time!
But I need to share just a few thoughts before I say good night.
As the reality of this race has gotten closer and closer, my thoughts have turned to my parents over and over again. It is for their memory and legacy in my life for whom I run tomorrow. They were both such awesome athletes and instilled such a great sense of competition, challenge, and play in me that they would be besides themselves watching me go after this new challenge. So, with their spirits surrounding mine, I know that they will be my biggest fans tomorrow and their inspiration will hopefully give me the boost that I need to finish strong.
I feel pretty good tonight. Now I just have to go do one more run. Like any other Thursday has been for the past several months. 
It's beautiful here.
I think the good Lord knew that I needed the seaside for this big challenge. It is fun seeing a new town and soaking in the atmosphere. 
I will look forward to seeing this sign tomorrow, when my 13.1 miles or 21.1 kilometers are behind me.
To my great fan base in cyber land, I thank you! Your encouragement means more to me than you might ever know.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Over the River and Through the Woods...for 11 Miles!

Today was it...the last long training run before I run the half marathon in Nice, France on April 24, which is just 10 days from now! I'm not gonna lie...these 11 miles were rough, especially the last 2. I actually handled 9 pretty well, but at 9, I really hit a wall and my feet were hurting, my quads started feeling like concrete, and I was wondering if I was going to be able to finish without needing to walk. But I persevered under the encouraging and thoughtful watch of Coach Vicky and endured to the end! We had to climb a stairway before the last half mile and yowza, that was not easy!
The route.
Now I am home. Hurting just a bit. The issues with my sciatica continue to be the most egregious to deal with. That soreness in the lower back and the burning sensation in my feet is tough to deal with but thankfully it does go away. Advil is my best friend right now.
The run itself was truly beautiful. So thankful for sunny skies and not rain! I ventured into areas of London that I have not yet been. St. Paul's Hammersmith is a towering beautiful church that is doing some great stuff in London.
St Paul's Hammersmith
Fun to run almost right into it! The bridges have been excellent during our training runs
Here we go, across the Thames once again
 and today's was not a disappointment! The Hammersmith Bridge is a big, stately, suspension bridge. Beautiful views came in to play as we crossed it.
Inspiring view whilst on the bridge.
 It was a welcome sight as after we crossed we followed a path along the Thames until the end of the run.
The path along the Thames. We kept calm and carried on for 4 miles.
Here I am getting across the bridge.


From there the path along the Thames was great. Not overly crowded, no bikes and just a scenic, quiet view. I genuinely felt pretty good until about mile 8.5. Then it got hard. I wanted it to be over. I began to question the sanity of trying to do something like this. My feet were burning. My quads were turning to stone. You get the picture! Someone sent me this hilarious little emoji chart and I gotta say, crass as it is, mile 9 gets it right. I said to Vicky, "I guess after 9 miles it's natural for your body to want to stop!" But we kept on and eventually two more miles became one more mile, became a half mile, became it's OK to walk, you are done!
I was happy to see the entrance to Kew Gardens, our destination for the day!
Entrance to Kew Gardens.
I hope to return soon, by tube, and actually enjoy the Gardens!
It's always awesome to get done and join the others from the group.
Second to last bridge before the turn off the river.
I'm near the caboose with speed and that's OK. I'm the oldest one in the group! So it's great to reunite and compare war stories upon completion. My pack remains the greatest inspiration.
Done runners waiting for the train back home.
I won't be around next week so this was my last group run before the race. That makes me feel a little sad. But I know the race weekend in Nice is going to be amazing and I am confident that we will all finish.
Key women of my posse. Love the companionship we've established. Will miss it.
Between now and then, I need to take a few short runs, keep stretching, drink water, and rest up. Can't wait. To do it and for it to be over!
Post Run Selfie. Exactly how I felt.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Keukenhof

The final stop on my whistle stop tour of the Netherlands was to Keukenhof garden. (Click on all photos for full view)

Known for the beautiful tulips, this too is a place that I have been longing to see for a very long time.
The lovely tulip is my favorite flower and I was always delighted in Stockholm when it became time to buy them at the outdoor flower market.
I don't even know when the Keukenhof became known to me but ever since then, I've tried to figure out when I could get to the Netherlands in April.
For a variety of reasons, most dominantly, Easter weekend and the International Pastors Conference, it was never that easy to find the block of time I needed to get there at the right time.
So when we knew we were staying in London until June, I jumped on the chance to fulfill this bucket list item.
The weather cooperated for the most part.
It was a little chilly and a little cloudy but no rain!
The sun even tried to come out at various points during the day.
Getting the timing "right" is a bit of a guess.
There are so many varieties of flowers that depending on the week, you will see different things.
So for me, the daffodils, crocus, and hyacinth were in full bloom while the tulips were in various stages of bloom.
The cheery trees were also in bloom.
The one disappointment was that the tulip fields were not in full bloom...only the red ones were showing their heads so I didn't get to see that glorious view of the rows and rows of color spreading out before me.
Gives me an excuse to return one day!
To say that the garden is beautiful is a ridiculous understatement! It is absolutely breathtaking in every way.
At one point I even used the word intoxicating.
The fragrant hyacinth enveloped us at various points.
The sheer variety of color and vibrancy was such a joy to take in.
Every pathway offered a new view and it was so delightful to soak in such a visual feast.
The indoor displays were also fantastic.
The orchid house was nothing short of stunning and reminded me of the beautiful orchid farms in Colombia, South America.
The indoor tulips were absolutely overwhelming in color, size, and variety.
The one house gave a history of the tulip.
Originating in Turkey, the name tulip comes from the Persian word tulipan which means turban and refers to the shape of the tulip bulb.
There were other beautiful displays, typical Dutch tourist attractions like wooden shoes and the old mill.
My friend Herman, had never been to this garden despite having lived in Holland for most his life! He was a good sport about everything.
I am so happy I finally got to see this garden up close! If I am near Holland again in the spring, a return visit would be very easy.
If you are n the neighborhood in April or May, you should by all means stop n by!