Wednesday, November 25, 2015

~Phoenix Family Vacation 2015~

It's back to reality here at home- snow is flying, the temperatures have plummeted and it's starting to feeling and look a lot like Christmas which makes it ok that our vacation is over!

I'll recap our family trip to Phoenix here and do another recap of our getaway to Las Vegas separately because this will already be long enough!

We left for Phoenix on Saturday, November 7th. Our flight was at 5:45pm so we had most of the day to get organized and Leo had a good nap.

Note- 3 suitcases in the photo below! Plus 2 bags extra for each of us (minus Leo). We do not travel lightly so it seems! I think I had 6 pairs of shoes?

Someone was exhausted from dance class! Audrey fell asleep in the van during the 15 minute drive to the Airport Park and Jet. She stayed asleep during the ride in the shuttle, check-in and security!

The stroller was supposed to be for Leo!

Everything was a breeze- the airport was quiet so we grabbed some dinner before boarding the plane.

Everyone was excited for vacation!!

After an uneventful flight, we arrived in Phoenix and drove back to my in-laws house.

Our first day in Phoenix was a relaxing one- spent at the pool! Leo is such a water baby! He kept dunking his head, even though he was shivering. We had to keep telling him to STOP drinking the water.

We hung out lots in the backyard, enjoying the sun!

Leo's favourite word: "truck"

We located the nearby parks and spent some quality time there. This particular park had 5 slides! The kids loved them! It was a bit cooler that day.

Daddy and Grandpa also set up the mini-trampoline which was a huge hit! It's like a giant playpen!

We headed to the Children's Museum of Phoenix on Veteran's Day. Sort of bad planning- it was a complete zoo!! Took 45 minutes just to get in between parking and waiting in line. It is worth it though and next time we will avoid going on a holiday!

This climbing structure is cool but not for this lady who is afraid of heights!

We spent a lot of time in the arts & crafts room this year. Audrey was all over painting the giant castle, even though she ended up getting a ton of paint on herself from the other kids!

This area was for 3 and under- Audrey liked playing in the kitchen, making music with the xylophone. Leo loved the balls and smelling the flowers!

The hot dog and ice cream stations were a hit again with Audrey! I just love watching the kids and their imaginations!

Leo liked playing in the lentils at the 'grocery store'. It was like being in Costco with all the shoppers and carts!!

I managed to get a couple runs in! It wasn't too hot which is better for me and running. You know you are in Arizona when you see a javelina (wild pig) while on a run!

One afternoon my mother-in-law and I headed to the spa for a manicure and pedicure! So relaxing and a nice treat!

We headed to the Wildlife Zoo one morning.

We saw a joey peeking out of it's mom's pouch. Pretty neat to see it kicking around in there!

Feeding the giraffes was a big hit again.

We had the chance to participate in a Lorie feeding! That was pretty neat! It was a bit crazy at first with all the birds flying towards you and landing on you because they knew what was coming!

We took a ride on a little train to check out some more animals. The kids were quite thrilled with that!

We had to visit the tortoises before we left. Audrey was interested in watching him eat!
Leo kept telling us to "Shhhhh" because a few tortoises were sleeping in the corner!

They had a small petting zoo where Audrey bravely fed the hungry goats!

My in-laws and their friends have a collection of toys and bikes for kids because they all have their grandchildren visiting several times a year. Audrey was quite happy to be riding a Strider all over the place, although she did say she wanted pedals when we were also on the bikes.

The kiddie pool in the backyard was perfect for splashing and quick dips!

The kids had lots of fun with Grandma and Grandpa while we took off for a long weekend to go to Las Vegas. They did come down with colds so that made it a little more difficult but overall they barely noticed we were gone. Leo on the 3rd day kept saying "My Dada? My Mama?"- asking where we were! They were beyond excited when we did come back and I missed them terribly!

The day after we returned from Vegas my mother-in-law booked me in for a massage which was so needed! My legs were so sore after the race that this was the best thing!

That afternoon Daddy and Grandpa took Audrey to a winter league baseball game. It was during Leo's naptime so we stayed back. Audrey had a blast, and referred to it as the "wacking game!"

She got a stray ball and was practicing her batting.

Leo seemed to miss us so much while we were gone that he kept waking up super early our last week in Phoenix. Leo, 4:30am is NEVER a good time to wake up! So tired!

Pants are also optional in Phoenix! And Leo was never without a truck or 2 in his hands!

Audrey sweetly reading to Leo one morning while I was trying to get ready. She's such a good big sister and he loves her so much!

We checked out the big playground in Surprise.

Leo was loving this swing!!

