Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Alex is Awesome

These photos are but a tiny bit of the overwhelming evidence that it is true.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Abby's First Pumpkin!

Alex bought Abby a pumpkin to carve this evening. Well, she didn't do much of the carving, she mostly just supervised. She was a bit more squeamish than I expected about the guts. It took a lot of convincing to get her to stick her hand inside the pumpkin. And once she got it in there she came back out with no more than a single little seed. She enjoyed stirring the guts that Alex and I removed though.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My Favorite Season

Fall. I missed the peak colors, but finally got out with my camera this morning. Michigan may not have mountains, but the fall colors here are, well, incredible.

P.S. I put these photos on facebook too.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

Third Time's A Charm

Warning! This post contains gratuitous details about running! If you don't like runner talk, let me offer this as substitute entertainment.

Let me back up. This story begins almost 4 years ago during the departmental Christmas party. It was then that I discovered that Heather liked to run. We were comparing notes on our half marathon performances and were both talking about how we kind of wanted to try running a marathon. The seed was planted. We subsequently talked Rachel into participating and the three of us signed up for the 2007 Detroit Free Press marathon. We started training together the spring of 2007 and then our jobs and research led us in different directions. I went to China, Rachel went to the Biostation, and Heather went to California. We all *tried* to train, with varying degrees of success. I, for example, had only run twice, both times less than 3 miles. When we re-united in August, we had 2 months to finish training, which amounts to 6 weeks of training and 2 weeks of tapering.

When Detroit rolled around, I have to admit I was feeling pretty confident. Up to that point, I had never met a race I couldn't run, training or no. Of course, I hadn't raced much. But anyway, I headed out with thoughts of Boston prancing through my head. Around mile 8 I started to question my pace. I ate a Gu. Then the race course led us through the most awful, horrible, terrible race obstacle I have ever had the misfortune to meet. The tunnel. It's a mile long. There is no fresh air. It is stifling, and hot. Did I mention it was hot? I started sweating so much in there that I was dripping and soaking wet when I came out the other end. It only went downhill from there. My pace was flagging and I was struggling to keep a finish time of 3:40 in my sights. I think I had another Gu somewhere in there. (By the way, Heather had jumped ahead of me at mile 8 and was comfortably on her way to qualifying. Rachel was somewhere behind me, apparently suffering just as much as I was.) Around mile 17 I had to stop at the porto-potty and BOOM. Calves were solid as rock. I tried to limp along after that, but they just kept freezing up, not to mention I was really tired. I walked and limped to the finish line. 4:30:12. Disaster.

Confidence shattered, I decided to rebound and run another one in spring 2008. I was hoping to build on the my Detroit base (shaky as it was). Alex, ever supportive, signed up for the Cleveland marathon with me, scheduled for mid-May 2008. Training went well--I was able to run with Heather who was training for Boston on the heels of her Detroit qualifier. Then, a few weeks before the race, I got a terrible pain in my shin. So bad I could barely walk. I certainly couldn't run. Stress fracture. So much for Cleveland. At least I still got the shirt and hat.

Then I got pregnant. Flash forward to spring 2010.

Feeling confident about running again (having run two good half marathons the previous year), I decided to try again. I signed up for the North Country trail run and the Grand Rapids marathon. North Country counts as try #2 if you don't count Cleveland (which I don't because I didn't even start the race). You may recall, North Country didn't go great either, thanks to cramping, due in part to warm humid weather and probably due in part to a bad race strategy. 4:10:10. Sigh.

Between North Country and Grand Rapids, I bought a hydration pack (thanks mom and Liv!) and started thinking seriously about how I should run the Grand Rapids race. My thoughts went like this: "Start slow and speed up later? But what if I don't feel great later? Then I missed a big opportunity to pick up time early! But if I push it early, I might be more likely to cramp!" What to do? Although other (shorter) race performances and my training suggested a 7:23 to 7:45 pace, I had never even come close to that in the other two races. Was it too fast? I decided to just do what felt right in the moment--not too hard, not too slow. Easy, right?

Long story long, I ran Grand Rapids on Sunday and it went pretty well. I didn't cramp. I drained all 70 ounces of my hydration pack in 21 miles. I ate 6 Gu (I think) and I took several Endurolytes (electrolyte replacement pills), the last two without water. Ick. My Garmin watch tells me I ran the first 12 miles at a 7:28 pace. Then I slowed to a 7:43 for the next 6. Then at mile 18 I started the "death march" and couldn't seem to go faster than an 8:03. But I ran the whole thing and I qualified for Boston. 3:22:05.

