Twin Cities Marathon Recap

When I signed up for the the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, I believed that since it was my second marathon, it would be easier than my first. Though the race was an absolutely incredible experience — the crowds, the music, the signs, the weather, the sights were unbelievable — those 26.2 miles definitely tested me.

THE START

My well-tapered legs felt strong and ready to go as I started the race. My goal was to qualify for the Boston Marathon (sub 3:35 or 8:12 per mile). The crowd support was awesome as we looped through downtown Minneapolis, and the weather was perfect. I stayed aware of my pace, and noticed my watch kept telling me 7:35/7:45 — well ahead of my 8:00 plan.

I kept trying to slow down but my legs didn’t want to, so I just tried to hold steady. At Mile 5.5, I saw Mike and the whole Martin cheering squad, which was SO awesome! They were all wearing bright blue and yellow t-shirts that said “Team MK”!

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I carried on through the next several miles, many of which were flat or downhill and they passed by quickly. I saw the cheer squad again just after the halfway mark, and still felt strong. I was beginning to realize, though, that this would not be race where I’d “turn on the gas” in the final miles.

No, this would be a “Hang on as long a you can” kind of race. I knew I had gone out too fast.

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THE MIDDLE MILES

The real marathon begins after the halfway mark, when the exciting distraction of the crowds and music begin to fade, and your fatigue sets in. That’s when your training and tactical racing decisions catch up to you — for the better or worse.

For me, it was for the worse. I started feeling quite tired by mile 17 — more than I should have. I knew I had big hills awaiting me, and that didn’t help me mentally. By mile 19, when we started up one of the biggest inclines of the course, it became very clear my tank was empty.

My legs felt very heavy and I knew my pace was dropping — fast. I wiped my forehead and felt salt on my dry skin, rather than sweat. I took this as a bad sign.

This was the “wall.” And I hit it. Hard.

Summit Avenue stared me down. Do you have the will to finish this race?

As I climbed (yes, it felt like I was scaling a small mountain) toward the state Capitol, runner after runner after runner started passing me. My legs did not want to move anymore, and my arms offered little help. I knew my goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon was slipping from my grip.

But I could not go make my body go faster.

Just keep going. Doesn’t matter how slow. Do not give up.

At mile 23, I passed my family again, all of them cheering their hearts out. I only managed a glance in their direction, but their cheers motivated me so much.

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My goal now was just to finish, because I wasn’t sure I could. I remembered my mom telling me the day before that I am a Timberwolf, and to think of my brave grandfather.

Hold steady. Hold steady.

THE FINISH

When I finally reached downtown St. Paul, the giant FINISH sign came into view. I did my best to turn on the jets but I doubt I accelerated much at all. I looked at my watch and saw I had only a minute to cross the line and break 3:35. It wasn’t enough time.

I ran my heart out anyway, crossing in 3:36:01. Good enough for a 14-minute personal record. 1:02 short of a BQ.

Let me tell you, that finish felt awesome. Mike met me at the end of the chute and gave me the biggest, best hug ever. I was so relieved to have finished, so happy the hard part was over. There’s nothing better than knowing you just gave a marathon every last ounce of energy you had, and you’re still standing.

I watched football and laid on the couch that entire afternoon with Mike, telling him all about the race, reading lots of congratulations from friends and family, and enjoying the most comfortable exhaustion I’ll ever know.

What made the weekend so special, though, wasn’t the race or the finish. I felt so loved and supported by my family, near and far. I think I had the very best cheer squad on the entire course, reminding me what really matters.

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Still, I have a score to settle with Summit Avenue…

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Cookie craving and a great family weekend

Marathon training has made my sweet tooth even sweeter. Today I wanted a cookie, but not just any kind of cookie would do. I decided to put my little Ramekins to use and make a miniature pizookie. (aka a deep dish cookie served right out of the oven, usually with vanilla ice cream — brilliance).

It came out of the oven; then I died and went to heaven.

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I used break-and-bake cookies to save time. I set them out on the counter for 30 minutes so they were closer to room temperature, then combined four of them together in an ungreased Ramekin. ( at first I was only going to use three, but you only live once so I added another 🙂 )

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I placed the Ramekin on a baking sheet and baked it for about 15 minutes at 375 degrees, until the cookie was golden brown on top. Larry got curious as the minutes passed…

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I only made one, so Mike and I had to share, since I’m married now and can’t keep all the sweets for myself, apparently.

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We had an amazing weekend with my family visiting from Ohio. We would have fun just hanging out anywhere and talking, but we decided to try something new and go on the Seadog Architecture Tour, which takes you on a boat ride on Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. It was SO neat. Did you know the Sears Tower was designed by the same architect as the John Hancock Building?

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I love them! Maybe next time they visit, I’ll make mini pizookies for everyone 🙂

We got married!

I never could have imagined how magical our wedding day would be. I can’t find the right words to describe the event, other than to say that it was truly the happiest day of my life.

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I remember the weekend that Mike and I got engaged (June 2011), we celebrated with friends and family for about 36 hours and then suddenly it was time to plan. When would we get married? What city? What venue? How many guests? What was our budget?