Our flight home was fairly uneventful, even if we (hubby) forgot the kids' suitcase in their room and his laptop charging on the counter at my in-laws. They were coming back two days later so it wasn't a huge deal.

And just like that our vacation was over. It was hard to say goodbye to the good weather and know we were coming back to cold and snow but now it's time to get ready for Christmas!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

~RnR Las Vegas Half Marathon Race Report 2015~

The Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon was by far the biggest and most logistical race I have ever run! It was quite the experience-- one that was both exciting, unique, very memorable, yet totally chaotic at times! 

We went to the Expo on Saturday morning. It was super busy. We drove down since we had a car anyway. It probably took longer than taking the Monorail but parking was free. Plus I didn't feel up to walking too much, if you know what I mean! ;)

The race package pick up was quick-- very organized and efficient, literally zero wait. 

We wandered through the Expo. We picked out some finishing shirts- they didn't have my size in the shirt I really wanted but I still like the one I ended up getting. 

I was not feeling so great so I didn't explore the Expo as much as I would have liked to. Probably means I spent less money so maybe that's a good thing! We bought a box of Gu Chomps- they now sell them single serving which is good. They have a new flavour- Salted Caramel Apple which is delicious so I stocked up on those! 

I saw Tina at the Nuun display- she was chatting to someone else so I hung around for a few minutes waiting to say hi. The Sparkle Skirt booth was right beside and I really wanted to get one but I was no mood to be making decisions so I ended up skipping it. Kind of regret that but I can always order online or at another race. 

We ended up missing Tina while I was trying on skirts but ran into her a few booths over. 

We chatted, she gave us a few tips and we went to the Bondi Booth. I found a headband since I can always use more of those!  

Just before we headed out we stopped to get our wristband for the post-race beer. Beer is usually the last thing I want ever, never mind after a race but we figured it was better to get the wristband just in case. We ended up not using it. 

Onto the RACE:

We didn't do much the day of the Race (Sunday, November 15th). We slept in till 11am which was glorious! Attempting to find food at noon was a bit of a gongshow. We waited in line for almost an hour for the buffet. I had some pre-race nerves so didn't feel like eating but I knew I had to. The buffet was really good but I don't think I would go to one again just before the race because I didn't eat as much as I would have liked to. One of the reasons I don't like buffets in the first place- never feel like I get my money's worth. 

We went back to the room, got ready and headed out to the Race start at 3:30. The Race started at 4:30pm. Our corral estimate time was 5:03

The empty Strip closed down for the upcoming race at 2:30pm

We took the Monorail one stop to MGM Grand and walked over to Mandalay Bay. It was a bit of a hike. There was a pre-race show that Kid Rock was headlining but we just listened to it as we walked over to the race corrals. 

It started to get super windy as we were waiting to start. We went into Mandalay Bay to use the washrooms- all the port-a-potties were over by the stage. There was quite the line up as expected so we didn't get to our corral until 4:45. 

Hubby decided when we signed up that we would run together. He hadn't done a half marathon in a couple years, focusing more on strength training the last little while, so while he can still run way faster than me, we thought it would be fun to run a half marathon together! 

Luckily we spotted Tina again so we hung out with her for awhile. She is so entertaining and got me very energized!! We moved up into the middle of our corral to hopefully reduce the amount of dodging we would have to do during the race. 

The weather was not completely in our favour. I had been following it all week and all day. It was supposed to be a high of 18C at 3pm and then go down between 17-13C while we were running. I'm used to races where the temperature increases from start to finish so this was different! I knew I would be chilled walking to the race and all the waiting around but I would warm up quickly once I started running so I wore a t shirt, sleeves, capris and an old long sleeve cotton race shirt I was ok with throwing away. Of course I wore my water belt, with only 2 bottles. 

Almost at the Start Line!!

Finally, around 5:15pm it was time for us to start running!! We ran south for a mile before turning around and running north up the Strip. There was a lot of dodging at the beginning which I expected. We saw a few Elvis costumes, one Kiss and a whole bunch is sparkle skirts and tutus. It made me wish I dressed up!! Next time!

We stopped at the Vegas sign for a picture. It didn't really turn out!

I had a slight stitch in my right side for the first 10k. It wasn't horrible but there. After the first few KMs it seemed to open up as we took over the entire side of one side of the Strip. My first couple of KM were slower, trying to find my pace and getting around people. By 3-4KM I felt I was getting into a good pace, not dodging as many people and even though it had started to rain slightly, I felt good. I took off my cotton throw away shirt but tied it on my waist for a little bit just in case the rain got worse. 

