A Tale of Two Mercedes.

A Guest Post by Chris the Husband.

Mercedes and I have a history. We loved, and we lost. Ingrid, wherever she is now, is a 2002 SLK AMG, a two-seat retractable hardtop convertible with 350HP. I cling to the happy memories, and think of her fondly when the Spring peeks through the cracks in Winter’s wall.

Mercedes SLK

I’ve been running weekly for 12 years now, nearly always alone, but it takes me a while to reach new heights. Only a few months before I bought Ingrid, in February 2012, I ran my first half-marathon. The local premiere race series in Birmingham is the Mercedes Marathon Weekend, a 5K, children’s events, a half, and a full marathon.

I enjoyed the experience, but after 13.1 miles on that cold morning 3 years ago, I was exhausted, nauseous, and nearly fainted at the finish line after stopping suddenly. I didn’t believe people my size, my age, and my historical activity level could ever live going around the loop again – the Full Mercedes is a double-loop course – so the average half-marathoner gets lapped by the motorcade accompanying the full marathon leaders, generally an exceptionally fit and lanky bunch who are totally killing it running 5 minute miles and blowing past all the water stops.

I was content to be a running loner, and a half-marathoner, and went on about my life, bought the aforementioned convertible at a delightfully depreciated price, and rode off into the sunset on a daily basis.

Fourteen months later, after waving goodbye to Ingrid, who was happily in the hands of another man, I was a newbie member of the Birmingham Track Club, in particular a new regular attender of the Saturday Morning Long Run group that meets at 6am on Saturday mornings at the Trak Shak on 18th Street in Homewood, right down the hill from Vulcan.

Mercedes Training

This is a diverse group of weekend warriors – from easy going 13:00/mile folks to 6:00/mile shirtless guys – and everyone in between. Feel free to come out and run with us anytime. I can’t thank them enough for the friends they’ve become, the encouragement to push myself, or the passion I got to try the unthinkable – the Full Mercedes Marathon.

6000 people start the race, and 4500 stop at 13.1 miles. The rest go around again, with less company, less energy, less pomp, and less circumstance.

The long, lonely second lap was a mountain I wanted to climb.

By now it was the fall of 2013, and although I wanted to – I already mentioned I’m a slow burn on new levels of achievement – I didn’t think I could get ready by February, so I made a year-ahead commitment to run the marathon in 2015, to give me a whole year with the track club to develop my base ahead of the marathon training season.

I stuck with it for all of 2014, and the scorching heat of August with its dripping wet running clothes faded into the marathon training season and rainy December Saturdays doing 17 miles in wet squishing shoes, also with dripping wet running clothes.

The longest training run I did was 22 miles, and for much of it my sore legs made me doubt my endurance, but I was determined to finish the full marathon – walking, crawling, or otherwise.
Race week rolled around, and with a gross sinus infection not getting any better, I got shots on Saturday and began antibiotics before a light supper and an early bedtime. I had only been on antibiotics for about 21 hours when the race started, so my apologies to any runners who grabbed a handful of gummy bears or Vaseline or both out the same bowls that I did.

Sunday morning brought a light rain and a mild temperature, better than the storms forecast earlier in the week. I had no time or pace goals for this day – merely to survive – so I ran at a comfortable pace, whatever that meant at the time, and I crossed the finish line 5 hours and 18 minutes later, with a group of BTC friends waiting and cheering, escorting me in, videoing, and high-fiving.

Mercedes Marathon

I wasn’t about to die. I wasn’t nauseous. I didn’t want to faint. I could have kept going. I felt far better this day than I had 3 years before after half the distance.

Mercedes Medals

All 38 years and 200 pounds of me crossed the finish line of a full marathon with breath and energy to spare. The chubby 2nd grader in my yearbook cannot believe it. So the truth is, a bunch of you people could totally do this. Maybe not on your own, but with a little help from your friends.

And I’m at peace with Ingrid. I wish her well in her new life. I’m Team Mercedes all the way.

