Monday, April 29, 2013

Washington DC - Day 5

Last day in DC - woke up with the sun, I love not using an alarm clock and waking up when my body is ready to greet the world!

I am a bit stiff and sore this morning - my feet are the worst they have ever been, I will have to see my Physio when I get back to see if he can fix them. After sorting out transport to the airport with some fellow teammates this afternoon, I hopped on the metro with the intent of going to Alexandria, and olde tyme villiage. Since it was still raining, I opted out of that journey and went to the Smithsonian instead.

The Smithsonian castle is located right on the mall and has a great display of Civil War photographs - this was around the time that photos were just getting started and they had a bunch of info on how they were made and the process... it was very interesting!

After this, I went to the Museum of American History where I saw things like the first steam train engine, Dorothy's ruby slippers, Kermit the Frog, Julia Child's kitchen, the first American Flag, Abraham Lincoln's hat, and so much more. There were exhibits on the Civil war (which is increasingly interesting to me), American pop culture, The first lady's, Vietnam, soooo much to see. I spent quite a bit of time going through this giant building, until my feet were about to give out. So, I started walking back to metro. I stopped to see the Old Post Office, which is filled with shops and resturants, but I was looking at the architecture and the amazing size of the building!

Now, I am back at the hotel, getting ready to hop on the shuttle to come home. I am tired and sore, but so delighted with my trip... I think I have made the most of my time here in DC and I am not sure when I will be back... but I do know that there is so much to see! :)

Washington DC - Day 4

RACE DAY!!!

It is here, we came, we ran, we conquored!

Up early this morning and in the lobby at 5:30 - the team was quiet and groggy, but ready to go. We hopped on the metro and arrived shortly at our stop... you could feel the energy climbing. Once at Freedom Square, the site of the starting line, we did the pre-race portapotty visit and lined up in our corrals. I have never been in a race where corrals were needed, and I found out that 15,000 ladies and gents were running this innagural race. The energy was electric and the excitement was mounting! Then we had a moment of silence for Boston - you could hear a pin drop... I have never heard a more deafening silence in my life. 15,000 runners were so silent you could hear the birds and the leaves rustling in the trees, it made the hair stand on your arms... still does just thinking of it. Then there was the national anthem and then we were off...

The run was great, it hurt, I am not going to lie, but it was fun and inspiring and had some great scenery! We ran past the Lincoln memorial, along the river and across the Arlington bridge, past the Jefferson Memorial and the Capitol building. It doesn't seem like a long route, but trust me it was 21.1 kms! They had cheerleaders in MANY spots throughout and their energy was infectious - it seemed that they were there when most needed. They had a lot of people playing drums and a crew doing the dragon dance with a chinese dragon, they had entire frat houses hold signs and cheer on the ladies. This run, if you didn't know, was a womens run - despite there were some men running, the race was designed with the ladies in mind. They had inspirational signs, teams giving out Cliff chomps and Nuun electrolites, it was amazing. BUT, if that doesn't sound awesome enough, when you cross the finish line, they have handsome men in tux's handing you a beautiful blue Tiffany's box with your finishers medal in it. WOW!

I managed to not peter out at all during the race and I maintained my energy throughout. I did stop and take pictures however and spend some quiet time thinking of the reasons why I was running. It made me think about Derek's mom, and being by her side when she died. It made me very sad, yes, there were tears. I guess I needed some closure from it, and needed some freedom from the guilt that I feel when I told both his parents on their death beds that I would take care of their son. I guess I needed some peace. In some small way, running this race for Betty helped me achieve that peace and forgive myself for breaking a promise that I made to so many. All those books I have been reading do say that part of the process is forgiving yourself, and I feel that I am on my way.

Needless to say that my time wasn't anywhere near where it should have been, and aside from stopping to take in the sites, I stopped to help some poor TNT team mate from Maryland who was sick from dehydration. The poor lady almost passed out on me and I ran to get a coach to get her help. First aid took over and I continued on, knowing she would be dissapointed because of all the training and fundraising that poor lady did and she won't even finish. Somedays it is your race, somedays it isnt!

