Monday, November 30, 2015

#collaboreads: A Non-Fiction Book

Have you felt the pull toward a different career path, but allowed fear to keep you in your current situation?  Have you ever considered leaving your job with no Plan B allowing you nothing but time to figure out what's next?  Have you ever wanted to just take a leap...and see what happens on the other side?  It can be so easy to get stuck in a routine or want to ensure you have the next thing lined up before you move on. Honestly, it was refreshing to read Tess Vigeland's story as she made a huge leap of faith from a prominent radio host on NPR's Marketplace to the great unknown.  When I saw this month's topic was non-fiction, I was thrilled this book had just arrived in my mailbox!   

What part of the book could you NOT get enough of?

Perhaps it is the current state of my life, but I absolutely could not get enough of this book.  So many of the thoughts and fears rang true for me.  I have been struggling for some time to figure out my passion.  While this book doesn't necessarily help with figuring it out, it does present a number of interesting stories and findings from studies as they relate to work and happiness.  Tess shares much of her own story, but also pulls from the experiences of others.  This was a great way to include different perspectives and make the book even more engaging. 

How did you relate to/care for the characters?
What's your thought on the plot line and twists and turns?

While I enjoyed the overall theme and message of the book, I did find it a bit difficult to relate to many of the characters simply due to age and life circumstance.  Most of them were in lucrative careers pre-Leap and had a bit of a financial net to fall back on.  However, there were a couple of stories that related more to the average Joe.  Similar to Tess, I don't currently have any children, but I was happy to read stories about individuals who did and still made the Leap.  It was also helpful that Tess included the dark side of Leaping as well as the exciting, new, adventurous side. 

What other books are like this one? If none, did it remind you of a particular TV or movie with it's themes and characters? Does it serendipitous-ly line-up with things going on in your life or the news right now? 

I would classify this book in the self-help line.  It was a bit of a biography, but mostly it was set up to be a tool to help others going through the Leap process.  I can't think of any others that were like it exactly, but self-help was immediately what came to mind when I started reading it.  As I mentioned, it was very insightful for me.  Over the past couple of years, I have thought many times about other career paths that would be a good fit for me.  It was interesting to see how similarly my thought process and fears were to others in the book.  Additionally, I was fascinated by the information Tess presented in regard to how closely we associate ourselves with our work - how much of our identity is wrapped up in what we do from 9-5.

You know you judged this book by the cover. What did you think of it? 
How did it relate to the contents of the novel? And the font and layout of the pages? 

The cover was boring.  It didn't really stand out at all.  I did like the tag line that was included on the cover though.  After much thought, I'm not entirely sure how the cover could be changed effectively.

How many out of five do you give this book? Would you recommend this book to a friend?  

I give this book 4 stars.  It was a quick read that kept me engaged and wanting to learn more with each chapter.  It was written in a way that made me feel like we were sitting down for a chat - very personable and honest.  If you have ever considered taking a leap of faith in your career, I highly suggest giving it a read. Click here to learn more about the book!  

Andrea :)

*I received this book from Blogging for Books in return for my honest review.  

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday Stadium Review - Raiders

 Oakland Raiders

Name of Stadium: Coliseum
Capacity: 56,057
Game Attended: versus Ravens in September 2015 with Chris
Worked a game at this stadium? No.

If nothing else, the Raiders stadium is located in a quaint area full of running trails.  I was quite surprised when we pulled into the parking area!  The day was another absolute scorcher which made the long walk from the parking lot to the stadium seem even longer!

As we moved closer and closer to the stadium, we came upon pods of tailgaters.  I loved the decked out vehicles and fans we saw along the way.  Once we arrived at the gate to enter, there was a major jam of people.  I'm not sure if they have a more thorough security process that other stadiums I have attended or there was just a lack of staff to screen fans, but we waited for quite some time before making it to the front of the line.

I was excited to see how the stadium looked inside.  It is an older stadium and also shared with the Oakland A's baseball team.  The stadium could certainly use an upgrade, but it also didn't appear near as old as the Chargers stadium we visited the week before.  I am guessing they cover the upper deck on one side because they aren't able to sell enough tickets.  I have only noticed that one other place - Jacksonville.  The section covered here seemed to expand over a much larger space though!

