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Thursday, July 8, 2010
Country Roads, Take Me Home
And that is the first and last time I will ever use a John Denver song as the title of a blog entry.
No offense intended, of course...may he rest.
But, I couldn't help myself.
The next race on my calendar just happened to be the 5th Annual Allies, Inc. Country Roads 5K in Allentown, NJ on Saturday, April 24, 2010, hence the song reference. And it was going to be super special because my cousin, Laurie, would be there running and my cousin, Scott, (her brother) would be there spectating with his daughter and Laur's two munchkins. The race started and ended at Cream Ridge Winery. Let me give them a plug:
I've tasted several varieties of their wine and, well, it's just delicious. So, when I saw they had a race, it was a no brainer. Wine and running, after all, are two of my favorite things in the world.
All you had to do was throw chocolate in there and I would have gone delirious with excitement. Anyone got a cigarette???
Southwest was giving out super cheap airfare too. I got myself a round trip ticket from Manchester to Philadelphia for well under $100, flying out on Thursday, April 22nd and returning early on Tuesday, April 27th. Laur offered to pick me up and drop me off at the airport too. As if I needed another reason to take the trip, it was her birthday on April 23rd. I haven't been able to celebrate her special day with her in a very long time since I'm up here and she's down there. So, it was a trip I couldn't pass up for many, many good reasons.
My flight was departing Manchester at 7 a.m on 4/22, so it was an early to bed, early to rise for Cyndi Lou. My husband was kind enough to drive me to the airport so I didn't have to leave my car in long term parking. Aw.
I arrived in Philly on time and headed to baggage claim, texting my cousin as I walked. Thankfully, I didn't walk into anyone while doing so. As the escalator descended, I caught view of her. We hugged and collected my bag. She introduced me to her friend, Theresa, who came along for the airport ride. My cousin said she wanted to have a girls day, which included going to her favorite flea market. This didn't sound too bad...at first.
We drove 30-40 minutes to this place (in Columbus, NJ, I think). We walked around, and around, and around...for what seemed like days. I love my cousin with my whole heart, but apparently, I don't share her love of flea markets. There are just tables and tables and tables of STUFF...and after a while, well, it just all starts to look alike. It's almost as if the producers of the show "Hoarders" took a bunch of random items from the people they feature on their show and just dumped it here, there and everywhere. The only thing that could numb the pain of flea marketing was pizza.
When the girls finally had their fill of "the flea", we hit the road for greener pastures. Not only do the girls like to shop, but they like wine too. Off to Laurita Winery in New Egypt, NJ for a tasting! Aw, what the heck, I'll give them a plug too:
We sampled ten of Laurita's finest offerings; some white, some red, some super fruity. It was a nice way to unwind after the early flight and hours of walking around tables of stuff people were trying to get rid of. We headed back to Laurie's house to see the family. I suited up to go for an easy six mile run. Laurie wasn't up for running that long or far with me, but she opted to bike next to me while I ran.
With one condition.
That I wouldn't laugh when I saw her bike.
I said, "Cuz, that's just ridiculous. Why would I laugh at your bike?"
She replied, "you'll see".
Apparently, she got this bike from freecycle which, as you can surmise, is a way to get free stuff. So, she brings it out of the garage. It was just a big old bike, with big old handlebars. But, I stayed true to my promise and did not laugh. I'm sure her warning me about it being free allowed me to control myself.
So, we were off. She pedaled next to me while I ran a comfortable pace. We chatted and enjoyed the sunshine together. About four miles in, I heard a hissing sound. Laurie just kept talking. I interrupt her mid-sentence.
"Um, cuz, I think you got a flat tire."
She looks at me in mild horror, "No way!"
Then she looked over her shoulder to check it out for herself.
And that is when she heard the hissing sound too.
She exclaimed, "Oh man! Do you think I can make it home??"
I look at my watch and then look at the tire. "Not for two miles, you can't."
So, we opted to take a shortcut back to her house, all the while hoping the bike would make it. Thankfully, it did. I left her there to finish up my run solo. I only had a little over a mile left to do. And I was really looking forward to being alone for a few minutes, so I could get all the laughter out I had been holding in about the bike, the tire and the look on her face.
Come on, admit it. You'd laugh too.
I enjoyed a nice family dinner with her, her husband, Shane, and their two kids. The next day was her birthday. We ended up going to the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City, which was only about an hour drive from her place. We promised each other to use $20 on the nickel slots. Once it was gone, it was gone. That was it. No more.
