Suz's love for COWS + Allan's work with LASERS = one unique blog name! Welcome to our blog filled with race recaps, pictures of our labs, and everything else we share with blogland!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Jingle Bell Run & Photo Favorites

Remember when I ran the Magic City Half a couple of weeks ago? I failed to mention that I also signed myself up for a 5K that afternoon. Thanks to the hills of Birmingham and running a bit faster and harder than I planned to during the half, the 5K was more of a cool down walk/jog than a run. The event itself was wonderful and the course ran through research park (which I don't remember having so many hills!) and overall it was perfect for a Sunday afternoon race. The best part of my afternoon: a 10 minute post-race chair massage. That lady was my savior because after running a half, driving two hours home, taking a quick shower, driving to the 5K, and tacking on another 3.1 miles for the day I was exhausted and she made my back and shoulders feel soooo much better. Another goody from the race: a nice race photo! I finally don't look awful in a race picture! Perhaps this is because this was one of the few parts of the race I actually ran but nonetheless I will take it!

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Yay, I don't look awful. Thanks We Run Huntsville for a great picture!

Since my race recap is pretty brief (translated: I mostly walked) I thought I'd throw in a cute picture of Lucky. We have a little game we play with him. He has two rubber ducks that we keep in the bathroom and he can only play with those in the bathroom. If you sit in the bathtub he will throw the duck in the tub, wait for you to pick it up, throw it back down, and repeat the process for as long as you want to play his game. I am normally giggling too much to take a picture but the last time we played our little game I managed to keep my laughter under control and snap a picture of his face while he waits for me to hand the duck back. You might ask why he has rubber ducks in the bathroom. I'm not allowed to go anywhere in the house without him (his rules, not mine) so if I take a shower he lays on the rug waiting for me to get out and plays with one of his rubber ducks while he waits.

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Pleaaaase let me have my ducky!!!

 Any big plans for the weekend? Anyone racing?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving & HBBC Week 1

I'm sure at this point you've probably read 50 posts about how everyone spent their Thanksgiving so my feelings won't be hurt at all if you skip over mine. This is really more for Allan and I to be able to look back and see what we did this year.


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Ali and Allan

We got to Hoover late Wednesday afternoon and began preparing Thanksgiving dinner while Allan and Adam put up the Christmas tree. We decorated the tree and did what we normally do when we all get together: play with Ali. Allan read to her and she played on our phones for awhile before it was time for scriptures, prayers, and bedtime.


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Daddy and Mommy

The next morning we made the drive to my sister's in Navarre just in time to sit down for lunch. Once the football game was over Allan and I took off to run on the beach. My parents came as well and enjoyed a short walk on the beach before heading back.


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Us pre-run

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Allan in action

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Me in action

The views were breathtaking and I could have run for miles and miles enjoying the sound of the waves and watching the sun set.


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Love the pier in Navarre

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This is just beautiful

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I thought this was a neat shot

We had a nice run and enjoyed taking it easy and running at a comfortable pace. It's been a long time since I've run in the sand and it is much harder than I remember.


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Not fast but we knocked out a 5K on Thanksgiving

On Thanksgiving night I braved the craziness and went to TWO Wal-Marts with my sister and her husband. Basically I just protected her from the buggies being used as weapons and the women who were relentless in their pursuit of a good deal. On Friday morning we made the 6 hour drive back home and were greeted by two very happy doggies. Lucky was ready for bed as soon as it was dark outside.


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You'd think he didn't sleep at all while we were gone

HBBC week 1could have been better but I wasn't too concerned with logging points this week and it shows. I did log 3.1 miles on Thanksgiving which also earned me bonus points since Allan ran too and my 1 hour of cooking/cleaning at Allan's mom's house earned me 2 points since we got bonus points for cooking/cleaning on Thanksgiving . In the first week I also earned 5 points for participating in the facebook group and I had 4 bonus points from tweeting, facebooking, and blogging about HBBC so that gives me a grand total of 15.1 points in week 1. Not great and nothing to be excited over but it's better than zero.

How was your Thanksgiving?
Are you participating in HBBC?