I really liked the huge video boards in both endzones.  One was almost directly behind our seats which made for some nice views of replays!  I have never been a big fan of the way the field is laid out to include the baseball infield, but I don't think there is much that can be done about that.  It made it difficult for me to see at times.  I'm sure it is very odd for the players out there as well.

The heat (and insanely long concession lines) caused us to miss a portion of the third quarter.  And we had to leave with about five minutes left in the game in order to catch our flight.  However, I would actually be interested in going back to a game here again.  It was a fun and friendly atmosphere...especially since we weren't rooting against the home team!

Andrea :)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Saturday States: Washington, DC

Washington, DC

State Nickname: Our Nation's Capitol
Not technically a state, but there is SO much to do in DC - I couldn't leave it out!

Year of Family Trip: 1999

City Visited: Washington, DC

Can't Miss Tourist Attractions:
White House, Capitol Building, National Zoo, All the Memorials and Museums

Our family trip to Washington DC came about when Jordan's 8th grade class took a Spring Break field trip there.  Since Dad works in the school system it was easy for us to tag along on the trip.  Not too sure Jordan was super thrilled about it, but I suppose that is the life of a middle child!

We saw pandas at the National Zoo, enjoyed the rotunda view inside the Capitol Building, and captured some photos outside the gates of the White House.  I was amazed by the Hope Diamond at the Smithsonian.  We all enjoyed checking out the Memorials for all the popular Presidents.  Lincoln was a favorite since he grew up in the Bluegrass State! And Ricker took a particular liking to Eleanor Roosevelt. Below, you can see Jordan and McKinley lounging on the FDR Memorial while I collect rubbings of various soldier's names at the Vietnam Memorial.

It was a really nice time of year to visit.  Unfortunately, beavers had been on the prowl destroying many of the cherry blossom trees along the basin in the Mall area.  I was bummed we didn't get to see those in full bloom.  Our week was full between checking out all the museums - particularly touching was the Holocaust Museum - and visiting various places like the Supreme Court and National Archives.  It served as both an educational and enjoyable trip for all of us!

Have you ever been to Washington DC?

Andrea :)

Friday, November 27, 2015

Mini of the Month: November

I was so excited to discover the November Mini would be Caramel Apple Pie.  Sounds delicious!!  And it's definitely the right time of year for pie...yum!!

This mini was SO good!!  The yellow cake is filled with apple pie stuffing and frosted with caramel cream cheese icing before being topped with cinnamon streusel and cinnamon.  The absolute perfect blend of caramel and apple.  Simply wonderful!

Are you a fan of pie?  What is your favorite kind?

Andrea :)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thankful Thoughts

There is SO much to be thankful for today...and always!!  I love seeing all the posts and facebook statuses to reflect our thankfulness this time of year.  It is a great reminder of all the wonderful aspects of our lives.

I am most thankful for a gracious and loving God.  One who is patient with me on my worst days and who continually guides me even when I don't always want to follow His direction. One who is always there - day and night - waiting and ready for me.  One who I truly don't deserve, but am eternally grateful that I have on my side.

I'm blessed with a wonderful and caring husband that also never gives up on me. Just as he stated in his vows to me a little over a year ago, he is there at 7am (the bad) and 7pm (the good).  He is the best part of my day...and I am so thankful to be his partner in life.

It is difficult not being able to spend this holiday with my family, but technology allows me to feel like I am sorta there.  I can't really fathom who I would be without being shaped by my parents and brothers throughout the years.  These people are my foundation.  I am beyond thankful for each of them and always find myself counting down until the next time we'll be together.  Fortunately, work has me close enough to see some of them later this weekend - thrilled beyond words about that!!

Friends - near and far - make my days brighter on a regular basis.  My closest of pals are mostly scattered all over, but that only makes me extra thankful for the few I have left nearby.  I'm excited for all the upcoming get togethers - book club holiday dinner and the annual cookie swap. And happy to use all my spare time to catch up via phone with others.  As I grow older, I am realizing just how important quality friends are in life.

