Sunday, October 29, 2017

Now...about that race

It has taken me two weeks to write this post for a few reasons. The first reason is because every time I think about the dreaded race that I ran 2 weeks ago - I start to get mad. The second reason is because every time I try to formulate my thoughts, I get mad. So, yeah. I am mad, and mad. But, I am getting ahead of myself.

Two weeks ago, I ran my 12th half marathon. I knew going into it that the race was "hilly."  But, I didn't really seem to care about this, because I still registered for it. And I honestly thought that it couldn't be that bad. I mean - I run hills. My running routes consist of hills because I live in Rensselaer County. And let's face it - it's rather hilly around these parts.

I was pretty well trained. I had run one twelve miler, and two 10 milers before the race. Not to mention, I had run countless 8 and 9 milers.  I had cross trained. I had done some hill repeats. I was ready...or so I thought.

The race was in Rhinebeck, which is a cute little town about 1 hour away from me. I ran the race with 3 other running friends. The weather that day was rather warm for mid-October. Fortunately it was cloudy - so that helped.  I should also mention that my hamstring/glute has been bothering me for a couple months.

Anyway - the race started, and by mile 2 - I  knew this was not going to be my finest race. My hamstring was flaring up, and I felt kind of draggy. I fell back and tried to take it easy on the hills. The first 4 miles were somewhat hilly - but they weren't too terrible. And, then suddenly it got bad. Like really bad.

Around mile 6, I started to see the fast runners coming back. (The course was out and back, which is always a mental game. It really screws with me to see runners coming back the other way). Anyway, at mile 6, I also started going downhill. Down, down, and down. And this went on for a mile and a half. But, I couldn't even enjoy the downhill because I knew I was going to have to come back up. And, at that point, I started to throw in the towel.  When I finally got to mile 7.5, I hit the turn-around and I was so annoyed at that point, that I was having bad thoughts.

Thoughts like:
"Who is crazy enough to run 13.1 miles?"
"I am hanging up my running shoes after this race."
"If I find an official, I am going to DNF" (This means "did not finish.")
"How is the guy that is running barefoot smoking my butt?" (There seriously was a guy running barefoot, and he was one of the top 5 finishers).
"I can't believe I have to get back up this steep hill."

Somehow, I carried on, and cursed the hill. I finally reached mile 9, and after mile 9 .5 - the course flattened out. But, by then it was too late. The damage was done. My confidence was shattered, my hamstring was screaming at me, and I just felt discouraged.

I did finish the race - but that was because when I finally found a race official - it was at mile 10. At that point, I figured what would be the point of quitting with only 3 miles to go. I think it was my slowest half ever and I finished in just under 2:20. (Just for a comparison - I normally finish around 2:05).  Ugh, and Ugh. Such a disappointment.

But, that race was HARD. Hard, and hilly. Basically, it sucked. I would never do it again. When I was done, I felt like I had run a full marathon, instead of a half. And I felt like I had never trained. My body felt beat up. Luckily, I wasn't the only one who felt this way. Felice and I were still cursing the race the other day.

On the positive side - clearly my plans to retire from running, were short lived. Because on the way home, we were already planning the Seneca 7 and the Stockadeathon. So, clearly, I guess it's not time for me to hang up my running shoes just yet. Let's hope I still have a few years left in me! I guess the hard races make me tougher in the long run.







Sunday, July 30, 2017

I was a proctor for the bar exam

Recently I had the opportunity to proctor the NYS Bar exam. Yes. THE bar exam. You know - the one that is the high pressure, high stakes exam for our future attorneys.  I have always wanted to do it, and I was able to find out how to apply for it. So, I applied. I was accepted, and I spent two VERY long days proctoring. I took two days off of my real job to do this since the bar is always held on a Tuesday and Wednesday. (Good thing I have a lot of vacation time. Otherwise, I wouldn't have been able to do it).

It was an interesting experience, and I had NO idea how much goes into it until I actually did it.

First of all, I pictured myself at the head of a room. It would be me and my 26 students. I would be able to read books, do crosswords, and surf Facebook, while they diligently took the exam. How wrong I was. First off - there is no small room. In fact, all the students are in one big huge room which is broken out into sections. Picture a room that fits 1000 people. Yes. That's how big it was. And there was really no sitting. There was no reading. There was no Facebook surfing. My job was to WATCH those candidates take the test. I had to walk the area I was in. And walk. And walk some more. In fact, by the end of the 2nd day, I really wished I had a step counter to know the amount of steps I had taken. And my legs were sore. Legitimately sore. In fact, when I went running the day after the bar, my legs were pooped out.

