Running for a Cause – Tunnel to Towers 2013

I never particularly enjoyed running in my younger years.  Yes, I played soccer for as long as I could remember, and also played lacrosse in middle school and high school.  We even had to run laps during my time on the varsity cheerleading team and my college dance team, but of course when it came to the monotonous task of running laps before practice I instantaneously rolled my eyes and wished I was anywhere but there.

But, I always managed to “man up” and get through it, and as we all know but hate to admit, it feels good afterwards.

So when Patrick told me he wanted to run in the 12th Annual Tunnel to Towers 5K Run and Walk in New York City with me, his best friend and some of his Coast Guard coworkers, I told him I will be his biggest cheerleader on the sideline and take lots of pictures.  I almost got away with it, until my friend (Gee, thanks Ashley! Just kidding.) was unable to come and cheer with me.

“Just run with us,” he said.  “I’ll even get you a shirt.” Dammit.

I’ve heard of plenty of people I know running 5Ks, half marathons, and the NYC marathon (my younger brother Tim ran it in 2011 and is doing it again this November… yay!), but I never had any interest.  No persuasion of wearing white and getting sprayed in color, or zombies chasing me, was going to interest me in running a 5K.  I have participated in some walks for a cause before but never an inter-borough feat where I feared keeping up with and/or losing my party if I decided to walk while they ran for a record time.

I offered plenty of excuses.  “If you can’t check your bag, I’ll be your back-up plan and just meet you in Manhattan with a change of clothes and whatever you need!”  That didn’t work… the run had a wonderfully organized bag check system sponsored by UPS that brought your items from the beginning of the race to the end of the race with ease.  “But if I run and then we hang out in the city afterwards I am going to look gross!”  He wasn’t hearing any of that.  We were running together for a good cause.

Speaking of the cause, if you are like me and aren’t familiar with the Tunnel to Towers run until I was invited to run it, let me tell you about it.

The Tunnel to Towers 5K Run and Walk mainly honors the legacy of Stephen Siller, an FDNY fire fighter who, on 9/11/01, reported for duty that morning upon hearing of the World Trade Center attack even though he wasn’t scheduled until the afternoon.  When he got to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, which was already closed to traffic, he ran through the tunnel with all of his gear on, in hopes to meet up with the rest of his Squad.  He was killed when the south tower collapsed.

In addition to following in the footsteps of an American hero as well as showing support for our first responders and military, the participants help fundraise for the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which, “brings hope to grieving children, and healing to firefighters and families of our military, who sacrifice life and limb in the line of duty.”

Do you have chills yet?  Before the day of the run, I heard from my mother that Tim, my brother I mentioned before and who had participated in this run in the past, claimed that of all the runs he has participated in, this one was his favorite.  “Interesting,” I thought.  And then the day of the run came, and I knew exactly what he meant.

There was an estimated 30,000 people there.  No one was pushy or self-righteous – we were all supporting the foundation together.  And besides the fact that as you are running through the tunnel and pushing yourself even if you want to quit, you don’t.  You are running in a herd of people that are representing something bigger than all of us.  You are running in the footsteps of a hero, Stephen Siller, and for all heroes past and present.

As I was running through the tunnel, people started “U-S-A… U-S-A…” chants at various times and everyone chimed in.  It was hot in the tunnel, and I couldn’t imagine running it in full gear as many people did in order to properly honor Mr. Siller.

When you see the light at the end of the tunnel, literally, I can vouch for myself and others that it triggers something in your brain to speed up, even when the course is a bit uphill.  Then, when you reach the end of the tunnel, there it is.  One World Trade Center.  The Freedom Tower.  It was gorgeous.  On the left of you, outlining the perimeter of the course for about a half of a mile are police officers holding American flags, one after another.  A beautiful sight that you think would come to an end at any time but it just kept on going.  And on the right.  Police cadets each holding a large banner draped over their neck of brave heroes whose lives were lost in 9/11.  They all cheer you on, give you high fives, and tell you great job as if you are the hero, but you can’t help but send the applause right back their way, or at least directed towards the faces on the banners that they represent.

With about a mile left of the run to go, high school cheerleaders, bands, and other fans line the entire path and continue to cheer you on.  Their cheering was working!  I kept running but at this point it wasn’t for me, but for them.  All of the volunteers that came out to support the run.  For the military.  For our first responders.  For everyone else who is so much braver than I am and especially for those who were willing to give their lives and everything they had to help others.