In a year that saw me crossing my second marathon finish line, I am so thankful for my health.  I know there are areas I need to work on to continue to improve in this category, but I am so glad that I don't have any major concerns.  Health is something that we often take for granted.  You never quite realize how fortunate you are to have good health until a report comes back negative or an examine raises questions for further review.  Thankful God is there to hear our prayers when those times arise!

I could go on and on and on listing so many other things that I am thankful for like all of you, my freedom and responsibility as an American, creative outlets like photography and writing, the ability to read, having fresh water and food to eat each day, and the list goes on endlessly.  Instead of continuing here, I will be heading into our command center at work for the first football game of the day and then spending some time with Christopher's family in Long Island.  I have a Tricia Pie ready for both occasions!  Let the Thanksgiving fun begin....

Andrea :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

My Writing Process

I don't particularly think my writing process is unique or rare, but this prompt did really get me thinking about how I go about putting my thoughts out there.  One thing I know for sure is that much editing is involved.

Typically, I have an initial idea (or prompt) to get me started.  Being the night owl that I am, most of my ideas occur at night.  I try to jot them down or make mental notes regarding the potential piece.  I tend to do quite a bit of thinking before I ever start typing.

Once I have fully committed to an idea, I lock in down on paper.  I have a paper calendar that I fill in to make sure posts are consistent.  This is easier some months than others.  After I have it scheduled on paper, I also create a draft post with a generic title.  Depending on how much thought has gone into the idea already, I may also put down a handful of thoughts bullet style.  I usually go away from it at that point to allow everything to marinate inside my head for a tad longer.

In a day (or two), I come back to the idea and begin typing.  I nearly always edit as I type.  I also like to use a number of photos (because I love taking pictures!) so I also often create portions of the narrative around my photos.  Since I always have more photos than needed for a post, I tend to make collages often.  I do my best to edit photos down to the best of the best before I begin writing though.  My photos also help me to shape the flow of the post.

After I have written (while editing) and inserted all photos, I go back and read through everything about 2-3 times checking for grammar and sentence structure more than content in these final edits.  I usually determine a title at this point.  For some reason, titles are an aspect where I really I save it to the end.  When I believe everything looks good, I preview the post and read through it once more as it will appear.  Occasionally, I will make a few cosmetic edits.  For example, if there is one solitary word at the end of a paragraph I may try to adjust the text for better symmetry.  I don't always pay attention to those type of things, but if they catch my eye then I will try to fix them.

Finally, I am ready to hit publish.  I love the feeling I get each time I push that button.  Even if the post is short or simple, I enjoy knowing that my hard work in putting it together is now available for others to view.

What is your writing process??  
Any tips or tricks you use??

Andrea :)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Race to Deliver - A Year Long Adventure

God's Love We Deliver has been on my mind for a full year now.  I ran this exact same 4-miler last year as I wrapped up my marathon qualifying.  I was intrigued by the charity and did a bit of research post-race.  I discovered they have a Birthday Bake Sale ministry where a donation can be made in honor of or in memory of loved ones.  That donation is then used to bake a birthday cake for a New Yorker living with a serious illness so he or she doesn't have to feel so alone on their special day.  I decided this would be a great way to honor each of my family members throughout the year.

I surprised each of them on their birthday with an email telling them all about the donation made in their name.  I was happy to be able to continue giving to this great organization from February to November.  When the Race to Deliver 4-miler rolled around this year, I was SUPER excited to run in support of a charity that has meant so much to me this year.  I also decided I would donate a dollar toward their holiday meal program for every minute I was on the course this year.

I happened to run my best time all year while reflecting on this past year of giving back as I trekked through Central Park on a gorgeous November day.  I managed to run 11:52 per mile for a total time of 47:28.  I'll go ahead and round up to $50 since I love this charity's mission so much!  Check them out HERE if you have interest in learning more about them!

Andrea :)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday Stadium Review - 49ers

  San Francisco 49ers

Name of Stadium: Levi's Stadium
Capacity: 68,500
Game Attended: versus Vikings in September 2015 with Chris
Worked a game at this stadium? No.

