Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Special Race in Boston

I’m feeling pretty good about the race I ran on Sunday, Boston’s Run to Remember, a Half Marathon that honors fallen police officers. This year the race took on a special meaning, after the Marathon Bombing. I had signed up to run it back in February, long before the events of April, but after the bombing I was so glad to be running in this race.

I very seldom run the same race twice, in fact, this may be the first time that I have ever done so. I often think after a race that I would like to run it again, but there are so many races to choose from, somehow repeating a particular race just hasn’t come up, until now.

This race is at a perfect time for me. I’m far enough into my marathon training that it is not difficult to add a little half-marathon speed training to the mix in order to be ready. And it’s far enough away from the marathon proper that I don’t need to worry about recovery time eating into my marathon training.  So back in February, feeling energetic and ambitious I signed up for this race again.

The last time I ran it was in 2010. We had just moved to New England the previous fall, and I really didn’t know where I was in Boston while on the race course. This time I hoped to be able to recognize the various neighborhoods as we passed through.

When I ran the race in 2010, the worry was heat. I believe the high that day was 76F, pretty warm for a race. This time it was rainy and cold, 39 degrees at the start. I’ve had enough cold race starts by now that I wasn’t about to risk freezing while waiting for the race to begin. I had a nice windbreaker that I didn’t mind sacrificing to the race cause, so I wore that over my running clothes until right before the starting horn went off. I also decided to break with my previous marathon tradition, and wore a warm, long sleeved bright yellow top, instead of my usual short-sleeved pink top. This turned out to be a good choice. I never wished that I had on short sleeves throughout the entire two and half hour race!

We lined up for the start in front of the Seaport World Trade Center on the Boston Harbor. Before the race began, the race was dedicated to Sean Collier, the MIT police officer that lost his life while trying to capture the marathon bombers. And there was a moment of silence for everyone that had lost their lives or were gravely injured in the bombing.

At the beginning of any big race there is a bit of sorting out that goes on as people establish their pace and get spread out. For once I managed to stay with my goal pace fairly consistently at the beginning. As we ran past Government Center and across the Longfellow Bridge I began to realize something. There were a lot, and I mean A LOT of people wearing Boston Marathon shirts and jackets in this race. I knew that after the bombing this race had sold out quickly. The race directors said that they got over 3,000 entries in the week after the bombing! But it didn’t occur to me just who those 3,000 runners were. They were Boston Qualifiers, people running to complete a race in Boston where they were not allowed to complete one a month ago.

The race left Boston proper and ran along the Charles River, past MIT, to Cambridge and back. I really liked this part of the race when I ran it before, and I liked it again this time. It’s quiet and scenic, and pretty flat too! And as an out-and-back, its always fun to cheer the race leaders as they are heading back toward Boston, long before us slower runners get to turn around.

In front of MIT there was a line of policemen with their hands out-stretched. I joined many other runners in high-fiving all of them and saying “thanks”. It was pretty emotional; I was kind of choked up by the end of the line. I didn’t care if it slowed me down for a bit; it was worth it.

After turning around and heading back toward Boston, my old nemesis, the urge to pee, started to become a real problem. I just won’t stand in line at a porta potty during a race, no matter what. I wondered if I would end up wetting my pants; I certainly hoped not. I started looking for trees or bushes that might work. Along the Charles was the only semi-rural part of this race. If I waited until we were back in Boston there wouldn’t be any other choice but to hold it or stand in line.

Finally I saw a boathouse by the water that looked like it might provide a bit of cover for a lady in need. I glanced around, didn’t see any policemen and dashed for the side of the building. I hoped the people on the other side of the river wouldn’t notice me squatting in the bushes, but by that point I really didn’t care. Unfortunately I probably lost a minute or more off my time with that maneuver. I think I need to stop drinking in the morning two hours before a race instead of just one.

The end of the race was really fun. I felt good, and I knew where I was the entire time, which made me feel like Boston was slowly becoming MY city. We ran down Charles Street in Back Bay. I noticed the chocolate shop where we bought truffles once on a tour. I saw the Paramount Diner where we ate breakfast, the hotel where Sarah and I ate dinner. We ran around the Public Garden, down Boylston, down Commonwealth, Tremont and Washington.