In the end, I ran the 5K, (which mapped out to 3.46 miles instead of 3.11) in 40 minutes and 15 seconds.  My pace was an 11:38 mile.  I broke my own personal record of a 12:01/average mile even while dodging thousands of other runners and their feet and making sure I didn’t get caught up in anyone or trip and fall.

Okay, I know I wrote a lot and you are probably begging to see some photos of this amazing event!  Here are some pictures of this awesome adventure, and yes, I was snapping away with my phone throughout the entire run. 🙂

Station Shinnecock Coasties Alger, Eckhoff, Rogers and me.  We all took a 6am train to Brooklyn together.  Do you like our matching shirts? :-) (PS - Don't mind Eckhoff's "walker" bib.. they ran out of runner's bibs!)

Station Shinnecock Coasties Alger, Eckhoff, Rogers and me. We all took a 6am train to Brooklyn together. Do you like our matching shirts? 🙂 (PS – Don’t mind Eckhoff’s “walker” bib.. they ran out of runner’s bibs!)

Just Pat and I at the IKEA.  According to Pat, this used to be an old shipping yard.  When IKEA bought the property, they kept the cranes on the property and they are decoratively lit at night.

Just Pat and I at the IKEA. According to Pat, this used to be an old shipping yard. When IKEA bought the property, they kept the cranes on the property and they are decoratively lit at night.

I'm up on Pat's shoulders!  Waiting to hear the starting horn...

I’m up on Pat’s shoulders! Waiting to hear the starting horn… we can’t even see the starting line.

Turned the corner... we can finally get ready to start running!

Turned the corner… there it is!  We can finally get ready to start running!

Ready... Set... GO!!

Ready… Set… GO!!

 

Running towards the toll booth... "Did anyone remember to bring the E-Z Pass?" (Also, check out the men on the left running in gas masks!)

Running towards the toll booth… “Did anyone remember to bring the E-Z Pass?” (Also, check out the men on the left running in gas masks!)

Approaching the tunnel... Loved the banner here.

Approaching the tunnel… Loved the banner here.

MTA Bridge and Tunnel Welcomes Tunnel to Towers <3

MTA Bridge and Tunnel Welcomes Tunnel to Towers ❤

Inside the tunnel!  The four of us stayed together (or within view) the entire time!

Inside the tunnel! The four of us stayed together (or within view) the entire time!

My viewpoint right out of the tunnel.

My viewpoint right out of the tunnel.

There's Pat in the orange hat! He's waving at Alger but I love this shot it looks like he's waving at the Freedom Tower.

There’s Pat in the orange hat! He’s waving at Alger but I love this shot it looks like he’s waving at the Freedom Tower.

Action shot.  I wanted to snap a pic of Patrick and I after the tunnel. <3

Action shot. I wanted to snap a pic of Patrick and I after the tunnel. ❤

Gorgeous.

Gorgeous.

There's the finish line!

There’s the finish line!

I'm in love with this shot.

I’m in love with this shot.  Finish lines and freedom towers ❤

My run on the Nike+ App.  So cool looking!

My run on the Nike+ App. So cool looking!

You can bet I’ll see you next year, Tunnel to Towers run!  Thanks for an amazing experience.

– Jessica

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Vacation Destination: Lake George, N.Y.

I’m back!  That’s right, we all deserve a vacation sometimes and that’s exactly what I did!  If you read my post about Rachael Ray and upstate New York then you may already have guessed where I was.  Sure, there’s internet access up there (not at our houses though) and it’s not the boonies by any means.  But nevertheless, when we go upstate (and as it should be on any vacation!) we try to appreciate the place we are visiting and squeeze in as many activities as possible; so blogging wasn’t even an option.

Now that I’m back, let me share some of my favorite things about the Lake George area in this “Vacation Destination: Lake George, N.Y.” post.

1) The house that we stay at.  Sorry, but this is one thing you won’t be able to experience but I have to say it first and foremost because it’s a great house!  It’s built right into the mountain so neither story feels like an upstairs or a downstairs.  Patrick’s parents did a great job when they bought this house two years ago, and his mom has a great HGTV-like eye for decorating.  The house has a cozy upstate feel without being too overly/commercially “Adirondack”.  The yard is huge – there’s a firepit way out back, and a smaller patio with a chiminea where you can sit and be near the house.  Bonus:  The bedroom that Patrick and I stay at is on its own floor so it feels like a little apartment.