Every Perfect Gift by Dorothy Love

Every Perfect Gift's author Dorothy Love did a wonderful job working in characters from the two previous novels while telling us Ethan and Sophie's story. Sophie spent her entire life trying to find somewhere that she really belonged and an identity that was her own. Her love for newspapers led her back to Hickory Ridge where she began running the Gazette. Her first issue would feature an interview with one of the partners behind the new resort being built on the mountain. Ethan wasn't at all what she expected and she wasn't what he expected either since he was expecting a male. Despite being immediately attracted to each other both Sophie and Ethan had their reservations about the other. An unexpected visit from someone in Ethan's past  does little to help the situation and Sophie's hesitation to reveal her past to Ethan nearly stops their romance before it even begins. I enjoyed every detail of this beautifully written story and I highly recommend reading this novel!

 

About Every Perfect Gift: 

Book 3 in Dorothy Love's Hickory Ridge Romance series.
Ethan and Sophie long to share a future together. But the secrets they're not sharing could tear them apart.
Sophie Caldwell has returned to Hickory Ridge, Tennessee, after years away. Despite the heartaches of her childhood, Sophie is determined to make a home, and a name, for herself in the growing town. A gifted writer, she plans to resurrect the local newspaper that so enchanted her as a girl.
Ethan Heyward's idyllic childhood was shattered by a tragedy he has spent years trying to forget. An accomplished businessman and architect, he has built a majestic resort in the mountains above Hickory Ridge, drawing wealthy tourists from all over the country.
When Sophie interviews Ethan for the paper, he is impressed with her intelligence and astounded by her beauty. She's equally intrigued but fears he will reject her if he learns about her shadowed past. Just as she summons the courage to tell him, Ethan's own past unexpectedly and violently catches up with him, threatening not only his life but their budding romance. 
Link to buy the book: http://ow.ly/ftJyo  

Meet Dorothy:  

  
An accomplished author in the secular market, Dorothy Love makes her inspirational fiction debut with her Hickory Ridge series of historicals set in her native South. Her skillful blending of the historical and the personal reflect her passion for discovering the histories of ordinary people who accomplished extraordinary things and set her apart as an authoritative voice of Southern historical fiction.
Find out more about Dorothy at http://dorothylovebooks.com/.

Blog Tour Schedule

Dorothy Love is celebrating the new book in her Hickory Ridge Romance series, Every Perfect Gift with a "Home for the Holidays" 12 Days of Gifts contest.



Celebrate the holidays with Dorothy Love and her protagonist, Sophie Caldwell, as they count down the days to Dorothy's author chat party with 12 Days of Gifts! Dorothy will be giving away copies of Every Perfect Gift and other holiday essentials, as well as key items from the book that Sophie would have worn during or used to celebrate the holidays (a beautiful, red shawl, Victorian ornaments, stockings). It's all happening on Dorothy's Facebook page. She'll post a new giveaway each day.

So bring on the Christmas cheer with Dorothy and the "Home for the Holidays" 12 Days of Gifts. Then join Dorothy on the evening of December 13 for her author chat party! During the party, Dorothy will announce the 12 winners from the Home for the Holidays giveaway and host an author chat about Every Perfect Gift and favorite Christmas traditions. Oh, and she'll be giving away lots of fun prizes. RSVP today.

I received this book free of charge from Litfuse Publicity Group and Booksneeze in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Caught Red Handed


Don't let this sweet face fool you, that "stick" in his mouth is actually one of the wooden stakes from a piece of landscaping lattice work that we were using to keep Lucky from digging at the edge of the house. He managed to completely take apart the lattice and proudly brought me one of his "new sticks" to show me what he had done. It's hard to spank him when he's so stinking cute!

Tomorrow I'll recap the first week of HBBC and on Monday I'll recap our Thanksgiving trip. Enjoy the weekend!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Magic City Half

Magic City Half took place yesterday in Birmingham, AL, and it was the third half in the Birmingham Triple Crown series. Talladega and Life Without Limits were the first two in the series. For me this was my 12th half in 2012 (13th if you count the Auburn Classic Half that I ran on my own after the official race was cancelled in January) and thus marked the end of my journey to run 12 in 2012.


My running buddy for the second half of the race-loved running with her!