We stretched out that money for a good forty-five minutes or so. Just in time for the opening of the Borgata Buffet. For $17.95, you can give yourself a stomachache the likes of which you've never seen. Oh, but it was so worth it. Besides, it was her birthday. Everyone knows that birthday calories don't count.
We headed back to her place and relaxed for a while in the sun, praying lunch would be digested in time for dinner. I like to eat just as much as the next person, but even I have my limits. Thankfully, Shane wasn't going to be home from work until later. Not only did he take us out for dinner, but he and the kids surprised Laurie with a homemade birthday cake.
Now you know why I run so much.
After more eating, drinking and laughing, it was time to turn in. The 5K was at nine in the morning and we wanted to get there in plenty of time. Not only was Laurie doing the race but her friend, John was going to be there as well. From what she told me, he sounded like a pretty good runner. Turns out he ran the 2009 Philadelphia Marathon too, turning in a time of 3:23:23...24 minutes and 23 seconds ahead of me. Sheesh. Pretty sure I wouldn't be running with HIM at all.
We managed to get ourselves and the two kids up and ready in record time. Shane had to work that day, so he wasn't able to join us. He wished us a good run and we took off. After a minor GPS snafu, we arrived at our destination. We spotted my cousin instantly and went over to join him. We all must have looked pretty photogenic, because New Jersey 101.5 just HAD to take our picture for their webpage. They even gave us water bottles for our trouble (see pic above).
Shortly after that, I finally got to meet Laur's friend, John, live and in person.
I may have mentioned this before, but one of the reasons I love being a runner so much is the camaraderie. I had just met John that day, but we already had a bond. We've done a marathon. We "get it". So, it was like reuniting with an old friend. After registration, he and I did a warm-up jog together with a couple of strides at the end. Once we were race ready (which includes one more visit to the portables), we collected my cousin and walked to the start line. The race wasn't chip timed, so John and I positioned ourselves as close to the front as we could.
The race got underway shortly after that. As predicted, I saw John for all of ten seconds, which was fine. I firmly believe in "running your own race". And, I knew going in that he was faster than me. I wasn't sure how hard I was going to push it since I had a long run to do the next day. I told Coach I didn't mind just "running it for fun" if racing it would interfere with the marathon prep. But, before I left for Jersey, Ted encouraged me to "plan to fail"...to set a goal so outrageous, I didn't think I would meet it. So, I just randomly said, "okay, I plan to break 22 minutes". I didn't really think I'd do that since my speed focus was for marathon, not 5K, training.
I guess you could say I had Coach on one shoulder and Ted on the other. Somewhere after mile one, I decided to push the pace and just run as hard as I could. Screw it. I'm already here. Might as well see what I got in the tank. And that is exactly what I did (sorry, Coach). About halfway through the race, I noticed an older gentleman about 10-15 feet in front of me, wearing a 2010 Boston Marathon shirt. I fixed my gaze on him and made him my pacer.
Just keep looking at him, Cyndi. Keep him in your sights.
Country Roads, Take Me Home. Boston 2010, take me home.
Unfortunately, I don't have the GPS stats handy to share with you, but I'm happy to say that I crossed the finish line in under 22 minutes. I planned to fail, just like Ted suggested. And it worked! I saw John and he gave me a big hug, congratulating me on a good race. We decided to work a cooldown run into a recon mission to find my cousin. We jogged in the reverse direction until we spotted her and then ran her in. It was so much fun to see her cross the finish line. Her kids were on the sidelines too, cheering loudly for her as she finished. Something like that is almost sweet enough to make me reconsider having children.
The powers that be posted the race results, so we walked over to look at our times. John ran 19:10 and came in 1st for M4049. I ran 21:53 and took 2nd for F3039. Laurie came in 223 out of 260 runners with a great time of 35:14. I was so proud of her.
While we waited for the awards to be given out, I went over to Boston 2010 and introduced myself. I thanked him for being my unofficial pace car and told him about my quest to qualify for Boston. His name was Rudy and he lived in New Jersey. We talked about running for quite a while. Again, that whole camaraderie thing.
Finally, they gave out the age group awards. I collected a 2nd place certificate and received $10 worth of coupons for Dunkin' Donuts. Not bad for a day's work, eh? Before leaving the winery, we celebrated with a couple glasses of wine in the parking lot. It's like tailgating for cultured people. I exchanged numbers with John so we could stay in touch. Currently, he is training for the 2010 Chicago marathon. I have no doubt that he'll rock that thing.
Laurie suggested we get going before everyone was too drunk to drive, so we said our goodbyes to John and got on those country roads one final time. Because, it was time.
Time to enjoy being with my family for the rest of the weekend.
Time to go home. :-)