Crossing Atlantic Ave, right before the Longfellow Bridge, I started looking for Lee. He had said he would try to come watch me at the end, but I didn’t know if he would really come with the weather so cold and wet. But, at the corner of Atlantic and Seaport, there he was! He picked up both dogs and I gave Harper, Cosmo and Lee all big kisses! It was so much fun to see them, and it really gave me a boost there at the end.

I had plenty of energy left for a bit of a kick at the finish line, which always feels good. And as I was running down Seaport they started playing my favorite Arcade Fire song so of course I sang along.
I was pleased that I ran this race safely, remembered to eat my GU packets at the proper times, had fun, and posted a decent time. I was annoyed with myself for having to pee and for hitting the lap button instead of the STOP button on my watch at the end. At least I remembered to hit SOMETHING on my watch.

A half marathon is just not anywhere near as difficult as a full marathon. Its funny now to think back to that first half marathon in HongKong, how intimidating it seemed to run that far in a race, how impossible it seemed at the time to even think about running a full marathon someday. Now running a half marathon seems if not easy, at least not scary at all. I hope I can run this particular race again next year. It was pretty special.

The race results were very revealing as to who was running in the race this year. A similar time in 2010 (when I was 58) put me in the middle of the 50-59 age group results, number 11 out of 19. This year at age 60 my time put me toward the end of the 60-69 age group, 27 out of 33. The top 10 in my age group all ran times under two hours. That’s darn fast for anyone; let along a bunch of old ladies! It was all those Boston Qualifiers. So more power to them, but I hope next year they all get to finish their marathon so the competition for this race won’t be quite as stiff!

Friday, May 24, 2013

What's Blooming on Shore Drive - May 24th Edition

Its been raining all week here in Southern New Hampshire, but I'm not complaining, not a bit. We really, really need the rain. We are almost back to normal for the month of May, but it will take a lot more rain to catch up for the year. The lake is about 2 feet higher, but it has a good 4 feet to go to be normal, so although I miss the sun I wouldn't mind it raining some more.

The big news on Shore Drive this week are my Clematis. They started blooming at the beginning of the week and they get prettier each day.

These Clematis were planted by the former owners. They had them growing up the side of a wooden swingset, which we removed and replaced with a pretty arbor. I have added a white clematis to the mix which blooms later in the summer.

The lilacs are still blooming, but they are kind of droopy in the rain.

My new rhododendrons along the driveway are starting to bloom. I'm excited to be a rhododendron grower! They don't grow easily in Missouri, or Texas. A lot of my neighbors grow azaleas. They are very showy, but bloom so briefly, so far I'm not tempted.

My Weigelia bush is getting ready to bloom. I planted it a couple of years ago and so far it has done very well!

And the allium I planted two years ago is starting to bloom as well. Last year it was spectacular!

My Columbine cultivar (not a wild variety) is blooming now. I love this flower!

And here again, are two flowers that I can't identify. The yellow one might be a type of Raniculae, and the blue one might be a type of Aster, but I really don't know. The past couple of years, the blue flower has been eaten by either deer or bunnies, but it always comes back. I'm trying really hard to keep the deer repellant spread out  consistently, and so far I haven't had anything eaten this year. Fingers crossed!

The dogs have to follow me around if I'm out taking pictures, and I'm within the boundary of the invisible fence. Here is Cosmo among the hostas.

Did I tell you that the hummingbirds are back? I lucked out with this picture. Not bad for a beginner DSLR user!

The sun is supposed to come back out next week. I have plans to get the remaining vegetables planted in the garden then, including the plants I've been growing inside. But first we have to get beyond a predicted low Saturday night of 40F. Come on Summer!

Monday, May 20, 2013

What's Blooming on Shore Drive - May 17th Edition

My yard looks really, really nice right now. All the fresh mulch has been spread, and flowers are being quite polite about taking turns blooming.

Remember my almost forgotten container garden? These little white flowers sprouted in the container this week. Unfortunately I have no idea what they are.

I realized that when I started to get ready to do this week's edition of my "What's Blooming" project, just how many things I have growing in my yard that I don't know what they are. It used to not bother me much, but as I've gotten more into gardening I'm starting to feel a little embarrassed about my continued ignorance.

This groundcover was something I acquired in a plant propagation class at Garden in the Woods several years ago. I thought it was some kind of  Chrysogonum, but it doesn't look very much like the pictures online.

One nice thing about this project is that as things bloom and I take their picture, I'm TRYING to figure out their name. This week, however, I've struck out several times. Maybe some of my more educated friends can enlighten me!

