Saturday, May 30, 2015

Ella's First Guitar Recital

Ella had a full day of excitement.  This morning she had day one of two of her dance recital (more on that later) and then this evening she had her guitar recital.  

She's been playing for about one and half years now and this is the first time she was asked to do the recital.  Duane (her instructor) originally said he would play WITH her, but after they picked her recital song and she started to practice, he quickly realized he didn't need to play with her.

Ella has been performing on stage since she was three years old.  Dancing that is.  Aside from her first year, I've never seen her nervous really.  Maybe a tad nervous in her younger years, but lately she is just excited and ready.

With guitar, however, it was different.  She was so nervous and had a lot of anxiety.

I think it all melted away when she hit the stage.  Check out this performance!

She melts my heart and had me beaming with pride.  I love this girl and am beyond proud of her and all she's accomplishing in her little life.  Love you Ella Girl.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Memorial Day Weekend -- Rim Rock Trail

We went to my friends Tracey's and Nate's camp for Memorial Day weekend.  It's our third annual trip for Memorial Day.  I'll share pics of camp in another post, but here I wanted to share our adventure to Rim Rock Trail in the Allegheny National Forest.  

Tracey said she was taking us to see caves.  So I had a picture in my mind of what we'd be doing.  I pictured these wide open caves that were dark and cold. I wasn't quite prepared for what we saw at Rim Rock Trail.

 First this scene overlooking the Allegheny Reservoir.  I mean how breathtaking is that?  Despite seeing pictures of Tracey's before, I hadn't really prepared myself for this stunning view.

While there are some amazing things to see/do/eat in Texas and we miss living there, this is something you would never see in Texas and that's exactly what I said as I walked up.  I can only imagine what this would look like in fall.  

I could have stood there all day looking, but we had caves to see. 

We started walking down the narrow walkway to the caves and it was already way different than I expected.  I hadn't expected the huge rocks and steep decline into the cave area.

It's hard to convey the beauty of nature with pictures from an iPhone, but trust me when I tell you it was amazing to see.  

I was mesmerized by the rocks... cliffs... I don't even know what you call these things?  Boulders?  

And do you see those cracks in the rocks?  Yeah those are the caves?  Um tight squeeze much?  We joked that we may need some butter to squeeze ourselves through the caves.  

The "cracks" (because these are NOT caves) were soooooo cold.  You could stand outside one and it was like built in air conditioning.  

It was so scenic I must have snapped 150 pictures.  I'm only showing you a fraction (and mostly the ones with the cute kids).

 Seriously Jack?

After we explored the caves, we walked through the woulds and climbed lots of rocks.  Again, it's so hard to depict from a few photos how cool this forest was.  There were huge boulders everywhere and we would climb them when we could.

The one below is the largest and steepest.  I HAD to climb it.  It was probably 25 feet and it was straight up.  Ella, Tracey, Megan, Nicholas, George and I all climbed it.

I was so proud of Ella because she was scared and didn't know if she could do it.  I told her to use some positive talk techniques and she was telling herself she was strong and capable as she climbed the rock.  It was awesome to see her be scared, overcome and achieve.

Getting down was actually a lot harder than getting up and we had quite a few laughs watching Tracey go down first.  At one point she was laughing so hard she was just lying against the rock and shaking.  I'm sure it was one of those "you had to be there" moments, but one we'll never forget.

 I love making these type of memories!  Thanks Rim Rock Trail.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Pap's 80th Birthday

George's Dad turned 80 about a month ago.  We brainstormed what we could get for him and we kept coming up short.  We finally decided on getting his whole family together to go to a Pirate's game.  This included his 2 children (George and Danielle) and all of his grandkids (7 total).  It's rare that we all get together, so this was meant to be a special day.  

We took 2 cars to get downtown and got separated.   

Let's just say one driver was navigationally challenged.  We waited around and took some pics while she found her way to PNC Park.

No matter how many pictures I have of my family in Pirate's garb in the city, it will never get old.  Plus my leg looks skinny because Jack is cutting off one half and Ella the half of the other!  Ha! Yes these are the things I look at.

George's sister finally found her way to PNC and we got busy watching the game eating.

We sat out and right field and the seats were perfect for us.  Not a lot of walking for big George and close to lots of concessions.

During the game we witnessed the first ever 4,5,4 triple play (that's 2nd base to 3rd base and back to 2nd).  I have NO idea why they call it 4,5,4.  Anyone? Anyone?

Anyway, it was pretty cool to witness and the bonus was I was actually paying attention at the time and saw it in real time and not on the replay.  That's amazing in and of itself.

Everyone had a great time at the game.

We ate so much food and the weather was amazing.

I know it meant a lot to big George to spend the time with his family.

The Pirates wound up winning and we finished off the night with spectacular fireworks.

It was a special ending to a special evening.

Happy 80th Big George!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Back to Back Half Marathons: Pittsburgh Half Marathon Race Recap 2015

We arrived back in Pittsburgh right around 8 pm.  I was exhausted to say the least.  To top it off, my laundry room was torn up (husband installing new floors) and I couldn't wash my shirt to wear again. I had to wash it out in the sink and hope it was dry by morning.  I was in bed by 9:47, but could not get my mind to shut off and fall asleep.  I think I finally fell asleep by 10:30.  The 4:15 wake up call came way too soon.  

We decided to leave for the marathon by 5:00 am because our 5:30 am start time last year left us scrambling for time as the traffic was horrendous.  Of course this year we were in a parking spot by 5:30.  We all agreed we'd rather be there early than be rushed for time. 