Once finished the run, I hobbled back to the hotel, grabbed some food and had my traditional ice bath... nothing has been more effective in stopping my aches and pains than the ice bath! I then had a nap - oh sweet naps in the middle of the day, how I love you!

Once back up and 'attem, I went back down town to the Nike store to get some momentos and look around. I was still quite tired and it was raining so I opted for a nice night in at the hotel. By 9:30, I was out like a light... 4 days of sightseeing has tuckered me out.

Washington DC - Day 3

The excitement of the run is starting... and since I run tomorrow, I spent most of today sitting and not walking a ton.

I started off early to catch the hop on hop off bus again and made my way to Washington Cathedral. Unbeknown to me, this was actually not finished until the 1990's - so it isn't really old, but it is one of the largest in the world. I grabbed the tour, of course, and learned all about the stained glass and the structure itself. It is built in the Gothic style and has similarities to the church in Chartes (although not as ornate) and Notredame. They had all sorts of cool windows in this cathedral, one with a stone from the moon in it and one representing Banting, the creator of Insulin, and all the Canadian provinces. It was a great tour!

Back on the bus, I toured back to Georgetown for the complementary boat tour that comes with the 48 hour bus ticket... why not right? It was nice to be out of the water, but boasted nothing that I had not already heard through the tour bus itself. I soaked up the beautiful day, relaxed and enjoyed myself regardless!

I spent a small amount of time touring Georgetown, but wanted to stay off my feet so I headed back to the hotel for the team meeting before the Inspiration dinner.

Prepped for the dinner, we were greeted by ticket takers and walked down the "red carpet' where all sorts of TNT cheerleaders were cheering and yelling and whooping it up in our honour... it was almost overwhelming. We grabbed our seats and settled in for some grub. Supper was a typical pre-race pasta dinner, but the program was very cool. They had olympians come and talk to us and 'inspire' us and then we had a guest speaker. This speaker spoke of her journey through Lymphoma and how the research and medication that the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society funds saved her life... litterally. It was very moving and my damned tear ducts failed me again!

An early morning tomorrow - 4:45am wake up call, so to bed early!

Washington DC - Day 2

Day two brought some great sight seeing. But first, I met up with the TNT flex captain - Cheryl. After checking out of my fantastic B and B - I hit the metro and found the beautiful Marriott hotel that TNT is putting us up in. WOW!!

I checked in and bumped into Cheryl and we started chatting. After meeting a couple other of the TNT flex members, I overheard that Obama was speaking at a Planned parenthood event in the very hotel that we were sitting in. I could hardly contain my excitement!! We walked casually through the hotel, hoping to spot him, but they are pretty cloak and dagger about the whole thing and the only thing we managed to see was his press core.

A tiny bit disappointed, I set off to get on the Hop on Hop off tour. Securing a ticket quickly, I grabbed the bus and merrily went on my way - first stop Georgetown. This was the original site of DC, and it was inspired by the tobacco and cargo boat trades. The eventual invention of the train made the unique method they transported cargo obsolete and many of the businesses went out of business. The charm and beautiful houses remain, and remind us of a time when architecture was an art form to be admired. I hopped off, not only to see the sights, but also to pick up my race package.

The race expo was lacking in that it didn't have many things to see so I quickly hopped back on the bus and transferred onto the line that took me to Arlington Cemetery. The massive number of graves for service men and women were astounding and remind me, not so gently, that there is a price for our freedom. The stones that are row on row, standing at attention, were awe filling and astounding as they went on for miles and miles. I made my way to John F Kennedy's grave, and it was simple but remarkable in that it has an eternal flame that is still lit to symbolize his enduring impact on American History. Jackie is buried now, beside him.