It’s Time To Visit Thomas. {Giveaway!}

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Visiting Thomas the Train has been a long-standing tradition in our household, starting in the ancient year of 2009.

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Each Spring, Day Out With Thomas rolls into the station in Calera, Alabama, and we highly anticipate our drive out to visit him.

Ali was a hipster before hipsters were cool (which is actually the definition of a hipster, right?), so she was a female Thomas Fangirl long before she had a brother to blame it on.

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Noah adopted his sister’s love, compounded by the natural attraction between boys and trains, making him quite obsessed.

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I draw at least a dozen trains a week for him, along with tracks and smoke. And with many of them, he asks when we’ll be visiting Thomas again.

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Because Thomas is his happy place.

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I mean seriously – on our last visit, his life had never been better than this moment.

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NEVER, I tell you.

Noah on Thomas

And Ali, despite her older, more sophisticated ways, still has a special place in her heart for Thomas, as well.

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A girl never forgets her first love.

This year, Thomas will be rolling up into Calera April 10-19. We’re already counting down the days until our visit, and Thomas graciously offered tickets for one of you as well!

I have a family four-pack of tickets to give away for Sunday, April 19th at 3:00, worth $84!

(And by the way – if you’re not from around here, I don’t have tickets for you, but you can check the Day Out With Thomas schedule to see when he’s coming your way.)

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Along with a 25 minute train ride aboard one of the vintage rail cars being pulled by Thomas himself, you will get to meet Sir Topham Hatt, enjoy checking out all of the trains at the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum, and take part in all sorts of Thomas and Friends fun including putt-putt golf, a jumpstation, a bubble station, temporary tattoos, storytelling, videos, live music, and more.

(You need to get there about an hour early to get your tickets, enjoy the other activities, and be ready when they call for you to board.)

To enter, simply comment on the post and tell me which is your kid’s favorite Thomas and Friends character (besides Thomas. I promise – he won’t get jealous.)

This giveaway is open until Wednesday, March 11, and I will email and post the winner on my Giveaway Winner’s Page on March 12.

Best of luck!

Disclosure: I was given a four-pack of tickets for our family to go visit Thomas, also. But no worries – all opinions are my own (or my kid’s, in this case), and we would have been going to see Thomas either way. Because he’s awesome like that.

If My Life Were a Children’s Book.

Friday

If you want to get a haircut, you ask your Mother-In-Law to come watch the kids.

If your Mother-in-Law comes to watch the kids, your youngest is sure to ham it up and play especially sick.

If your youngest hams it up and plays especially sick, she will tell you he didn’t get off the couch all morning.

If she tells you he didn’t get off the couch all morning, you will take his temperature and decide he needs to go to the doctor – before the weekend.

If you decide he needs to go to the doctor, you will take him in – despite the impending “Wintry Mix” and possible ice storms.

If you take him in, he will miraculously become healed in the Sick Waiting Room.

If he miraculously becomes healed in the Sick Waiting Room, he will have to touch, rub, and become one with all the surfaces.

If he becomes one with all the surfaces, you will become very anxious.

If you become very anxious, he will become further energized by your anxiety.

If he becomes further energized by your anxiety, he will begin jumping and screaming maniacally.

Jumping at doctor's office while

If he begins jumping and screaming maniacally, he will attract the attention of the other children in the Sick Waiting Room.

If he attracts the attention of the other children in the Sick Waiting Room, they will begin to play together.

If they begin to play together, your anxiety will triple.

If your anxiety triples, they will amp up their game to running around a column while rubbing their hands, cheeks, and possibly tongues around it like they were seeing how many germs it takes to reach the center of a column.

If they amp up their game to seeing how many germs it takes to reach the center of a column, you will begin listening to their Grandmother’s phone call to try and ascertain what they’re in for.

If you try and ascertain what they’re in for, you will learn that their sister is currently being observed to see if she needs to go back to the hospital for her raging and incurable stomach virus.

If you learn that their sister is currently being observed to see if she needs to go back to the hospital for her raging and incurable stomach virus, your anxiety will give you a facial tic so extreme that the kids in the Well Waiting Room will think you’re winking at them.