The high and low bush blueberries are blooming all over our yard and neighborhood. I can't wait until later this summer when the blueberries are ripe!

Another one of the mystery ground covers. This one has tiny blue flowers that don't last very long.

I know this one's common name - Candy Tuft. It only blooms sparingly. I wonder what I should do to get it to bloom better?

The trees are an other-worldly color right now - electric green. They are also spewing pollen like crazy. Its everywhere, happens every year. It gets on everything, cars, lawn furniture, dogs, people. We need lots of rain to wash it away!

Oh yeah, my lilacs are in full bloom now. The pruning I did seems to have really helped them.

Some kind of wild cherry, I believe, growing in the middle of my day lilies along the driveway. I welcome pretty accidents like this!

A baneberry bush (maybe) on my neighbor's property

I love, love, love this ground cover that my neighbor has under her birches! I covet it. I think it is Lamium galeobdelum. I have to ask her if I can take a little bit of it, but I'm shy....

Lady Slippers! One of my favorite things about New England!

Canada Mayflower - its blooming prolifically this year, another New England wildflower that I really enjoy

Our beautiful lake is very low this year.
We got over a quarter of an inch of rain last night, much needed. Our lake is partially drained every winter, but in April its supposed to get refilled from another lake north of here. Well this year the other lake refused to supply us with water because they are too low from lack of rain. So here we sit, way below normal for the foreseeable future. The people that live on the lake are pretty annoyed. Its still pretty, but it would be prettier with less brown shoreline showing!

Monday, May 13, 2013

What's Blooming on Shore Drive - May 10th Edition

I think I'm starting a new little project within my blog. I did a post last week showing some of the plants that were currently blooming along my driveway. I've decided to do another one of those posts this week, and maybe weekly, for awhile anyway. My yard looks really beautiful right now and I'd like to share it with you! Plus it makes me practice with my camera....

My lilacs are almost ready to burst into bloom. I took a class on pruning last year and pruned my tall scraggly bushes some last fall. It already seems to have made a difference. I have a lot more blooms this year, and I'm going to prune them again after they finish blooming.

This is a container garden I made in a class a couple of years ago. In the fall I put it in the garden shed to protect it from the weather and then once things have warmed up a bit I take it out again. It worked beautifully last year, so I put it in the shed again last fall....and then completely forgot about it! I suddenly remembered a few days ago, found it in the back of the shed, and set it outside. The plants in it looked very anemic, tall and pale, straining toward the light. In only a day, really, the biggest plant sent up a strong, vigorous shoot. The smaller plants still look kind of iffy, but now, a few days after I took this picture, they're looking better too. It lives again, in spite of me. And no, I don't know what these plants are. I should look them up, I guess.

Strawberries! Lots of blooms this year, its going to be a bumper crop. The people who built this house put these plants in and I thank them. I just put a fence around the strawberry patch, however, because Cosmo eats strawberries, and I don't want to share!

Clematis! Large pink blossoms, due in the next couple of weeks, and then smaller whiter blossoms later in the summer.

Wild columbine....isn't it beautiful?

The itty bitty Japanese Maple I bought at the Salem Garden Club sale last year survived the winter very well. 

This is the shade garden I created last year along the driveway. It really looks promising right now, if only I can keep the deer and rabbit repellant applied sufficiently....

Bleeding hearts, pink and white....

Solomon Seal...

....and last but not least a little bulb called Summer Snowflake, Leucojun Aestivium (yes of course I had to look that up). I love the little green markings on the petals.

What's growing in your garden?

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Netherlands - The Beach! The Bikes!

Here it is, my final post from our trip to The Netherlands...pretty anticlimactic if you ask me. It was a very nice day, however, and a perfect way to end our vacation.


I'm not going to do a lot of writing about today, our last day in Holland. I took a bunch of great pictures at the beach, so I'll let them do the talking for me.

I got up this morning and did my Sunday 8 mile run. I ran/walked the 2 miles to the beach, ran along the beach for 2 miles, and then ran back. The beach was foggy and beautiful and cold. When I got back to Stan and Mel's it was time to eat a little breakfast, hop in the shower and throw the dogs in the car so that they could have their turn at the beach.

By now it was warmer, but still foggy. Lots of people were out with their children and dogs. Mel's dogs love the beach. It was great watching them run around with their doggy smiles. 