These questions were not all easy to answer and even Mike and I had different thoughts on them sometimes. (It’s not fun to disagree with your brand new fiancé about your wedding, but I’m pretty sure it’s normal.)

I wasn’t the bride with the three-ring, color-tabbed binder for planning. I didn’t pore over dozens of bridal magazines or make a million Pinterest boards. I didn’t really care a lot about details. I just wanted to marry Michael and have a fun, joy-filled celebration with the people in this world we love the most. Sometimes I felt like I was a “bad” bride for not fretting over my colors or invitations, but then I realized that as long as I was over-the-moon excited to marry Mike (you bet I was) that’s all that mattered.

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We got married in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio. As July 5 got closer, and I realized how many moving parts were involved with making the day come together, I worried that I would never be able to just relax and soak in the day. Then, a few weeks before the wedding, I got an email from Mike’s cousin Annie that made perfect sense. She wrote,

I think the best piece of advice I was given is that if it isn’t done by Wednesday of wedding week – just leave it. Stop and enjoy. It is going to be an amazing day no matter what and you don’t want those final days to be a frenzied mess of tiny details.

So the day before the wedding, when the church wedding planner asked me whether I wanted the pew bows placed on every pew or every other pew, I shrugged my shoulders and said, “You know, I really don’t care!” 🙂

The day of the wedding, I woke up to the sound of pouring rain. I laid in bed and told myself it would still be OK, none of our events were outside, we could find good spots for photos inside, rain is good luck. But I didn’t believe any of that, apparently, because I walked downstairs and practically cried to my mom about the weather and said, “Why me?” and other embarrassingly dramatic things.

Sure enough, the pitter-patter of falling rain disappeared by noon. My parents’ house was full of the voices of my family and bridesmaids as we finished getting ready.

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We left for the church, and then all the big moments, the ones I know I’ll remember for the rest of my life, were suddenly happening.

Mom and Maggie helping me put on my dress and veil. Seeing Mike in his tuxedo on the front lawn of St. Andrew. Standing arm and arm with my dad, right before the church doors opened, taking one deep breath before it was ‘go time.’ Looking out into the church from the altar and hearing Mike whisper to me, “Never forget this scene, of all these people here for us.”

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I could have wept through the entire ceremony, I couldn’t believe it was actually, finally, our wedding day. But I said my vows without a tear, keeping my eyes on my new husband, the guy who stole my heart in South Bend.

Then it was off to the reception — a blur of hugs and hellos and dancing and music and laughter and the most amazing, heart-felt toasts. Basically, the best party of our life!

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The night ended with all the guests forming a circle around Mike and me as we danced to "I got you babe" by Sonny and Cher.

We are now three weeks in to married life and it's pretty great. Team Mike, MK and Larry.

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A Close Call

Our Sunday trip to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs play the Pittsburgh Pirates started out so wonderfully.

Mike bought me official Cubs gear (jersey and hat), the rain held off and our seats gave us a picture-perfect view.

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I felt like one of the Martins, watching the game and chatting with Mike and Bill.

Around the 5th inning, I left my seat to run to the bathroom. The cubbies were down by 1 and I needed to stretch my legs. I dilly dallied, admiring my new official Cubs gear in the mirror.

Little did I know what was going on back at our seats.

A left-handed hitter for the Pirates hit a foul ball straight into our section. It struck right near my empty chair, and ricocheted straight into Mike’s right eye/side of his nose.

I returned to find everyone in our section looking concerned and staring at Mike.

“What’s going on?” I said. And then I noticed Mike’s swollen right eye and the scrape on his nose.

“I got hit with a foul ball, babe.”

“OH MY GOD!! ARE YOU OK?!” (And then I may have asked if he would be healed in time for our wedding photos.)

Of course he said he was perfectly fine, even as he kept blinking and wiping water from his red eye.

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Luckily, the Cubs went on to WIN, 4-1!

And Mike definitely took one for our team. Had I been sitting there… my nose hurts just to think of it.

The final countdown

I suspected the last two months before the wedding would be hectic, just not THIS hectic! Here’s what’s going on in the final weeks before Mike and I (and Lar-Bear) become a family.

1. We found a new apartment in a neighborhood downtown called Lakeshore East. While I am 100 percent certain I will miss Lincoln Park, our new location has some perks, like being within walking distance of my office (no more clanky morning train rides).

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2. We are making plans for a kick-butt music list at the wedding.

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3. Meet our godson, Daniel John. He was baptized last weekend and he is just the most adorable little guy!

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4. Mike’s job is taking him out of state more. I swear, Larry is in depression.

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Not your normal pizza

Here’s a really fun way to make a calzone. I found this recipe here and have made it several times, including for Christmas Eve dinner at my parents’ house.

The only essential ingredient is Pillsbury Pizza Crust:

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Spread the crust onto a greased baking sheet, and add your pizza toppings. I used tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and pepperonis.

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Now for the fun part! With a knife, divide the sides into one-inch strips, making sure not to cut beyond the toppings.