Once I battled the crowds to get through to the Tomb of the Unknown soldier, I was greeted by the changing of the guard. They have had a member of the marines stand at attention for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year since the 1930's (or so they tell me). They have a ceremony every 30 mins to 1 hour where they change guards. I also got to witness the laying of wreaths to commemorate fallen soldiers. It was very solemn and moving.

I then hopped on a trolley that took me back to the entrance and they gave some history on some of the memorials. One of them being a memorial for the Canadian contribution to WWI and WWII. It was a very solemn and humbling time spent at this cemetery.

I then hopped back on the bus and passed the Pentagon (they don't have tours, darn) and the Jefferson memorial. By that time, it was 6 and the buses were done for the day so I went to Union Station to walk around and look at some of the architecture. One thing I have noticed about DC is that every building is HUGE!

Back to the hotel to meet up with the rest of the team and to decorate our shirts for the run on Sunday. Another wonderful day spent in DC.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Washington DC - Day 1

I am finally here! After wishing and hoping, fundraising and fretting I made it!

I got in late last night so I sayed out in Baltmore. The Hilton put me up in a great room - thanks to all the travelling that I have done lately for work. I got up this morning, early, and hopped onto a MARC train to DC. Once here, I grabbed the Metro and found my lodgings. I am staying in a beautiful B&B that is about 200 years old and has all the charm of a period home. After a quick breakfast and dropping off my bag, I hit the town... I was not disappointed!

Grabbing the Metro to get close to the Mall, I was giddy with excitement and anticipation. As I neared the mall, I could feel the magnitude of what was in store.

Walking through the streets of DC have such a charm, the buildings are all old and traditional - something you don't get back home. The sky was cloudless and crystal blue, the birds were singing... Honestly, this was just a perfect morning. On the ground lay reminants of the Cherry Blossoms having reached their peak weeks ago but for some reason, their sweet smell lingered in the air. I round the corner, and gasp... The Capitol building stands, in all her glory before me and I am in awe. I literally stopped on the street just trying to take it all in. I am sure that I looked like a goof standing there with my mouth gaping open, but it was just one of those moments that you never want to end. Coming to my senses, I finished crossing the street and made my way towards it. I sat on the steps, looking at this magnificent building for a while, trying to absorb all the detail, history and beauty it had to offer. Then I went in. I was quickly signed up for a tour and before I knew it, I was standing in the halls where great men and women have stood before me, making decisions that changed the world. The highlights were the dome, seeing the Speakers office and the statue of Rosa Parks. A truly magnificent building.

Once the tour was done, I continued on to the library of Congress... WOW - what an amazing building. I again, quickly found a tour and was amazed at the sculptures, detail, mosaics and frescos this building has. Although I was not able to see the stacks, as they are hidden, I was able to see Jeffersons personal library that was on exhibit... He was a VERY well read man! It was an incredible and OLD collection, I have forgotten how much I love books!

With the Capitol and the Library checked off my list, I went in search of some more great moments. I walked down the Mall and found a nice hotdog vendor, grabbed some grub and sat in the middle of the lawn on the Mall between the Capitol building and the Obilesk - now, for those that know me, you know that I am not a hot dog person... But this was the best impromptu picnic I have ever had. I spent some time watching the people and looking at the monuments and just trying to find the calm in my soul that has been missing. I think I found it today!

Once done, I walked the length of the mall to the memorials - World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr... They were all wonderful. Walking up to the Lincoln Memorial was amazing, not only because of the architecture that was astounding, but because I came across a group of students singing. I sat and listened to them and if you looked carefully just over their heads, you could see Lincoln's face peering down at them, from his perch in his Memorial, it was awesome! They were an acapella choir; there must have been about 35 of them or so. It was amazing and inspiring and beautiful, I sat and listened to them for awhile until they started singing a song called "Thank you, Soldier" and they brought up a WWII vet to sing to. It was so very sweet and my tear ducts failed me, so it was time to move on. Walking up the steps of  Lincoln Memorial, you can't help but think of all the great men and women who have walked those same steps. Martin Luther King Jr. for one. He gave his famous "I have a Dream" speech from those very steps, infact I stood on the same spot he did. I went and said Hi to Lincoln and then headed down to the Vietnam Memorial. To be honest, the actual Memorial for Lincoln is quite stoic and plain so there is not much to tell.