This is what the room looked like. This is NOT a photo from the actual bar exam.  Taken from Google images.


 
                                                

Second of all, I really had no concept of how nervous these students would be. I mean, of course it's understandable to be nervous. But these kids were wound TIGHT. As they took the test, they twirled their hair. They pulled their hair. They picked their nails. They bit their fingers. Some even were getting sick in the restroom. Yes. That really happened. It's high pressure. Imagine studying for something for 2 months straight, and then it all boils down to 12 hours of testing. It's scary stuff.

Just sitting here, twirling my hair while I think about the answers.


Third of all, I had no idea of how attached I would get to my 26 candidates. Over the course of the 2 days, I was responsible for checking their ID's for the morning and the afternoon sessions. I was responsible for passing out the tests, collecting the tests, and checking their bags. Since they arrived at 7:30 and the exam started at 9:30, I had time to get to know them. We chatted. I found out where they were from. In my group, I had students from Ireland, Pakistan, China, Australia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Long Island. Crazy! I had no idea people came from different countries to take the NYS Bar. By the end of the second day, I felt like they were my children and I was rooting them on and hoping they would pass.

Both days were broken down into 2 sections. Day one was essay day and all the candidates could bring their laptops. During the morning, they had to answer 2 essays and they had 3 hours. The afternoon session was comprised of 6 essays and it was also 3 hours. As I walked the room, I found myself noticing what questions they were on, and I would secretly cheer them on. Some were right on par with the time. Others, not so much. I had to fight myself from tapping them on the shoulder and telling them that they should move along to the next question. Allocate your time people!



Day 2 was multiple choice day. There were 100 questions in the morning and 100 in the afternoon. They had 3 hours for each section. There were very few people who left early. They really needed all that time to finish. The hard part for me was that I will never be able to find out if they passed or failed. So sad. I am left in a state of wonder. And these candidates don't even find out if they pass or fail until OCTOBER. Seriously.  October? That is months away. The waiting must be excruciating.



Even though it was boring, and it was hard on my legs and feet, I would probably proctor again. I found the experience fascinating, and it's always nice to make some extra money. In case anyone is interested, they are always looking for proctors, and the exam is always held the last Tuesday and Wednesday in February and July. Message me if you want details...

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Great Wolf Lodge Review

I have a colleague that I work with that happens to live in North Carolina. For as long as I have known her, I have heard her talk about Great Wolf Lodge and how fantastic it is. She frequently goes and takes her daughter to the one that is in her area. For those of you who don't know - Great Wolf Lodge is a giant indoor water park.

Anyway - this year Maddie's Girl Scout Troop raised enough money from selling cookies, where her troop could do a really cool trip. So the girls voted on Great Wolf Lodge. The two locations that are closest to us are in Massachusetts and Poconos, PA. After comparing the two and researching, we decided to go to the Poconos location. Trip Advisor told me that it was larger and it had a ropes course and it just had better overall reviews. Both locations were about 3 hours away - so we figured that we would pick the one that was larger and sounded more fun.

We picked a weekend where all 6 girls could go and we booked it. We decided to book the Fireplace Loft Suite, as it had enough beds for all the girls, and it had 2 bathrooms. The room also had a microwave, and mini-refrigerator.

We left on Saturday morning at 8:15 and arrived at the Lodge around 11:30. We knew that if the room wasn't ready, we could still use the water park. Fortunately, our room was ready (which just made everything logistically easier). So thank goodness for that. We unloaded the car, checked in, ate a quick lunch that we had packed, and then headed down to the water park.

Let me tell you -the place did not disappoint! It was HUGE. It had a wave pool, lazy river, a section for water basketball, a section for little kids, and then it had tons and tons of water slides. Big ones. Small ones. Ones that went outside and back in. It was crazy! It also had an outdoor pool, along with a ropes course.