We took the train from San Jose to the stadium.  It was quick and easy.  And it dropped us off just outside the stadium.  Definitely recommend taking the train if you are visiting the area just for a game. Or biking there - so impressed to see the massive amount of bikes being stored by stadium staff in the parking lot area!

Once we arrived, there was a bit of a walk over to the entrance of the stadium from the train.  Since it was the first MNF game of the year, the energy level was high.  Lots of excited fans surrounded us as we walked toward the entrance.  Security lines moved quickly and several staff were on hand to direct us to our section.

We had seats in the upper level for this one and arrived in plenty of time to see the final pre-game activities on field.  Additionally, we were excited to see that t-shirts had been laid across each seat in the stadium - what a treat!  It is something I might expect in the lower bowl or for the first 10,000 fans to enter, but t-shirts for everyone?!?  Wow...totally impressed!

As it turns out, we needed those shirts!  The warm temps in California fooled us into thinking it would nice all night for the game.  It never really got cold exactly...but it was super windy in our area!  That was the only bummer of the night to be honest.  The stadium is stunning!  And even from our bird's eye view, we could see everything easily.  I love the big screens and interactive feel of the stadium.  We could definitely tell we were in a special place!

We managed to grab some hot chocolate at the half to warm up.  It worked pretty well for awhile, but we eventually made our way down to the concourse level of a lower part of the stadium to attempt to avoid the wind.  It worked pretty well, but we couldn't see much standing in that area.  Fortunately, the game was nearly over by that point.

Exiting a stadium is nearly always a chaotic mess, but the 49ers had a really great system.  Several stadium attendants were stationed at the exit directing fans toward three different lines based on which direction they planned to go on the train.  It seemed to be very effective.  And we were fortunate enough to be heading in the opposite direction of most of the crowd.

Andrea :)

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Saturday States: New Hampshire & Maine

New Hampshire

State Nickname: The Granite State

Year of Family Trip: 2002

City Visited: Concord

Can't Miss Tourist Attraction: Capitol Building

We quickly made our way through New Hampshire, but not before stopping to check out the Capitol Building in Concord.  We didn't manage to do much else in this state before moving on toward Maine.


State Nickname: The Pine Tree State

Year of Family Trip: 2002

Cities Visited: Augusta, Livermore Falls, Kennebunkport

Can't Miss Tourist Attractions:
Capitol Building, Wedding Cake House, Beach in Kennebunkport

Maine offered an interesting array of things to do.  We spent some time checking out all the fancy houses in the beach area of Kennebunkport.  McKinley posed with the sign since he's been referred to by the nickname Kenny Buck a few times over the years.  We also managed to find the Wedding Cake House that mom and I were so excited to see.  And since few states were complete without a trip to the Capitol Building, we stopped by Augusta for a brief visit.  Our adventure in Maine concluded with a trip to Livermore Falls.  The red van seen from the rear on the right side of the collage below is the one we drove all over the 48 contiguous states. Lots of laughs and memories were made as a family of five traveling all over the country in that red van...and it's highly possible it saw its fair share of bickering and snoring, too!

Have you ever spent time in New Hampshire or Maine?

Andrea :)

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Fall Film Challenge - Bonus Reviews #2

Check out Bonus Round Review #1 here.

10/29 - While We're Young (2014)- Ben Stiller
3 out of 5 stars

This one surprised me.  I had it pegged for a slap stick comedy of sorts, but it was so much more.  The amount of drama running through the film caught me off guard. I really liked the twist toward the end even though it didn't exactly pan out the way one particular character was expecting.  This was certainly worth watching, but it got a bit long in the middle.

10/29 - A Man Apart (2003) - Vin Diesel
4 out of 5 stars

Great movie!  I really enjoyed this one.  The story was captivating.  It provided an element of mystery and each character was intriguing.  The only downfall was the extremely violent aspect of it all.  I'm not one that loves seeing a lot of blood and guts on the screen.