2) The LAKE!  Here on the south shore of Long Island, I get to enjoy both the bay and the ocean but taking a dip in the fresh water lake is the most refreshing feeling ever.  Plus, it’s huge… and absolutely gorgeous!  There are so many things you can do on the lake – swim, rent a boat, kayak, canoe or row, jet ski, go tubing, just lay on the shore on a rock or on a beach.

Sharing a canoe trip on the lake with my love!

Sharing a canoe trip on the lake with my love!

3)  The laid-back feeling.  We never really pay attention to time or keep a tight schedule when we are up there – whether it’s just me and Pat, with his entire family, or even when I used to go up with my family!  We know the activities we want to do and may designate a day for them but for the most part we go with the flow.

Believe me, there are plenty of activities in Lake  George so there’s no way you can fit them all in but that leads me to the next thing I love about Lake George!

4) There’s lots of activities besides the lake for when you decide to stick to dry land!  For example, you just have to play a round of mini-golf while you are there.  Whether it’s at Pirate’s Cove, Around-the-World, or at Hillbilly Fun Park (where we went this time around), there is nothing like a little sport and friendly competition.  (PS – Click Hillbilly Fun Park for a coupon!  Also, if you play there – you MUST try their ice cream.  It was delicious, fresh, huge portions, and inexpensive.  The best of every world possible.

This is at the "Around the World/Around the US" golf course.  This hole is for Maine!

This is at the “Around the World/Around the US” golf course. This hole is for Maine!

Another must-do activity, or at least worth a visit is the Adirondack Winery.  I love going to the tasting room in the middle of Lake George Village where you can sample SEVEN of their wines for $5, and keep the glass too.  You can shop for their homemade cheeses, have a wine slushy, and shop their novelty gifts.  We love trying the wines every time and bringing some bottles back home with us – and represent the Adirondack wines here on Long Island!  *One disclaimer:  It is a tasting room which therefore has no chairs or public restroom.  Plan some time to stay and check out all the goods but not too much time!

There are so many activities that I haven't even mentioned hiking yet!  What beautiful views from the top!

There are so many activities that I haven’t even mentioned hiking yet! What beautiful views from the top!

5) Shopping!  Not that Patrick is ever happy with this one at all, but right off the NYS Thruway are a bunch of outlets and if the weather’s bad, it never hurts to check out the sales!  I also like checking out the stores in Lake George Village where you can get a nice piece of sterling silver jewelry, a souvenir t-shirt (I’m a sucker for souvenir t-shirts… especially tie-dye or a cool women’s cut), or any trinkets that will always remind you of your trip!  Or, hop in the car and go to Bolton Landing just north of the Lake George Village (be sure to visit the Indian Teepee gift shop!), or go exploring and stumble into some other small neighboring towns where you can go antiquing, or cities such as Lake Placid to learn about each town’s uniqueness!  🙂

Overall, there really is so much to do upstate that I could go on and on about… and I haven’t even gotten into the historical aspects of the land up there, or where the good places to go to EAT are!  I’ll leave more discovering up to you and www.lakegeorge.com but of course, feel free to comment if you are planning on heading there and have any questions such as advice on where to stay, etc.  I’d love to help you out!

Thanks for discovering Lake George with me, one of my favorite places to vacation.  I hope you get to visit soon!

Random Adirondack chair in a random town.  What's more Adirondack than this? lol

Random Adirondack chair in a random town. What’s more Adirondack than this? lol

Happy 7-Eleven Day!

Happy 7-Eleven Day!

Happy 7-Eleven Day!

I have some real fun coworkers!  Today I got invited on an excursion with two of our crew members (in the company car lol) who wanted to visit as many 7-11’s as possible during our 1-hour lunch break for free Slurpees on this lovely 7-11 free Slurpee day!

Oh boy did we laugh and have fun!  It was an entertaining and amusing quest, and in the end we visited a total of six locations, for a total of 18 free Slurpees!!  Don’t worry, we didn’t get all hopped up on Slurpees ourselves – we gave a few away to coworkers when we got back.  🙂

Our final bounty!

Our final bounty!

According to myfitnesspal.com, a small (8oz) slurpee seems to average around 65-80 calories in the US.  Sugar-free varieties are only 20 calories!!  Promotion goes until 7pm tonight – hope you get a chance to get yours!  Thanks 7-Eleven!!

❤ Jessi