Here's a photo of me with half my support crew at the finish line. More photos can be found on facebook.

Now that, after 3 years, I have finally RUN a marathon, I can start thinking about how to tweak my training for Boston so that I don't have to slow down to an 8:03 pace for the last 8 miles!

Oh, and most importantly, I am now officially the fastest woman Alex has ever dated.

I'll end with a few statistics (i.e. runner's crack):

Since the 3rd of May I have run ~934 miles in training.
At ~8 minute miles, that's 5 days spent running.

I was 2nd in my age group.
I was 19th out of 661 females (top 3%).
I was 190th out of 1,654 people (top 12%).
If I ran a 3:22:05 in the 2010 Boston Marathon I would finish in the top 7% for females (644th place) and the top 23% overall (5,011th place).
The average finishing time for women was 4:23:22.
The average finishing time for men was 3:55:01.
Heather ran Portland marathon 8 minutes and 51 seconds faster than me.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My Second Grandma

5 years ago and some change, I married Alex. It was a wonderful occasion, wherein I ceremoniously secured myself a life partner, someone to share all my triumphs and all my failures with, someone to cuddle with and someone to fight with.

But beyond that, I secured myself a second family. I knew what I was getting with Alex--we had spent 3 years learning every little detail about each other--but at the time I didn't know for sure what I was getting with his family. I knew they were loud (and I say that in the most loving way possible), and I knew they were smart. And I knew they were tightly knit. I know now that I got damn lucky--the Mettlers are the best second family anyone could ever hope for.

Sadly, a little over two weeks ago Grandma Herbst passed away from complications following heart surgery. Of all the Mettlers, I am certainly the least qualified to be writing about Grandma. I only knew her for a little over 6 years, and in those years I only got to spend a few holidays here and there with her. What I do know about her is that she was an awesome Grandma. And she loved her grandkids to death. She was kind and always, always interested to hear about our lives. I will miss her presence.

Alex and I traveled back to Minnesota for her funeral two weekends ago. The trip was well worth the 2 twelve hour stints in the car. The whole family was there and it was a beautiful service. Barb orchestrated the construction of some photo displays. I wish I had had the presence of mind to scan some of the older ones. My, but that lady looked like a suave and sassy young girl! I took a few pictures of Abby while we were there. It's nice to think that there's some of Grandma Herbst living on in her.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Friday, October 1, 2010

My Awesome Sis

Yesterday was my dear sister's birthday. I spent all day trying to come up with some creative way to pay my respects to her on the blog besides just waxing eloquent about all her wonderful qualities and incredible accomplishments. I failed.

But I had an idea this morning--I thought I would take a photo of her and make it into a photo mosaic using smaller pictures of things that represent Olivia. Brilliant, right?

Well, there were problems. I decided to start with a test image and see how it went. I entered the search terms "dogs, bees, flower, skiing" using Google as the image source. The software I use kept telling me there were 0 images that matched any those search terms. Ha. I doubt it. After fighting with that for about an hour, I gave up and tried using Flickr as the image source with the same search terms. Lo and behold, it worked! And worked. And worked. And worked....about 5 hours later I have a mosaic of Olivia from images that have dogs, bees, flowers, and skiing.

Now, ideally I would go back and do another one with a more well-rounded representation of my beautifully complex sister. But because I want to post this before she turns another year older, I'm going to cheat. Instead I'll give you a list of the images that I would have liked to use and then let you look at the image with just dogs, bees, flowers, and skiing.

Olivia's images:

1. (Dogs, bees, flowers, and skiing)
2. Mountains
3. Jeeps
4. Tiny dirt trails
5. Cameras
6. Gourmet food
7. Taco Bell
8. Sunshine
9. Rivers
10. Canyons
11. Books
12. Hammocks
13. Bug net
14. Classroom
15. Coffee
16. Deserts
17. Tents
18. Travel Guides
19. Dennis
20. Birds

Happy birthday a day late to my wonderful and amazing sister!

P.S. Something interesting you may notice if you look closely at the mosaic above (although I don't think the resolution is good enough): there are random images of people's faces in there. Why were they included? My only guess is that they are ex-boyfriends that their ex-girlfriends tagged as "dogs" on Flickr. Also, there are pictures of cats. I guess some people don't know the difference between a dog and a cat? And apparently there are very few bee pictures on Flickr. We should work on that.