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Lift one strip at a time over the toppings, overlapping the strips from top to bottom. Cover as much of the toppings as possible.

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Bake at 375 degrees for 25-35 minutes.

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She’s not the prettiest calzone you’ve ever seen, but still pretty darn delicious. And if you’re cooking for two, it’s definitely great for leftovers.

Weekend in St. Paul

Lucky for us, the sun and warmth arrived in St. Paul just in time for our visit last weekend. I didn’t wear a jacket for three whole days!

My future sisters-in-law hosted a wonderful bridal shower for me at a country club in St. Paul, complete with custom-designed candy bars and cookies.

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photo credit: Rebecca Martin

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We received so many special things! A blender, our place settings, serving platters, a cutting board, and a bundt pan from Mike’s mom with her handwritten poppyseed cake recipe so I can make Mike’s favorite dessert. (She also gave us a beautiful Waterford platter to display it on!)

They say you can’t choose your spouse’s family, but I may as well have, because I can’t ask for anything better.

My mom, sister and aunt also made the trip to Minnesota, which meant the world.

They are like twins!

They are like twins!

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Maybe we are too!

Another big moment of the weekend: meeting our godson, Daniel John Martin. Isn’t he so precious?!

Say cheese!

Say cheese!

Mom’s Chili (aka Win-His-Heart Dinner)

Some people pour dozens of ingredients into their chili, but I’m convinced that the best way to make it involves just four: 1 lb of lean ground beef, 1 can of diced tomatoes, 1 can of kidney beans and 1 magical seasoning packet.

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I accidentally bought “mild,” but “original” is preferred.

This is the recipe my mom uses, so it always reminds me of home. It’s perfect on a rainy, snowy or cold night.

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This chili can also steal a man’s heart. It’s the first meal I ever made for Mike, and it’s still his all-time favorite. Soon after I made it, we officially started dating, and now look at us…

So ladies, if you’re in love, make this for your man and he’ll be yours forever.

Mom’s Chili (aka Win-His-Heart Dinner)

INGREDIENTS
1 lb lean ground beef
1 can (16 oz) kidney beans, undrained.
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained, OR 2 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce
1 packet McCormick Original Chili Seasoning

DIRECTIONS
1. In large skillet, brown meat until cooked through, drain any fat.
2. Add chili seasoning, beans and tomatoes to pan.
3. Stir to combine ingredients thoroughly, bring to boil.
4. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Dress it up with cheddar cheese, crackers and red onion.

Source: http://www.mccormick.com/Recipes/Main-Dishes/McCormick-Chili

Officially ‘Late 20s’

To mark my 27th birthday, I started to think about how much I’ve enjoyed this decade of my life. It’s hard to believe it began when I was a sophomore in college. Though I’ve got a lot more living to do, I think I’ve learned some good lessons so far.

Life is worth the leaps. The 20s seem to bring lots of Big Decisions about jobs, moving cities and relationships. I stewed over several Big Decisions for far too long and learned that it’s better to go with your gut, even if it means taking a leap. Taking chances can bring great rewards, or at the very least, a lesson learned.

Friendships need care. This became so clear after college, when my dearest friends in the world suddenly lived thousands of miles away, instead of across the hall. Our lives set out in all different directions, spanning time zones. Friendships don’t require proximity, but they do need care. Call. Text. Send birthday cards.

Time heals wounds. I experienced great heartbreak when I was 22. I truly thought I would carry its weight for the rest of my life. My mom told me time would heal, and now I see how the passage of time can indeed bring peace. The wounds fade, and the remaining scars make you human.

And the most important:

Dogs aren’t scary. I was scared of dogs until I met Larry Martin. Though they beg for your dinner and make you pick up their poop, they always love you and just want to cuddle.

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An April Shower

I am biased, but I think Mike and I have been given the best bridal showers imaginable. Yesterday, my Aunt Kathy and Aunt Susan hosted a beautiful celebration in Granger, Indiana.

It was so perfect, they thought of everything. The decorations, the flowers, the food, the opening blessing, the cake!

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My beautiful aunts and I. They planned such a memorable day for me.

My beautiful aunts and I. They planned such a memorable day for me.

It will never feel normal to receive and open so many gifts. But I love to think that when I use my pancake-flipper and cooking spoons, I will think of the Beeler girls. Or my loaf pans and measuring cups, I’ll think of my amazing friend Kim.

My sister gave us HANDMADE pillows! She sewed them herself and they look like they are from Anthropologie. So adorable I can hardly stand it.

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My mom gave us a Le Creuset Dutch Oven. I’ve read so many great things about the durability and versatility of this pot, I can’t wait to try it out.

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“Mom, is this what I think it is? You didn’t!” (Love Maggie’s face)

Every single gift meant so much. Especially the ones from my future family, the Martins, who drove all the way from Chicago and St. Paul to be there.

I felt so overcome by the people and the presents that I cried when I thanked everyone for coming. It was such an incredible day.

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(Thanks to Maggie and Kim for capturing it all in photos!)