We got over to the coral area and used the restroom and had plenty of time to spare.  Kim and I were lining up further back than the other ladies so we said our goodbyes and headed to our coral.

Kim, Tracey, Charlene, Me, Kelli 
Back to back girls minus Kate 
Kim and I were both anxious to just get this thing going.  Neither one of us felt particularly well.  We both felt off in the belly.  I didn't eat anything but peanut butter toast for dinner and woke up starving, but unable to eat anything.  The thought of food had me gagging.

Before we lost our throw aways 

Right before it was time for our coral to go, I decided to make a run for the porta potty.  I'm SOOOO glad I did that.  Business was taking care of and I could focus on the race and not my intestinal issues (sorry for the TMI).

About to hit the start line 

Kim didn't really have a goal for the half.  She just wanted to run and finish.  I was there to make sure she did that.  I SECRETLY had a plan to bring her in as close to her Indy time as possible.

We started off at a quicker pace and I kept reminding Kim to dial it back.  I wanted to settle into a nice consistent pace.  If there's one thing about my running, it's that I can be consistent.  I was hoping to maintain right around a 11:25 ish pace.

Kim wondered where we were though the Strip District and I filled her in and warned her of our first bridge that was coming.  It was right around that time that we settled into our pace.

Mile 1: 11:02
Mile 2: 11:20

Look who we found on the bridge!

Back to back halfer Kate and our friend Tiffany
I always think that running mile 3 to 6 are kind of hard.  There are some little hills, but the crowd support is usually good.  We were both feeling good.  I was talking to Kim about the course as things would come up and she was in good spirits.

Mile 4 (I think) 
Mile 3: 11:19
Mile 4: 11:21
Mile 5:  11:40

In my opinion, the West End Bridge and West End Loop are the absolute worst parts of the half marathon.  The West End Bridge is a tough bridge to climb and it's long.  The West End loop is just crowded and irritating.  Having said that, they always have the best band, so there was that.

Mile 6:  11:36
Mile 7:  11:57

Right after mile 7, I could tell Kim was hurting.  She had started to slow down and I'd pick it up, but she wouldn't follow like usual.  I knew the 5:00 marathon pacer was coming behind us.  Our overall average pace at that point was 11:29.  I really wanted to get Kim to finish under her Indy time the day before.  I told Kim to not let that 5:00 pacer pass us.  Kim more or less told me to shut the hell up.  She said her goal was to finish and she didn't care about how long it took her to get there.  Right then I decided, it was Kim's race and not my own.  Her body would dictate what we did.

Mile 8 and 9 were really rough for Kim.  She was cramping and feeling terrible.  We started looking for a porta potty that Kim could use, but it seemed to never come.  We made the decision that once we found one we would stop.  That came right around mile 10.

Potty Break 

Mile 8:  11:41
Mile 9: 12:01
Mile 10: 12:07

After the bathroom break and no relief for Kim, she was in a bad place mentally.  I tried to encourage her every way I knew how, but nothing I was saying was working.  I tried to have a balance of running with her and giving her the space she needed.  I knew Kim was struggling, but I also knew she could do it.  NO DOUBT in MY mind.  I promised Kim that we just had to make it through mile 12 and she'd be golden from there.

Mile 11ish 

Miles 11 and 12 are a bridge and big climb.  Needless to say, that did NOT make Kim happy.  We walked the hill and it was definitely rough.  I was worried about Kim.  She seemed to be in a bad mental place, but she still had a sense of humor so I knew all wasn't lost.

Mile 11: 14:20
Mile 12:  13:35

After mile 12 and we started heading downhill, Kim became a whole knew person.  She found the last bit of strength she had to finish this race.   I felt relief that Kim had dug deep and found what she needed to make it through.

The last mile went by so quickly and before I knew it we were across the finish line!

Mile 13: 12:07

Garmin Total:  13.17 2:37:44 11:59 pace 
Official Total:  13.1 2:37:42 12:01 pace 

I am beyond proud of Kim!  This woman was so brave to even attempt two half marathons in 2 days.  She's been a runner for just over a year folks.  That's no small feat.  I hope Kim realizes what an amazing thing she accomplished and how many she inspired (including me) while doing it.

Once again, I can't say enough about all my friends and their accomplishments at the Pittsburgh Half. Kelli and Tracey went sub 2:00 AGAIN running 1:55.  How amazing is that folks?  Tiffany and Kate also had a great race.  Kate decided to change her game plan and went big in Indy and ran for fun in Pittsburgh (to the tune of 2:06).

Charlene didn't have the day she hoped for, but I'm proud of her nonetheless.  To you Charlene, I ask that you see all you accomplish in a week and ask yourself if a half marathon time defines you.  It does not.  You did it.  You ran 13.1 miles and for that you should be proud!

My back to back girls.  We'll always have this story of remember the year we ran Indy and Pittsburgh.  Who knows maybe it will become an annual event.  If so, I'm in!

I know some people thought we were crazy to run these back to back races.  I honestly feel like running back to back 1/2 marathons in 2 different states was FAR easier than running a full marathon.  My body feels great today and I don't feel like I need extra rest to get back out there.  I don't think I could have raced both these races so I'm happy with my approach.  Next time, I'll know better what my body is capable of and I might change my game plan.

Indy and Pittsburgh.  Back to back baby!  

Congrats to all the Pittsburgh Marathoners.  You are a Runner of Steel!

The official "Susan Pose"