 

The Good

The aid stations were well-prepared with water, Powerade, and Hammer gels and spaced pretty evenly along the course. The course was also well-marked at each mile. Packet pickup was easy to navigate. I finished in 2:34:06! I was really pleased with that time since this was part of a training run. That's where the good parts end.

Ruben Studdard and I pre-race
Lululemon cheerleaders at the halfway point
I may not wear Lululemon but I do love their signs that they hold during races
The Bad

Well, the race was supposed to start at 8 and didn't start until 8:30. Not a huge deal but when you dress for a certain temperature range and then the start time shifts so does the temperature during the race. There was a 17 degree jump from start to finish.

Perhaps I'm spoiled from the other races I've done this year but there were no split times along the course. I had my watch so it wasn't a big deal for me but it would have been nice to have.

In addition to the cobblestone sections of street pictured below there were more parts than not that had uneven pavement and nearly all the streets desperately needed resurfacing which made running very interesting.
this reminded me of downtown Charleston and although I love cobblestone streets they aren't the best for running

The Ugly

The course is in downtown Birmingham and basically runs you through the sections of Birmingham you should never drive through at nighttime. Even with cops all over the course there were sections that I didn't feel comfortable in at all and I did my best to tune out the comments of the people along the side of the road.

Honestly the course it ugly. There's no nice way to dress it up. It was depressing and it breaks my heart to think about how many cities across the country have sections of their downtown areas that are like this-once thriving and now dying. **This is not to say anything negative about all of Birmingham. Allan was born and raised there. I was raised in Montgomery and our downtown area has greatly improved but there are still sections that are rundown and filled with empty, old buildings. I am merely pointing out that this is not an ideal area for a race course.**

Last but not least let me comment on the girls working the entrance to packet pickup that took down my name and handed me my post-it to take to the tables where I actually got to pick up my packet. When I ask you where the race starts try saying "I don't know" instead of saying "somewhere really close to here" and don't roll your eyes at me.

one of the "lovely" tunnels we ran through

Although I was excited to see "You Are Beautiful" spray painted on the building it was heartbreaking to see all the old, abandoned buildings in downtown Birmingham

this tunnel scared me!

 Needless to say I'm glad this Triple Crown series is over. Talladega is one I'll never run again and the only way I'm running this one again is if Allan runs with me and stays with me during the race. The likelihood of me running Life Without Limits in Florence is 50/50 since that bridge still haunts my dreams. I can't say I'd recommend this one to anybody.

Have you had a race that you struggled to say anything nice about?
Did you go back and run it again anyway?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Races & Challenges & Exchanges Oh My!

If you guys are like me it can be tough keeping up with all the virtual races and challenges out there so I am going to do my best to pull all of the ones I know about together in this post.  Jen at Running with the Girls posted several on her blog yesterday so check out her post for some that I left out. Please leave any others in the comments and I'll edit the post to include them. I'm only hitting the high points on each one or this post will be as long as my thesis.

Virtual Races

Kiley over at Daily Vitamin F is hosting her holiday virtual race series again this year with virtual races on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's. This is FREE to participate and you can win prizes. What's not to love about that?!

2012 christmas 5k

A Journey to Thin is hosting her 3rd annual Thankful Healthy Blogger Virtual 5K which is also FREE to participate and there are prizes up for grabs for this race as well. You can "double dip" with these races meaning that you run 3.1 miles and you can enter both of them.


Hope Endures Virtual 5K is put on by Courtney to honor her daughter Ashlyn and you can run anytime between December 1-8. I can't think of a better way to help someone honor their child that has passed away.


XLMIC is hosting her annual holiday virtual 5K this year too and you can get the details on it here as well as sign up. I participated in this last year as well and really enjoyed it! The actual event takes place on December 15 but you can run anytime that week.



There's also a Kickin' Asphalt group on facebook that you can look into that will be having a Turkey Trot Virtual 5K on November 21, 2012 Frigid Half Marathon on December 2, and a 2013 New Year's Day Virtual Run/Walk where you can pledge how many miles you will run/walk that day.

 

Laura is hosting a virtual race series where you can run a 5K or 5 miles by the 5th of each month and be entered to win some great prizes. It's free to enter and you can find all the details here.