I am going to fully admit that I am not a ride person. I do not do roller coasters, and I do not like anything that is scary or that might make me feel sick. Well, after this trip - I think I am now a water slide person! I actually conquered my fears, and went on the Hydro plunge. Thanks to one of the moms I was with, and the girls - I finally gathered enough courage, and I tried it. I was so scared. But after the first time, I was addicted. I must have gone on that ride 10 more times.
Hydro Plunge
I also tackled some other rides. However, I did not do the ride that involved lights and darkness and where the tube went up the wall. I am not that brave.

We stayed at the water park until about 5 PM, and then headed back to the room. For dinner we ordered pizza and wings. We actually had a $50 dining credit that came with the room. So our dinner was basically free - which was a nice perk.

After that, the girls went back to the water park and also visited the arcade. We were back in the room around 9 PM and it was lights out around 11 PM. Surprisingly, the girls were quiet and went to bed. I think we were all tired from all the water activities!

When we woke up on Sunday morning, we ate breakfast that we had brought with us, and then loaded up the car. Since check out was 11 AM - we decided to pack the car so we were ready to go and it was one less thing we had to do. The girls kept their day bags with them so they could have dry clothing after the water park. One cool thing about Great Wolf Lodge is that even after you check out of the room, you can play in the water park all day.

The girls wanted to tackle the ropes course also - so that was on our agenda.The ropes course has about 4 different levels and it actually was very cool to see. All 6 girls did it and they spent about an hour climbing, zip-lining and rope balancing. I actually thought the price was pretty reasonable. It was $15 for one time, or $20 for unlimited amount of times. Since we were short on time, we chose the $15 option.


The Ropes Course
After that, we went back to the water park and spent another few hours there, and then it was time to change and head home. Great Wolf also has showers and changing areas so we could change and wear dry clothing for our ride home.

All in all - we had a great time, and I actually would even consider going with my own family.

There were a few things that I thought would make the trip even better. For instance, it would have been nice if our room had more of a kitchen area. There wasn't much space to put all of the food that we brought, and a full refrigerator would have been appreciated. As you can see from the picture - the living space is a little bit small. Fortunately we weren't in the room much - so we could work around it.

Fireplace Loft Suite
Another drawback was that the outside area and the ropes course closed early. The outdoor pool shut down at 7:30, which I felt was a bit early for a summer night. Maybe 8:30 would have been more reasonable. It would have been nice for the girls to do the ropes course in the evening when it was cooler. And to top it off, the ropes course didn't open in the morning until 11 AM. I felt that it should have opened at 9 AM when the water park opened.

All-in-all, it was a great trip. I now see why my colleague is such a fan of Great Wolf! It almost reminded me a mini-Disneyworld. The Great Wolf people have it down to a science. I am really glad Maddie's troop got to experience it. It was a great time and I would recommend it to anyone!


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Walmart Pick up

Did you know that you can order online at Walmart and pick up your groceries? A friend of mine had mentioned it to me about a month ago. Then I received a $10 off coupon in the mail to try it. So  - I figured, "why not?"

Here's the thing about Walmart. I like their prices. But I HATE going into the store. It is usually crowded and I can't stand the whole process of going in there if I just need a few things. The cash register line takes forever, and I just would rather throw up my arms and run into Hannaford. When I do go to Walmart, I usually shop there for items like detergent, soap, toilet paper, and paper towels. So when I saw this online coupon and I realized I didn't have to actually enter the store  - it was a win-win for me!

I logged on to their web site, and I found it very easy to search for the items I needed and put them in my shopping cart. For the first go-around, I just purchased toothpaste, laundry detergent, cereal, chips, and some other random items. I entered my $10 coupon code and entered my payment information and then I chose my pick up date and time frame.

When it was time to pick it up, I received a phone call and an email saying that my order was ready.

When I arrived at Walmart, I wasn't sure where to go at first. But, never fear - how could I miss the big orange wall that said "PICKUP" in big letters.

Not to mention, there were orange signs all over directing me to the pick up location.
I pulled into the pick up parking spots and there was a phone number to call. However, I chose to download the app and just hit the "check in" button. Right away, the app told me that someone would be right outside with my groceries.

I didn't have to wait long. Within 4 minutes, a nice young man came out with my order. He introduced himself to me, shook my hand, and loaded my car. He also gave me a nice welcome bag that was full of fun products like gum, granola bars, and other samples of detergent, garbage bags, and fruit chews.
My welcome bag also had an American Flag in it since today is the Fourth of July.

My experience was seamless, and I will definitely be utilizing this in the future. If you would like to try it, go to

http://r.wmt.co/fMaHu 

We will both get $10 off!