10/30 - The Last Song (2010) - Miley Cyrus
4 out of 5 stars

Your typical Nicholas Sparks romance movie, but I very much enjoyed it. As always, the main characters fall madly in love within a matter of minutes and there is a tragedy that ensues, but I was able to relate to this one more than most for some reason.  And I really liked the musical element to it.  If you haven't seen this one, grab some tissues and give it a go.

10/30 - Running With Scissors (2006) -Gwyneth Paltrow
2 out of 5 stars

I selected this one because I attempted to read the book with the same title two separate times.  I should have realized that it would be out of this world bizarre on screen because that is what drove me away from the book - both times!  I struggled through this one, but the ending kinda made up for all the insanity in between.  I liked how it wrapped up.

10/31 - Grudge Match (2013) - Sylvester Stallone
4 out of 5 stars

A comedy after my own heart.  It wasn't that slapstick stupid stuff or gag jokes or offensive.  It was just funny.  Both Stallone and DeNiro were great.  And Kevin Hart just made it that much better!  Both "fighters" had faults, but I enjoyed engaging with the story each of them had to tell.  Watch this one - trust me!

10/31 - Point Break (1991) - Gary Busey
4 out of 5 stars

Another quality movie!  The story was engaging and interesting.  It got a tad long at times, but overall I really enjoyed trying to figure it all out.  Keanu Reeves and Gary Busey are on an undercover mission that takes a multitude of twists and turns along the way.  Surfing is also a major part of the film that really adds a unique element.

11/2 - New in Town (2009) - Renee Zellweger
3 out of 5 stars

I laughed SO much throughout this movie.  It reminded me of home where everyone is always in everyone else's business and church is the center of the universe.  I just loved the characters and their classic lines!  The reason I didn't give it more stars is that the overall story line is just too far fetched and hokey.  I loved the characters, but the story left a little to be desired.
11/2 - No Strings Attached (2011) - Ashton Kutcher
2 out of 5 stars

Not my kind of movie at all.  I'm not a fan of the sleep around for fun thought process so I had a VERY difficult time buying into this movie.  I mean, obviously they are going to fall in love!!  However, there were a handful of pretty funny scenes that had me letting out a bit of a laugh so it wasn't a total waste!

11/2 - Accepted (2006) - Justin Long
2 out of 5 stars

This one is your typical college comedy with a very moderate amount of seriousness.  It was ok.  I just feel like there are SO many of these type of movies that they just start blurring together after awhile.  And, of course, it was completely outlandish!  

11/2 - Alex Cross (2012) - Tyler Perry
5 out of 5 stars

Wow!  I totally did not expect to like this one as much as I did.  I was sucked in from the VERY beginning!  I'm talking completely engrossed.  It was a psychological thriller, and I loved trying to figure it out.  I've always liked Tyler Perry in a serious role - he was great in this movie!  Definitely recommend watching this one.  In fact, the movie has tempted me to pick up a few of the James Patterson novels in the Alex Cross series.  This one was fantastic!
11/2 - True Story (2015) - Jonah Hill
5 out of 5 stars

Another psychological thriller of sorts.  It doesn't exactly fit that category to the fullest, but it covers enough of the bases.  It is also based on a true case the title didn't give it away!  Total double whammy for me!  I couldn't take my eyes away from the screen for a moment.  It was a fascinating story that had my mind going a million miles an hour.  Great movie!  Well done by all involved!
11/2 - The Promotion (2008) - John C. Reilly 
1 out of 5 stars

Unfortunately, the challenge ended with a dud for me.  This movie was just weird...and sorta boring, too.  I mean, the competition element was ok, but neither guy was very likable at all.  It just wasn't good.  I was so happy when the credits finally began to roll.  Please, do not watch this movie.

And there you have it - I completed the challenge and bonus round roughly a month early!  I didn't start off as strong as some of the others in the group due to a busy September, but I really stepped my movie-watching game up in October.  I have both plane and train travel to thank for allowing me some weekday time for watching...and a much needed day of rest after finishing the NYC Marathon!  And, of course, the Queens Library was critical.  Honestly, I can't believe I watched 50 movies in such a short time period, but I am glad that I pushed myself to hang in there with the challenge because I was the FIRST to finish all 50 movies!!  I am SO excited about winning the challenge!  I feel strangely proud...and hopefully, you have discovered a movie or two or three that you want to see as a result!  Thanks again to Jenn at Quirky Pickings for hosting such a great challenge!  And to my husband for helping me select and watch all these movies!!

