Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas 2007

I love Christmas and must admit December 26 is sad day for me. The whole spirit of Christmas is easy to feel all through December but once Christmas day ends, the mood seems to shift back instantly. Nonetheless, it was another good year of time with family over the extended Christmas weekend.

Erin and I made our favorite Christmas cookies, which didn't last very long even though they were very pretty.
We spent Friday through Sunday with my parents in Canton. The weekend was filled with our standard activities - making more cookies, Coney Island, theatre, great dinners, presents, stockings, and Church.

On Monday we split our time between the Sopers and the Veldhofs. We had the second year of Christmas Fondue at the Veldhofs and then played Apples 2 Apples.

Christmas Day was the Elenbaas party at Paula and Steve's. We had a fun gift exchange.The Elenbaas band was as loud as ever this year playing Christmas Carols. I "accidentally" forgot my bass so I was in the choir, which was still outnumbered by instruments. Molly directed...and did hand stands on the stairs.

The standard comment this year was "next year will be much different." Indeed, both the Soper and Elenbaas sides will have 2 infants running/crawling around next Christmas.

Wow, I ate a lot of good food in 4 days. I'm going to have to run twice as far next year to burn it all off!

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas Parties

Tis the season. Actually, Erin and I had a very quiet weekend. We did some shopping, relaxed, and had one small Christmas party with friends. I didn't take any pictures this weekend, but I have been going through our 2007 pictures so I'll post some good pictures from this year. Before deleting any we had 3,955 pictures in 2007. I'm below 3,400 now.
Erin's writing on a beach in the Netherlands.
Predictions of the future?

I love climbing mountains.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Sin City

Las Vegas is quite the city. It is almost comical to look at it while flying in on an airplane. In a valley in the middle of a desert a million people live completely on tourism and big events. Huge hotels in random shapes rise up along one strip and lights of all colors flash all night long.

Of course the city's main attraction is gambling, but gambling has lost ground to a huge array of entertainment offered. One of our main reasons for making the trip was to see Celine Dion's show. She has performed at Cesar's Palace for 5 years and this is her last month. Both of us are fans of Celine's music so we booked Saturday's show.

It was terrific. I was surprised by the fact that it was more of a show and less of a concert. She was singing the whole 90 minutes but the performance was very artsy with interpretive dancers and amazing sets. It was very well done.

We stayed at Rio which is just off the strip. They conveniently had a free shuttle between several other casinos that we took advantage of.

We had a nice view of the strip from our room.

Besides the marathon and the Celine Dion show we had a lot of time to see the other sights of the city. It was great walking through all the hotels and casinos. Everything is totally over the top, more than you can believe. You can see why, though, if you just watch people gamble for awhile. It is amazing how much money gets thrown around.

On Sunday I ran 26 miles in the morning and walked 6-10 miles the rest of the day. On Monday we walked another 6+ miles so I basically went 40 miles in 2 days.

We walked all over the strip and Erin loved the Bellagio fountain most. It is impressive.Here is a sampling of the other over-the-top sights:

Cesar's Palace

Inside the Bellagio - Christmas just for me

Looking down the strip
New York New York - hey...we were just there
M&M world - I loved it! The Mirage Volcano, which erupts every hour
Paris - oh so romantic :)
The Venetian with the canals of Venice inside.And the Cheesecake Factory
Man that was a lot of walking. Of course, the question everyone wants to ask is 'how much money did you lose gambling'? And the answer...NONE! We beat Vegas this time.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

2007 Las Vegas Marathon

This year I decided to go through marathon training once and run two marathons. After getting accepted into the NY marathon in June, I found out the Zappo's Las Vegas Marathon was conveniently 4 weeks later. Erin and I wanted to go to Vegas anyway so it was perfect.
I had been told it was a bad marathon because it is cold at the start, hot at the end, and most of the race is run on boring roads. On the contrary, the LV marathon was AWESOME. The weather was perfect and the course was sweet.

It started at 6:07 am just as the sun started coming up. It was about 40 degrees with no wind and only slightly chilly standing at the start line. 17,000 people waited for the gun to go off while listening to a good Elvis cover band play live. As the race started a 4th-of-July-style fireworks display went off just up the street. The impressive display lasted over 10 minutes and included a grand finale at the end. The first six miles run up the electrifying neon corridor of the world famous Strip including many live bands and brought us to downtown Las Vegas. It is hard to imagine a more exciting 6 miles in all of road running.
The great part about the LV marathon is that it doesn't take itself seriously. The three aspects of the race most bragged about are:
  • The successful attempt to set a world record for the most Elvis impersonators participating in a running event. There were 208 "Running Elvi"
  • Offering a 'run-through' wedding chapel at mile 5. A total of 55 couples GOT MARRIED while running the marathon/half marathon.
  • Being the only marathon in the world that you can bet on. Mandalay Bay offered a line on the race.

After the unparalleled beginning the marathon course travels out into the flat outskirts of Vegas and finally joins back near the strip at mile 23. The course began and ended at Mandalay Bay.

I had a touch of the flu earlier in the week and could tell early in the race I was not going to set a good personal time, certainly no where close to 4 hours. So I decided right away to not worry about my time, but instead make sure I finish and MAKE SURE I didn't hit the wall and experience that utter misery again.

I started easy and just took what my body gave me. I stopped to go to the bathroom several times and walked through water stations. I also took a large assortment of nutrition supplements because I knew my body was going to need it.

miles 1-4 - 9:24 pace
miles 5-6 - 9:27 pace
mile 7 - 9:31
mile 8 - 9:21
mile 9 - 9:43
mile 10 - 9:19
mile 11 - 11:22 (bathroom)
mile 12 - 9:17
mile 13 - 9:50
mile 14 - 10:07
mile 15 - 10:02

Around mile 15 I felt the pain approaching so I started walking 1-2 minutes at every water station. My running pace stayed largely the same, I was just adding in some walking. The walking definitely helped stave off the wall.

mile 16-17 - 10:13 pace
mile 18 - 10:26
mile 19 - 10:33
mile 20 - 10:35
mile 21 - 12:34 (bathroom)
mile 22 - 10:36

At mile 23 I was greeted by my lovely wife as well as Dave, Tom, and Lisa. It was also the point that the course passed right next to Rio...our hotel. It was slightly tempting to just stop and go back to bed but I knew I could last 3 more miles so never really considered it. Erin walked with me for a little while and then I ran back towards the strip.

mile 23-24 - 11:50 pace
mile 25 - 12:58
mile 26 - 10:28

Finally I rounded the backside of Mandalay Bay to see Erin and Dave cheering again and sprinted my way to the finish line. With 1 mile to go I knew I had to push it in order to beat 4:30 and possibly my NY time. So I ran pretty hard the rest of the way and finished at 4:29:16, 20 seconds faster than my NY time!Obviously I ran a much more consistent race and by easing up throughout I was able to stave off the wall making it a much more enjoyable race, especially at the end. I'm disappointed that after all the training I did I had my two worst marathon times. But at least I finished them injury free and had very memorable experiences both times.

Marv participated in his first marathon and made it all the way to the finish line. He wasn't happy that his knee gave out at mile 16 forcing him to walk the rest of the way, but that is the way marathons are. They kick your butt and you can only take what they give you. It was still a great accomplishment. He finished in 5:52.

I would definitely do this marathon again, but not for awhile. I'm done with marathons for the near future, but I'm sure I'll do more again.

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