Saturday, April 15, 2017

Montreal Review

We just got back from 2 nights in Montreal. We decided to go there to kick off spring break. It was a place I personally had never visited. It's just over 3 hours away, and the kids have passports, and we figured it would be a fun get-away. Plus, it just happened to fall prior to my birthday. So- we figured we would make it a birthday/spring break trip.

Before the trip, I had carefully researched the perfect hotel. My definition of a "perfect hotel" includes the following: indoor pool for the kids, free breakfast, nice, clean room. It also wouldn't  hurt if I could find a suite - just so there is more room to spread out. But that is just an extra perk. Anyway - after searching and looking, I soon learned the following: A lot of Montreal hotels do not have indoor pools. And, if they do have a pool - then they don't have free breakfast. I was all set at staying at an Embassy Suites - that had a huge suite and a lovely free breakfast. However, there was no pool. I was back to the drawing board. After extensive research - I finally found the perfect hotel. It was called Le Square Phillips Hotel and Suites. It had a rooftop indoor pool, free breakfast, and a kitchen area in the room. Bam! We were in business.

Upon arrival, I was happy to find out we were on the 10th floor. (The pool was on the 11th floor - so it was perfect proximity). The room was huge. Also - upon check in - the front desk gave my kids 2 welcome bags which had snacks and popcorn in it. My kids were very excited about this and it made them feel special. The room was nice and big with a huge bathroom. The kitchen area had a full refrigerator, microwave, stove/oven, and sink and dishwasher. I could have cooked a gourmet meal there if I was so inclined. My only complaint about the room was that the beds were double-sized instead of queen. Other than that - I was very happy.

Anyway - when we arrived, we checked in, and then went to dinner. One thing I quickly learned was that Montreal people are very stylish. I actually felt like I was in Europe.  Another thing I learned was that everyone speaks French. If you don't know French - it's okay! Because everyone speaks English too.

After dinner, we went up to the rooftop indoor pool and the kids swam. The rooftop pool was very cool. It had an outdoor terrace deck, where you could see the city, and the lights from the buildings added a nice glow in the pool area. We even had the pool to ourselves that night. So the kids could get crazy and play and jump without bothering anyone. After that, it was bedtime.

We woke up on Friday morning, and enjoyed the free breakfast. Then we got ready and headed out to the Biodome. It was about a 15 minute drive from the hotel and it was near the Olympic stadium. The Biodome is basically an indoor ecosystem zoo. You walk through the various ecosystems and see the animals that live there. We saw otters, birds, penguins, monkeys, fish, and alligators. It was a very cool place. One thing that I did find kind of strange though was that the area where the Biodome was located - was kind of run down. I would think since this is a tourist area - it would be kept up really well. But - the area just seemed kind of tired. Besides the Biodome, there was the Olympic tower, Botanical garden, Insect Museum, and the soccer stadium.

After the Biodome, we drove back to the hotel, and then headed out on foot to Old Montreal.  I was very happy to see that Old Montreal was adorable! Our first stop was Notre Dame Cathedral. Normally there is a fee to enter the historic church. Which - I think is weird. After all - it is a church. Why would they charge to enter a church? I have been to many churches in my life in Europe and in the US - and I haven ever had to pay a fee. Anyway - this church charges a fee. But, we were in luck. Since it was Good Friday - there was no fee. And we could go in - but only "to pray." Well - good thing we wanted to say a prayer. So - we entered, and I was in awe. The church did not disappoint. It was so beautiful, I gasped upon entering. We sat down, said a prayer, and walked silently around.

After that, we explored Old Montreal. We ate lunch at a cool pizza place on the river. Then we wandered in some of the shops and walked down the pier. After that, we headed back to the hotel. The kids swam again, and then we went to dinner. We ended the night with a visit to a place called Chocolate Favoris. Basically it is a place where you get an ice cream cone and then they dip it in chocolate. You can choose between 13 chocolates for your dip. Holy cow. It was very good!

This morning, we woke up, ate breakfast and hit the road. We stopped in Lake George on the way home for lunch. All in all -it was a great 2 day get away. I was excited that the kids experienced life in a different country. They also had the "border" experience and had their passports stamped. On the way home - I told Brian that I could now check Montreal off my list. Been there, done that. Don't need to go back. I liked it - but there are many other places to visit. I am a big fan of the 2 day get away trips. Just enough family time. Just enough time for the kids to get some culture. Perfect in every way.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Puppy training part 2

Rooney is almost 4 months old! He has been with us now since February 3rd. In a way, I can't believe it has only been 2 months since he joined our family. It feels like we have always had him.