Challenges

Elle and Lindsay have put together a really interesting challenge for the winter called Elf for Health that involves daily challenges that you can do. You will have an elf assigned to you and you will be assigned as an elf to someone else. During the course of the challenge you will switch elves and there are of course prizes. Sign ups close on November 24 for the first round.

nutritionella

Run Eat Repeat is hosting Pile on the Miles again this year and although it's too late to sign up mark your calendars for this event next year. It runs November 1-December 1 and encourages you to pile on as many miles as possible during that time. There are weekly prizes as well as prizes awarded at the end and this one is also FREE to participate in.



The Running Mom is hosting The Winter 100 Challenge again this year and there are some great prizes up for grabs. Track your miles for December-February and try to hit at least 100. No need to sign up but you do need to turn in your mileage log by February 28, 2013, at 11:59 PM EST.

HBBC (Holiday Bootie Buster Challenge) is back and this year things have been revamped a little with the biggest change being a $25 fee to register. There are TONS of prizes awarded during this challenge so that will help offset those costs. During the winter months there aren't many races that any of us do so why not take your $25 and register for an event that you can a lot out of. It runs from November 19-January 5 and there will be weekly emails reminding you to log your points (this was what I was terrible at last year!). If you haven't already signed up and you'd like to you can put someone down for a referral so put down Courtney at Third Time's A Charm Runner.


The Spicy RD is hosting her 3rd Annual December Fitness Challenge and you can sign up by December 3. Basically you set a fitness goal for yourself for the month of December and then report back to let her know how you did. I like this because you can tailor it to your own fitness level and everyone's goals are bound to be different.

Running Escapes and The Purple Giraffe have teamed up to bring us a challenge for January called Chilly Challenge. It's pretty simple to participate: pick a team, sign up, log your miles in January, and you can win prizes. Check out Running Escapades's post here for all the details.

 

Ornament Swaps/Sock Swaps/Christmas Card Exchanges

Courtney over at Third Time's A Charm Runner is hosting her second annual Secret Santa Sock Swap. I participated in this last year and it was a lot of fun! Head over to her blog and check out the details.


The Little JBird is hosting an ornament exchange for the first time and I'm so excited to participate. The deadline to sign up is December 5. She is one of my favorite bloggers and one of my sweetest friends!

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Julie at ROJ Running is hosting her Ornament Exchange again this year and November 21 is the last day to sign up to participate. If you like to receive a new ornament each year consider doing this exchange too!


Zaneta over at Runner's Luck is hosting her 3rd Annual Christmas Card Swap. Signups are open until December 7 and you'll be assigned a group of about 5 bloggers that you'll send cards to and they will also send cards to you. I participated last year and received some very sweet cards!

2012 Christmas Card Swap Logo2

Kim is hosting her Holiday Card Exchange again this year as well and if you sign up you will send/receive cards with your group of 4-5 people. The deadline is November 30 to sign up.



13 13.1's in 2013
* I am not sure if Jill is planning to organize another challenge (she hosted the 12 in 2012 this year) to do 13 half marathons in 2013 but regardless that is a challenge I'm setting for myself next year so even if there isn't a formal challenge that's what is on my radar for 2013.

Please let me know if you have anything to add to the list and I'll be happy to add it!
Are you participating in any and/or all of these?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Babies, Babies, Babies

No, I am NOT pregnant but my sister, sister in law, and best friend's wife are so babies seem to be on the forefront of every event in our lives right now. A few weeks ago I hosted a baby shower for my sister with two of her friends that we've both known almost our entire lives. Her little man is set with lots of new clothes and toys and other sweet things. Did I mention that my sister is an extremely gorgeous pregnant lady? You can't see in the picture below but she is rocking some huge heels and I swear she barely looks like she has a pregnant belly!

quite possibly the cutest baby shower decoration I've ever seen

the important stuff-food

opening her presents and please note that just because this was a baby shower that did not mean we missed the NFL games of the day (her husband is a big Cowboys fan)

A week later Allan and I went down to Leeds for a couple's baby shower for my best friend and his wife (the ones that met at our wedding). It's always fun to hang out with them and they received some beautiful gifts for their little girl who should be making her arrival in the next few weeks. I know without a doubt that the two of them are going to make wonderful parents and she will be one very lucky little girl!

he's really a natural at opening gifts-it only takes 15 minutes per present

a gorgeous handmade dress that has lace from her great or great great grandmother's slip
By some miracle not a single person asked me when I was going to have a baby so I consider both events to be a success on that front. I was fully prepared to defend my/our position on now not being the right time. Now if only Slick and Allan could have acted normal but then they wouldn't have been themselves so I suppose I can't fault them for that.

