Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Nashville Weekend

Nashville was a fun city. The half marathon was only part of the weekend. The rest of the 3 day weekend we had to sight see, eat good food, and hang out. As a side bonus it was sunny and HOT, which felt great.

The downtown was really nice. We walked around both nights. There was a nice park along the river with views of the skyline and LP field.

We also had fun with the camera on the pedestrian bridge overlooking the city. We played with the colors on our camera to get these pictures.

On Saturday afternoon we went to The Grand Ole Opry. Tom and Lisa had been there and recommended it. I had no idea what to expect but was blown away. Inside the hotel were three large gardens spanning over 9 acres! They included waterfalls, rivers, trees, flowers, and a everything else extravagant. It was like Las Vegas...except no casino and the plants were real.

Downtown offered some cool shops and lots of cool restaurants. Here we visited the Charlie Daniels Museum.
We had great meals at the Old Spaghetti Factory and the Cheesecake Factory. Erin's former work buddy Jodi now lives in Nashville and met us for dinner one night.

Of course a big part of our trip was the drive. It was an awesome weekend!

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Nashville Country Music Half Marathon

About 6 months ago Lisa heard that Nashville had a half marathon in the spring. It sounded fun and was a great excuse for a road trip. Tom, Lisa, Laura, Erin and I made a 3 day weekend of it as Lisa and I completed the half marathon. The timing and length of the race made it a great training run for the riverbank, but it was quite an event in itself.

The Nashville half marathon has to be one of the biggest in the country. Nearly 23,000 completed the 1/2 on Saturday morning, along with about 5,000 that completed the full marathon.

I loved the weather we had. It was in the 70s by race time and over 80 at the finish; light breeze and beautiful blue sky. The course was a different story. The website's elevation chart wasn't even close and the course was way hillier than I expected.

I started fast with a goal of 1:45. I felt great and tackled the early hills with a little too much gusto.

Mile 1 - 7:59
Mile 2 - 7:32 (downhill)
Mile 3 - 7:54 (uphill)
Mile 4 - 8:11 (uphill). At this point I began tiring and realized I started too fast. The hills were already taking their toll so I slowed down and prepared myself mentally for a 1:50 finish.

Erin is my best fan. She comes to all my races and supports all the training miles I have to run the months before a race. I was very glad to see her twice on the course. Tom and Laura also cheered me on.

Mile 5 - 8:13
Mile 6 - 8:14
Mile 7 - 8:05
Mile 8 - 8:10. At this point the 1:45 pace group passed me. They started a minute behind me so I knew I was slipping. I continued to mentally prepare myself for a 1:50 finish, but a lovely long downhill stretch kept me right behind them.

Mile 9 - 8:03
Mile 10 - 7:58
Mile 11 - 7:58. With 2 miles left I dug deep and did my best to stay with the 1:45 pace group, hoping to hold on to a 1:47-1:48 finish time.
Mile 12 - 8:18. Tough mile with lots of turns, sunshine, and uphills
Mile 13 - 7:50

FINAL TIME - 1:45:07!! I was really surprised to see my final time. I nearly caught up with the 1:45 pace group in the last 1+ miles and it turns out they finished a minute fast. My average pace was 8:02, and I was really happy with my ability to hold my speed at the end, even when I was worn down.

The course was beautiful and challenging. We ran through downtown Nashville twice and through a few nice neighborhoods. Supposedly we ran by many famous landmarks, but I wasn't looking around very much. The hills were constant throughout the whole race. Miles 3-4 were almost all uphill and miles 9-11 were downhill. 10-15 live bands were evenly spaced throughout the course but most weren't playing country music. I'm dislike country music, but even I think the "country music" half marathon should have nothing but country. The highlight of my race was running by a local Church that had a praise band going strong at mile 9.

This picture gives an idea about the density of runners.
We finished next to LP field where the Tennessee Titans play. Lisa ran an excellent 2:01:15 and we all enjoyed a beautiful sunny weekend in Nashville.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Exponential Growth

It took Erin and I 27+ years to become an aunt and an uncle for the first time. It took 9 days for the 2nd time. And it took less than 5 minutes for the 3rd time. Our twin nephews Andrew James and Jacob Michael Brink were born on Tuesday. Erin was again able to take part in the delivery.

The boys were small since they had to share one spot for 9 months, but we could still hold them. Uncle Derek is proud that he still holds the family birth weight record. Cindy thought the twins' combined weight would top Derek, but Derek's nearly 11 pounds is hard to beat.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Birthday Girl

Our sweet, little Evelyn turned 1 on Saturday! Amazing how she has grown in the last 365 days. Erin and I are blown away by how much we've come to love our Evie. We cannot imagine life without her.
I made Evie a shape cake in the form of a bunny to keep with Veldhof tradition. Erin had a very similar cake on her 1st birthday.

We started our celebration by taking Evie to John Ball Zoo. The weather was much nicer than the day she was born, and we enjoyed some sunshine and many other families at the zoo. Evie was mildly impressed with the animals, but more interested in the other children walking around.

We had a nice picnic lunch in zoo before heading home.
At night our celebration continued with many more family members. Evie's adoring fan club enjoyed watching Evie soak up the attention. Evie happily played with her pink balloons and opened her presents.
Her favorite 2 presents were Grandpa Doug's old cell phone and Sparkles, a pink beanie baby from Aunt Carissa. Here, Sparkles is riding in the front seat of Evie's new scooter.
After waiting so long for her first piece of cake, Evie didn't even bother eating it. She grabbed a handful, but just threw it back. Later she ate a little but she doesn't seem have the sweet tooth of her dad...yet.

It was a very special day for our family. Evie got all the attention she loves and 4 generations of close family could share in a great day.

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Monday, April 06, 2009

Family Expansion

This weekend 2 new members were added to my "close" family. On Saturday my cousin Ellen got married Neal in Ann Arbor. Before we even left for the wedding (2.5 hour drive) it turned into a whirl wind day. As we were walking out the door Erin's sister called and said she was going into labor. With the unique situation of Erin being a labor and delivery nurse she had planned to assist in Gwen's delivery.

We decided to start driving across the state since Gwen was still in the relatively early stages of labor. We were able to see the wedding and even enjoy part of the reception.
Around dinner we finally decided that Gwen's labor was getting close enough to drive back to Grand Rapids. Fortunately everything worked out and Erin made it to the hospital in time to help with her sister's delivery. Samantha Jean was born as a healthy 8 lb, 14 oz baby. Erin really enjoyed being part of her first niece's delivery.

On Sunday Evie and I met Samantha. Sam is Evie's first cousin and Evie seemed to like her, although we didn't let Evie get too close. Those mischievous little hands are not meant for babies.
We've been training Evie to be the enforcer amongst the cousins. She wanted to get started right away, but we'll wait until Samantha has a fighting chance.

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