The month of March was a little rough because we had 2 feet of snow dumped on us. We were still in the middle of house training. But around that time, I feel like something clicked. He actually stopped having accidents in the house. I thought the mounds of snow would hinder his potty training progress, but instead, he seemed to finally be learning. He still has had 1 or 2 accidents - but I would say he is 95% house trained! Yay Rooney! And for the record - the accidents happen on Brian's watch. He never has an accident when I am around. Just sayin.

He also has gotten a lot bigger. He weighs almost 12 pounds now and he actually is taller than Gracie. (When he came home - he was 5 pounds and much smaller than Gracie). We are happy that he is getting bigger - as we wanted him to be double the size of Gracie. He still has time to grow - so we are keeping our fingers crossed that he continues to pack on the pounds.

He is very good natured. He likes to snuggle (when he is not not trying to chew my arm from teething). He goes right to bed at night and doesn't make a peep. If I am in the kitchen cooking, he wanders in, plops himself down and just keeps me company. He gives endless kisses, loves the kids, and is incredibly smart. He is my dream doggy.

He continues to ring the bell to go outside. We are also working on "stay" and "come." And I am researching ways to have him retrieve items and bring them to me. That seems like a lot of work though. So that might not happen.

Even Gracie has taking a liking to him. More often than not, I catch them nuzzling each other and playing. Gracie's tail actually wags when she plays with him. I think it is giving her some spunk which isn't a bad thing for a 14 year old dog.

All in all - we love the little guy. He is the perfect addition to our family.








Saturday, February 11, 2017

Training a puppy

It has been one week since we brought Rooney home. It has been a busy week. I forgot how much work a puppy is. After all, it has been almost 14 years since Gracie was a puppy, and I think I blocked her training from my head. I really don't remember house training her. This time around, I did a lot of research before he arrived so I was very prepared.

My research involved reading puppy books, researching how to train a puppy on the internet, and watching you tube videos. The you tube videos actually were (and still are)  a wealth of information. I watched how to bell train, how to crate train, how to stop a puppy from crying in the crate, and how to do sit, stay, and paw.
 
For the first three days, I cleaned up a lot of poop.  I couldn't get a handle on when he had to go. And he was such a fast little bugger, that I couldn't catch him in time. He didn't have too many pee pee accidents. I was able to stay ahead of that, and as long as I took him out every hour - he didn't have any accidents.
By day four, I was able to finally manage the poop situation and I had somewhat figured out his routine.

In addition, I also am using a clicker. A clicker is just a tool that you use for training. Basically, every time the dog does the desired behavior - you click and then treat him. I like using it because it is consistent. And he got so used to hearing the click - that now when he is going potty, he looks at me and expects to hear the click and get his treat. I also use the clicker for basic training like sit, stay, etc. It is a very effective tool.


One of the most useful things I learned was how to teach the puppy to ring the bell. Basically we hang a bell on the door and every time I take him out, I have him nose the bell or paw at it. And then we go out to go potty. After 5 straight days of doing it consistently - he is ringing the bell to go outside. I have to admit - it is the cutest thing to watch him do it. 

The crate training is going well. He sleeps through the night. The first couple nights, he whined for a few minutes, but then he settled down. Sometimes, when he needs some downtime, we put him in the crate and he naps. My goal was for him to like the crate and not put up a fuss when he has to go in it. So far, so good.

All in all it has been a good week. Unless you want to count the snow we have received. House training is hard work -  but if you add in cold weather and a foot of snow - that makes it slightly more challenging. But, we are getting through it.

So far, Rooney seems like a very relaxed dog. He and Gracie are getting along. He does try to play with her - and if she gets annoyed, she give him a little bark and then he backs down. I actually caught them on the rug together yesterday taking in some sunshine that was streaming through the door.  So they must be taking a liking to each other.

He also likes slippers and shoes. Sometimes he just naps right next to my slippers. And sometimes he tries to eat them. He is a puppy, after all. He can't be all perfect.  Although, he is almost perfection in my eyes. I am completely in love with the little guy.