Group hug perhaps

We love our best friends!

Since we were extremely late to the baby shower (it was right after the Wounded Warrior Project 8K) we hung out for awhile afterwards at the closest Starbuck's and I enjoyed a Caramel Brulee Latte which is just as delicious as I remember from last year! Allan had one too but I'm almost certain his was halfway gone when I took this picture!

yum yum yum
I couldn't be more excited for our family and friends that are having babies and I look forward to spoiling all of them. Aunt Suz & Uncle Allan never visit without presents and Uncle Allan has a hard time telling sweet little faces no so parents you've been warned!

Does anyone else have friends and family that all seem to be pregnant at the same time?
Have you tried any of the holiday drinks at Starbuck's?

*I rarely ever know what I'm going to post about the next time but tomorrow I'm rounding up all of the virtual challenges/races that are taking place over the holidays because if you're like me it's hard to remember what's going on!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Huntsville Half Marathon

It's very difficult to put into words our experience with the half marathon here in Huntsville this past Saturday. This was my first half marathon a year ago and this year it would be Allan's first half. I was anxious to see how much my time would improve in a year and truth be told, I was hoping to PR. All Allan told me was that he was going to aim for 11:00-12:00 miles.

At the start-ready to race!
Another aspect of the race I was looking forward to was seeing Elizabeth. This year we've both run Publix in March, Oak Barrel in April, Cotton Row in May, and now Huntsville Half in November. It's always enjoyable to see her and spend a few moments before and after the race discussing running, blogging, and our beloved Auburn Tigers. She ran a great race and I'm sure she will have a recap up soon so I encourage you to hop over to her blog and read about it!

Elizabeth and I post-race-rocking orange and blue and representing Auburn
The course is fairly flat and fast and has beautiful scenery along the greenway combined with residential running through a few neighborhoods. Shame on me for only stopping to take two pictures during the race. A couple got married around mile 7 and then finished the half together. I'm not sure I'll ever see someone get married during a race again so I had to stop for that!

The trees were so beautiful with their colorful leaves

the happy running couple-please note that the aisle is lined with running shoes!
Allan and I started the race together and I did my best to stay with him but that only lasted for the first couple of miles. He's too fast for me! I was feeling great and decided I'd run the entire race and only take walk breaks on the bigger hills or when I needed to take a break for some Gatorade or GU chomps. The miles kept ticking away and it didn't take me long to realize a PR was possible.

Thank you Elizabeth for snapping this picture of me approaching the finish
Once I could see the finish I heard Elizabeth cheering and began my sprint to the finish. I was sure that the clock was wrong since it read 2:22 and change. I knew my official time would be faster than that since we had started in the back. Imagine my surprise when I saw the official results and my time read 2:21:57!!! That is almost a 6 minute PR. Here I was hoping to come in under 2:27. Allan was waiting for me at the finish and he was happy with his time of 2:12:45. Congrats to Sandy at Boston Bound Brunette who predicted Allan would finish in 2:10! Email me and I'll get a prize out to you!

bib, medal, and my door prize!
After chatting with Elizabeth for awhile we made our way inside for awards and door prizes. Between the two of us we almost always win a door prize if there are door prizes so I was keeping my fingers crossed. I was ecstatic when I won the coffee mug pictured above! Being the crazy person that I am I changed clothes once we got home and headed to the fields to get in 8 miles to make it 21 miles for the day. Once I hit 21 miles I still felt good and I know I could have continued to run more which gives me an incredible amount of confidence going into Rocket City next month.

I hate sharing screen shots but I'm really proud of this!


In going back and reading my post from last year I was surprised to see that my goal for this year was to run a sub-2:30 and to have a full marathon on my race calendar. Check and check! In a year I've shaved 16 minutes off my time on this course and next year I'd love to shave off more time. One day I'll run a sub-2 half!

When and where was/will be your first half? Do you go back and run this race each year?