We had Dutch pancakes for lunch, or Paanekoek. You can get them savory or sweet; we opted for savory. I had one with bacon, cheese and tomatoes; Lee had bacon, cheese and mushrooms. They hit the spot!

Some of the funny sculptures along the boardwalk

After the beach we went on a short bike ride. It would just be wrong to come to the Netherlands and say that we didn't ride bikes. Bikes are such an intregal part of this society. There are bike paths everywhere. The Dutch ride nonchalantly, their upright single gear bikes zooming along throughout the city and countryside. For about an hour we were Dutch bikers too.

After all that exercise I was ready for a snack and a little relaxation. We're going to dinner in about an hour; I'll be ready for that too.


That it, the end of our European adventure for this year. I'm ready to stay home for awhile, explore New England, going sailing with my husband and kids. We are starting, however, to talk about where we want to go next year. Maybe Turkey? Its definitely on my bucket list....

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Nature Photography Class

I know, I know, I still have one more post from our trip to the Netherlands to get to you. And I will, I promise! But in the meantime...

I took a Nature Photography Class last Saturday at the Loeb School of Communications in Manchester. The teacher was a photo journalist named Bob LaPree. For the first part of the class he showed us his equipment and why he used what he does. Then he showed us a bunch of slides of his photos, along with commentary explaining how he took them and some techniques he used. His photos were beautiful and I picked up some tips. He recommends using a big lens so that you can get closeups of wildlife without being too close to them. I don't have a very big lens, but I do have a 300mm that I don't use very often because I get confused when I try to get closeups with it of small plants. The trick, I've learned, is to obey the macro setting limit on the lens, which is about 5 feet, and then use cropping and zooming post production to get right in there.

For the second part of the class we went over to the Massabessic Audubon Center and he set us loose to take our own pictures. This was great fun. I don't know why I don't do this more often! I got more comfortable with my long lens, had a great time shooting little flowers and fiddleheads, went a little crazy taking photos of leaves backlit by the sun. And I put that 300mm lens to use getting some really great shots of a little barn swallow that was really strutting his stuff for me!

Here's the link to all of my pictures:


After we came back from taking pictures he asked for volunteers to show their photos. I bravely offered up my barn swallows and he put it in Photoshop and showed us what we could do to improve the picture there.

Before that class I've been pretty content with what I can do to my photos post production using Picasa, but now I see there's a lot more I could do if I had Photoshop or Lightroom too. I might even have to try shooting in RAW sometime....

Thursday, May 2, 2013

What's Blooming Along Our Driveway on May 2nd

I read an article this morning in a photography newsletter I get from the Digital Photography School. This article was about the three stupid mistakes many photographers make. Number one on this list is not taking one's camera along so that you have it when photo opportunities arise. Guilty, guilty, guilty. I still haven't figured out how to comfortably lug my Canon Rebel DSLR along without feeling like I am lugging a baby with me. I have three different camera cases (so far) and they all have drawbacks. My favorite is my Lowpro Toploader because it is small and fits my camera very well, but it can only hold one regular sized lens so if I want my telephoto lens I have to use a larger case.

I have a camera backpack that could fit everything I could ever possible want, but its large and unwieldy, so unless I'm traveling I leave it at home. If I could find something like the Lowpro that would accomodate larger lenses I would be happy.

Here's the article:


So this afternoon I went and got my camera and took some pictures along the driveway. I often wish I had my camera or at least my iphone when I'm out running or walking the dogs. I really should take it with me more often, especially in the early morning or in the evening when the light is so good.

Here are some of the pictures I took. I even used my small tripod and got right down on the ground like you should in order to get the shot you want. There's hope for me yet!

Trout lilies. They are blooming in southern New Hampshire about 2 weeks later than they bloomed at Garden in the Woods in central Massachusetts.

More trout lilies

This is a Virginia Bluebell, before the bells have opened. I'm excited to see this flower this year, because last year something ate them. I've been putting down deer repellent so hopefully I'll get to see them in full bloom!

The latin name for Virginia Bluebell is mertensa virginica. Aren't you glad you asked? I know a few latin flower names now, but it takes me a long time to add one to my memory bank!

I had to look this one up, I didn't remember what it was. Its one of my favorite early spring blooms along my driveway. Its a wood anemone. I love the word anemone....

And one more anemone photo...isn't that purple with the yellow center great?

Now I just need to grab my camera more often....Can't get better at taking photos if I don't take them!


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