The water stations were a complete gong show. I am so glad I always bring my own water and fuel so I don't have to rely on what the race offers. Every time we hit a race station, our pace would slow down, people would walk in the middle, there were cups ALL over the ground, slipping and sliding everywhere. 

I stuck to my 10 & 1s, drinking water when I needed it & taking my Gu Chomps starting at 50 minutes. 

We started to get a bit behind pace-- I had decided earlier that I would worry less about a time goal and just have fun. So many people told me this race was not a good one to go for a PR and I see why! We dodged people the entire time. The race etiquette was out the window- people walked whenever and wherever they wanted, usually the middle, where I was trying to run! It was frustrating since I definitely used more energy this way.

Around 8K I ditched my cotton shirt from around my waist. I was warm and knew I likely wouldn't need it for the rest of there race.

There were a handful of bands playing-- I'm not sure why but I expected more bands along the way.

Running the Strip was pretty neat! Such a fantastic way to check out the hotels without zooming past them in a car or dealing with traffic!

With the exception of the first Mile marker and the 10K marker, I didn't see any markers until the last few kilometres and they were all blown over. I felt that was disorienting since I didn't know how far we had gone for most of the race, even though I did have my Garmin. It was dark so it was hard to see the distance when I would look at it.

I knew at 10K we were a bit behind where I wanted us to be at but still felt fairly good.

We stopped to take a picture by all the Wedding Chapels!

There were some parts that were not so great- after Stratosphere there is a long, dark and open stretch that was windy and boring. When we weaved through Old Vegas it was also dark, no bands and very disorienting. I did struggle here a bit. Thankfully hubby stayed a few steps ahead of me the entire time so that kept me going! It was here that I took my arm sleeves off- so probably around 13K? I also missed taking a Gu (damn sleeves are so hard to take off it takes an entire walk break!) so that ended up affecting me a bit later.

We briefly ran on Fremont Street which was cool!! I had never been there before and it was nice to have a stretch of bright lights and activity when the previous few kilometres were dark and quiet.

The run back down the Strip from Old Vegas was when the wind picked up! Holy heck it was tough! Running into that was so hard, both physically and mentally. My legs were done yet I could see we still had a ways to go. And the dodging just continued.

The wind just continued the entire last stretch-- we hoped it would die down as we got past Stratosphere and the big hotels started to shelter us but it barely helped. So windy! I guess all those wind advisory updates I was getting all day were no joke!

My calves and quads were on fire the last 3-4KM of the race. Walking didn't help them much either and I just wanted to be done.

Soon we could see Mirage in the distance and I knew the end was near. At my last walk break, hubby was just a bit ahead of me and I was struggling so I yelled at him "walk" but he couldn't hear me well (damn wind!) so I had to yell it again a couple times. When he finally heard me he thought I was saying another word that starts with "F"!!

FINALLY we could see the finish line, the crowd was getting bigger and we dug deep to finish. We dodged people (walking) right up until the very end!

I was so relieved to finish, happily in 2:19:27!

Once you finish, you have to continue walking down the finisher's chute for a kilometer. Along the way you get your medal, take Finisher's photos, get space blankets (my first ever- so cool and needed!), water, gatorade, food, etc. I needed a bag for all the stuff they gave us! We didn't take many pictures at the end because we had no hands!

I purposely chose our hotel, Paris, because it was situated at the end of the finisher's chute. We had to hop a short fence and then we were right at our hotel. It was darn cold out at this point, and soooo windy that I was thankful that we didn't have far to go to get to a hot shower and warm clothes! Surprisingly those space blankets are quite warm!

Thoughts on the race? It was crazy, fun, exciting, different, and thrilling to run the Las Vegas strip at night! Would I do it again? Sure! Is racing with 50,000 other people my favourite thing? No. Mentally it was hard dodging all those people (and we were in the correct corral based on our estimated time, although we ended up being a couple minutes slower). I also found just the logistics of an out-of-town race hard- getting to and from the start, when to eat, what to do before the race (since it was a night race) without walking too much, etc. One thing I would change was maybe forget about a time goal. I am disappointed that I didn't PR BUT overall I am so happy with how I ran the race and I don't think I could have done anything differently other than taken a couple extra Gu chomps earlier but I still don't think that would have gotten me a PR. Maybe a minute or two faster tops. That wind and the constant dodging of people just made it too difficult!

Race shirt, medal (glows in the dark!) and bib

Close up- slot windows spin- the other side of the bananas is '3'

A couple of the race photos- trying to decide if they are worth $75 US!!! Yikes that's expensive and these are the only good ones.