Andrea :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

My Second NYC Marathon: A Recap

It is difficult to recall now what exactly possessed me to run a second marathon let alone a second marathon in the same city, but now that I'm a couple weeks removed from crossing the finish line I suppose it doesn't matter too much.  It was a tough race for me, but I had some really great moments along the way. If you ever wanted to be inside the mind of a minimally trained marathon runner, you've come to the right place.  It is a long one, but hopefully the photos make it worthwhile for you :)

It's 5:30am...and the alarm tells me it is time to rise and shine.  It's marathon day!  I'm groggy, but I get up.  It takes a bit of time for me to wake up though.  Thankfully, I laid everything out before I went to bed.  My breakfast is tucked into my bag along with several items to keep me warm as I wait for my group to start on Staten Island.  My supportive husband volunteers to walk with me to the subway station so I don't have to worry about keeping track of my metro card all day.  He's the best!  We head over to catch the 7 train.

At 6:15am, my train arrives.  There are a couple other marathoners that hop on board with me.  And just like that I'm on my way.  By 6:45am, we are shuffling through the barricades toward the charter buses lined up at the Public Library in midtown.  I managed to snag a row to myself so I grabbed a few much-needed winks on the ride out to Staten Island. After arriving, runners are herded like cattle through the security area.  And then the waiting begins!  I drank SO much water at home that I headed straight to the never ending port-o-potty line.  It took ages to get to the front of that line, but there were lots of conversations going on that made time move just a tad faster.

Finally, I found a spot to call home for a couple hours.  I ate my banana and peanut butter breakfast and downed some more water.  I made a friend, too.  She had on Bengals earrings so I struck up a conversation.  As it turned out she was fully decked in Who Dey gear and we spent the next hour or so chatting and flipping through magazines together. 

We meandered over to the blue corral and found section E between port-o-potty stops and the removal of our layers. By 11:00am our group was ready to roll!  The atmosphere was electric.  And then we waited some more.  An announcement regarding our brief delay was made.  Shortly following, the anthem was sung and a solitary shot was fired.  We were off!

Mile 1 involved an exciting, yet grueling jaunt over the Verrazano Bridge.  There were selfies and fabulous views galore.  I cheered internally when I made it to the Mile 1 marker.  And then, out of nowhere it hit.  A side stitch.  Are you kidding me?!?!?  How can this be happening at Mile 2?  I'm never going to make it to the end at this rate.

It was painful.  SO painful.  I did everything in my power to make it go away.  I applied pressure to my side.  I walked with my hands over my head.  I eventually drank some water - thank you Mile 3 water station.  That seemed to do the trick.  My new focus became determining my pace and attempting to figure out how close I was to still being able to hit my goal time given this unexpected twist so early in the race! Mile 4 and 5 and 6 were flat and full of excited Brooklynites.  I stayed focused on putting one foot in front of the other.  And I started to listen to a little bit of my audiobook.  Somehow, I was marking off the miles a tad ahead of my 6:00 hour pace bracelet.  Shocking, but great news...especially since I was talking a short walk break at each mile's water station.

Just before Mile 7 my awesome husband was cheering me on with a sign and a smile.  I was SO happy to see his face!  And he brought me some orange bloks. I needed those in the worst way!  I could feel my energy level rise as I worked my way through them over the course of Mile 8 and 9.  By Mile 10, I just wanted to be done with Brooklyn already.  Don't get me wrong, the supporters there are SPECTACULAR, but I was just ready for Queens and the familiarity it would bring.  And, of course, the halfway mark.