The Vietnam Memorial is something I have wanted to see since grade 9 when I learned about and studied this war. I walked silently by the black stone, grazing my fingers across some of the names that represented someone's Father, son, brother or lover and I couldn't help but feel the loss. What a travesty.

Walking on the other side of the mall, you see the Korean War memorial. It is haunting in that they have life sized men with their rucks and ponchos trudging through the muck. You can almost sense the misery that these men felt. It was a great memorial for those to remember the price of freedom.

On the other side of the road stands a giant figure, both in History and quite litterally. As you walk through this white rock, you notice that there is a chunk taken out of it. You then find the missing peice and on it stands a giant Martin Luther King jr. figure. On the side of the stone he is carved in, it says "Out of the Mountain of despair, A stone of Hope". Throughout the memorial, his quotes appeared and inspired. It was a very moving tribute to an amazing man.

As the sun went down, I returned back to the hotel, stopping to get some great italian food on the way - there are just so many places to eat here! I went back to the B&B and settled into the patio only be be joined by two Irish blokes who had spent the day seeing much of the same sites I did. We had a great time, and glass of wine, as we chatted about our day and trip and Ireland... this is why staying in B&B's is so wonderful!

An amazing first day, not sure if it can be topped but tomorrow, I will try - Arlington Cemetary and Georgetown are on the docket for tomorrow - oh, and this little shack called the White House! DC, I may have fallen in love with you!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The return of me

After an almost 4 month hiatus, I feel the itch to post something.

How are things? They are good. Interesting and exciting, but difficult and hard sometimes.

Since October really, I have been living with my brother and his wife. Things in Marriage #2 didn't work out. Its complicated and difficult to describe, but lets just say we aren't the people that each of us thought we had married almost 5 years ago. I have been considerably unhappy for a number of years now, and I came to the realization in August (fully anyway) and despite best efforts on both of our behalves, we couldn't make it work. I am sad and ashamed and I hope one day that i can forgive myself and that Derek can forgive me as well. Life is just so crappy sometimes and I feel that I have the ability to be really crappy to the people that I love. so... for those whom I have hurt in the past, I am so very sorry.

So... trying to pick up the pieces from the mess I have made of my life, and I am moving on. Continuing on with my studies, 1.5 courses to go and I have a certificate in Instructional Design and Curriculum Development. Pretty poncy if you ask me! :) I am contemplating the Adult Educator course that the college has as well and if I take a week off in June I can take the whole certification in a week... seriously contemplating that!

Wednesday I leave for Washington DC.... more to check off that Bucket List... I am very much looking forward to it as it will be the first time I have traveled for pleasure on my own without knowing anyone at my destination. I am ready to engulf myself in the history and architecture of this amazing place. I hope it lives up to my expectations.I am also running a 1/2 marathon here for Team in Training - for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society of Canada. I have reached the 3700 goal that I needed to and don't think I will get much higher than that, but that is still a respectable amount. I am running this in memory of Betty Orr, my late Mother in law. I felt like I needed to do something in her honour, even if I am not with her son anymore. She was my mother-in-law when she passed away and I felt a big loss when she died, so I feel that I have the right to run for her.

This is all that I have been thinking of and working on... trying to work on bettering myself - there are always things that we can improve with ourselves. I am trying to keep the journaling thing going, but I find it hard when I write all day at work to come home and put pen to paper. I guess that is just an excuse... but it's all I have!

Until next time - which will be from DC - I leave this quote with you from my new favorite Poet, Shane Koyczan - "...girl sometimes you gotta scribble
gotta color the sun purple
just so you know what it feels like to be in charge
sometimes you gotta love just a little
so you can finally start to live large."