If you get facial tic so extreme that the kids in the Well Waiting Room think you’re winking at them, you will try to mitigate the future germ damage to your household by restraining your toddler.

If you try to mitigate the future germ damage to your household by restraining your toddler, his wiggling and fighting will make the seconds tick by so slowly that you are convinced the best course of action for your ongoing sanity is to get up and leave.

If you become convinced the best course of action for your ongoing sanity is to get up and leave, right before you do, you will get called back (after one hour and fifteen minutes of Sick Waiting Room Seventh Layer of Hell.)

If you finally get called back, you will, in a fit of anxiety-induced-word-vomit, tell your doctor of all of your trials in the waiting room.

If you tell your doctor of all of your trials in the waiting room, you will follow up by asking her if she happens to have any dissolvable anxiety pills on her.

If you follow up by asking her if she happens to have any dissolvable anxiety pills on her, your toddler will once again be energized by your admittance of the A word, and will yell, “All Aboard!!”, because, you see, he is the Train Conductor.

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If your toddler plays Train Conductor with the stirrups, you will stop to tweet the moment, during which your toddler will seize the opportunity to find a well-hidden stray cup of water left by another child.

If your toddler finds a well-hidden stray cup of water, you will nearly break your nose (again) trying to tackle him before it reaches his lips.

At this point, you will begin praying for quick and painless deaths for each of your family members, as it is clear that all of your days are severely numbered.

Later Friday

After a nap (because after that visit there was no way you were doing anything else before naptime), you go to the pharmacy to fill your son’s prescription.

If you go to the pharmacy to fill your son’s prescription, the pharmacist will sympathize with you and tell you that she, too, has been sick for a week – with a really difficult strain of strep throat – and will cough, right before she mixes your son’s antibiotic.

If she coughs into your son’s antibiotic, you will again begin praying for quick and painless deaths for all of you – and maybe a slightly painful one for her.

Saturday

Your husband has to go to the doctor and gets two shots and a prescription.

Sunday

You and your daughter fall to illness.

Tuesday, Too Late to Go To The Doctor

Your illness worsens, now including a fever.

Wednesday

Your illness most definitely needs a doctor, but the entire city is shut down for the snowstorm that you’ve wanted all year long, so you tough it out and eagerly look forward to the distraction of a beautiful, thick white snow.

If you look forward to a snow, it will not come. And you will wait for eight hours, blowing your nose on every soft disposable surface in your house, not daring to leave due to impending doom, while it rains.

If you wait for eight hours while it rains, you will watch the wall-to-wall snow news all day long in hopes of an encouraging word about when you will get snow, but all you will see are thousands of happy snowstormees who live ever-so-slightly north of you.

If you see happy snowstormees, you will become not happy. But you will still wait, while it rains.

It gets dark, and it rains.

It gets darker, and your power goes out.

Then it starts snowing.

The children will hurry out in their snow gear, eager to make snowmen and snow angels and snow cream. Meanwhile, you hold the flashlight and jog in place on the porch so as to not let your feverish chills overtake you.

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You get maybe a quarter inch of snow. That will melt by morning.

Meanwhile, you continue to be inundated by everyone else’s amazing snowstorm dreams, while your own dreams are delirious because…fever.

Thursday

If you didn’t get the snowstorm you so hoped for, you will look at the bright side – that you can finally go to the doctor.

If you finally go to the doctor, the exhaustion from the week will overcome you and you will accidentally cry.

If you accidentally cry, your doctor will offer you antidepressants.

If your doctor offers you antidepressants, you will consider asking him for dissolvable anxiety pills for the next Pediatrician’s visit, and then wonder if he could instead prescribe you a trip to Fiji

While you’re wondering if your doctor can prescribe you a trip to Fiji, one of your kids gets all cozy and places their lips near a surface, almost assuredly picking up a new germ.

If your kid picks up a new germ, the cycle starts all over again.

And by the time it’s done, it’s most likely time for you to get another haircut.