Mile 11 and 12 found me starting to really get hungry.  It was nearly 2pm.  I had been up since before the sun.  And I made the mistake of eating only once.  Mental note for next time.  Scratch that.  There won't be a next time.  I'm starving.  Back to the audiobook.  Marie-Laure is starving, too.  Can I survive to the halfway point?  This is the question I continually ask myself.  I'm right on pace at the Mile 13 marker.  I cross the half marathon timing pad at 3:00:04.  Doesn't get much more exact than that - I'm pumped!!  I see my friend from the port-o-potty line as we take a brief walking break up the hilly part of the Pulaski Bridge.  I tell her my great news and bid her adieu as I pick up the pace to maintain my timing feat.  I gain ground on Mile 14 and 15 throughout the familiar streets of Queens.

When I round the corner that will take us onto the Queensboro Bridge, I'm home.  Literally!  Chris is waiting to see me again just outside the door of our apartment building.  I decide there is time for a selfie before I grab my second stick of bloks (strawberry this time!) and exclaim that I am remarkably still on pace.  The bridge, however, is a killer.  I trained on it.  I felt so confident heading up its steep climb.  I even passed on the photo ops that so many others took because I have those pics already.  When I hit the Mile 16 marker and saw that I was two minutes off my pace, I must admit I was crushed.  Not destroyed, but crushed.  I'd done SO well for SO long.  It was a major bummer, but I remained mentally strong telling myself that two minutes was fine.  I could still finish faster than last time.  Much faster.

And then the steady climb up 1st Avenue began.  I held my ground through Mile 17, but it wasn't long before I completely fell apart.  I kept falling farther and farther off my pace as I moved through Mile 18 and 19.  Chris and my friend Reba were set to be around 125th street just before I entered the Bronx.  Honestly, it was the biggest boost of the day to see them there.  I was physically done.  I relayed that fact to them but they continued to encourage me.  They said I looked strong and reminded me that I just had another 10k to go.  They transferred me that last bit of energy I needed to push myself to run up and over the bridge leading to Mile 20 and the Bronx.  I cranked up the audiobook through the quiet streets there....and the next thing I knew we were back in Manhattan.

At Mile 21, I texted Chris to let him know that I was too far off my pace time to finish faster than my first marathon, but I did think I would finish.  I hadn't been too sure when I saw him earlier.  I was beyond ready to be done...and I knew at the rate I was going it would be about an hour more.  I was exhausted in every way imaginable.  Just before reaching Mile 22, I discovered that a light jog actually felt better on my blistered heels than walking so I resolved to walk only as a last resort.  Chris alerted me that the Bengals just beat the ever elusive Steelers around the Mile 23 marker.  I was SO pumped to hear that exciting news!

I'm not entirely sure how I survived Mile 24, but I couldn't have been happier to be in Central Park and rounding the home stretch. Chris was waiting for me one last time just after the Mile 25 marker.  He was on the far side of the route and those extra 10 steps to get to him were well worth it.  I knew it was almost over.  I made him pose with his poster even though it was practically pitch black dark at this point.  I didn't stay long, but it was the break I needed to push through that final mile.

As we turned the curve of central park south to head toward the finish line, that final Mile 26 marker was glowing!  The remaining .2 miles was the longest of my life though.  When I could finally see the finish line, I sprinted as fast as my tired and aching body would allow.  And immediately texted "DONE!!!" to Chris.  Followed by, "Let's order pizza for dinner!  I'm starving!"  It took me another half hour to gather all my post-race goodies and tenderly walk through the crazy long exit path.

Finding the actual street was the second miracle of the day.  It wasn't long before I saw Chris headed my direction with a beautiful bouquet of roses.  Tears welled up in my eyes.  I am so blessed to have an amazing husband that met me at various points along the way to offer his much needed encouragement and ended one of the longest days of my life with flowers and a hug! He made me feel like I won the whole race!  Navigating the subway was a fun post-race experience, but I finally made it back to our apartment in one piece.  A totally different person than the one that left there that morning.  A two-time marathon finisher.  I still can't believe it.

The next day was filled with lots of rest and movie watching.  I ventured over to Central Park to have my medal engraved in the afternoon.  It might not have been the time I was hoping it would be, but I'm still proud.  I did it.  I don't anticipate doing it again, but I did it.  Twice.  And I will cherish every single step - good and bad - forever.

Andrea :)