Hospital Half and 5K

March’s race was an inaugural half marathon and 5K organized by our local hospital foundation.  The weather was great, the location was great, the course was great–it was all around a great race!

This race started and ended at our local community center which is just a few minutes from my house.  I drive there several times a week.  On Tuesday evenings I meet with a few friends and we take a two and a half mile run down the street and back.  You can imagine our excitement to learn that the race started at the community center and followed the same path we’ve been taking once a week for the last few months.

Anyone that’s done some running (and I’m sure this is true for a lot of other sports as well) knows that a lot of the battle is mental.  Knowing or thinking you can do it will get you there.  Doubting yourself will not get you across the finish line.  I knew the course, and knew most of it very well, so my confidence level was through the roof.

This was also the same location and almost the exact same course as my very first 5K.  I had gotten the flu and was sick the day before that race, so I was excited to run this route again, hopefully illness free.  The last hill on this course is a nasty one, and I could not run all the way up it without walking last time.  I was now conquering that hill instead of letting it conquer me.  So, for many reasons, I was pumped for this race.

There were more than 1200 people signed up for this race.  The half marathon started at 8:00 with the 5K starting at 8:30.  I was concerned about parking and traffic, so I had my husband drop me off at the race at 7:30.  There were lots of people there and lots of excitement in the air, but everything went smoothly.  This was one of the most organized races I’ve participated in.

I ran the race and everything went as expected.  I finished this race 50 seconds under my last race and 50 seconds away from my PR.  Yip, right in the middle!  My time on this last race is now second to my PR.

Afterwards we browsed the vendor booths.  Many of the local restaurants had booths and were giving out food items.  There was an old-fashioned photo booth where we got our picture taken, I got a free t-shirt, and all kinds of coupons.

I couldn’t have asked for a better day.  It was perfect running weather, I completed the race in superb time, conquered the hill, and was able to share it all with friends.

305 lbs. Entering a New Season

I never thought of my job as stressful, and most of the time it wasn’t.  I worked from home and it seemed to very easily blend in with what I was already doing.  I made Saturday my day to stay home and do laundry, prepare meals, and clean house.  It was easy to get caught up on things at home and work at the same time.  However, once I was no longer employed, it soon became apparent how much stress my job did bring into my life.

I was now footloose and fancy free.  The stress was gone.  I was no longer carrying around a burden like Christian in “The Pilgrim’s Progress.”  My heavy load had been lifted.  I was enjoying life.  I fell in love with running, weight loss became a breeze, and I was approaching a huge goal.

My weekends soon became full of all kinds of events that I would have normally skipped out on if I had been working.  By mid-March when the Commit to Get Fit program had ended, Spring was here and it was a great time to be outdoors.  I started running as much as I could.  My goal was to run three times a week, assuming that the weather cooperated.

My oldest daughter talked me into signing up for a 5K on Saturday, April 30th.  It would be the first 5K of the year, and the second 5K of my life.  I hadn’t been running regularly since the fall, so I had a lot of preparation to do for this race.

On the first Sunday in April I got a phone call from one of the drivers I used to work with.  He had nothing but bad news to tell me.  First, one of the drivers was suspended and probably was not going to come back to work.  Second, Mr. G. had quit, he thought for medical reasons.  Third, Bob, my boss who had become ill just over a year ago, had passed away.

This hit me like a ton of bricks.  It was too much bad news at once.  I went into the bathroom and wailed.  Bob was one of the good guys.  He cared about Jesus and his family.  I knew his family would miss him severely.  I really felt bad for Mr. G.  This was his baby, this was his life, and he had walked away from it.  I could not imagine what it was like for him.

On Monday I received a phone call from a nearby trucking company with a possible job opportunity.  I wasn’t looking for a job and hadn’t applied, but we knew someone who worked there, and he had given the manager my phone number as a dispatcher out of a job.  The woman I talked to said she would get back with me.

On Tuesday I went to Bob’s funeral.  I arrived a few minutes early and found a driver that I knew.  I sat with him and his family.  We chit chatted and caught up with each other before the service started.  He was in the same boat as I was–he was part-time, so he was not hired on by the new company.  He said, “Have you seen Mr. G. yet?”  I said, “He’ll be here at five after.”

Sure enough, at five minutes after Mr. G. came in and sat across the way from us.  We made eye contact and he nodded to acknowledge that he saw me.  I was glad to see that he at least looked well.

The service was beautiful.  The music was fabulous and very uplifting.  I know it sounds odd, but it was just what I needed during a time that I was feeling very down.  You don’t usually go to a funeral expecting to get anything out of it.  My belief is that funerals are for the living, and I usually go to support those that are grieving and missing their loved one.  This family was definitely grieving.  Bob’s death was sudden, and his family was feeling a great loss.  In my attempt to be a blessing for Bob’s family that day, they had been a great blessing to me.

I was hoping to talk to Mr. G. after the funeral, but he went running out the door before it was over.  I went home afterwards and within an hour had a phone call from Charles saying that they wanted to hire me.  I guess when it rains, it pours!  I confirmed that Mr. G. was no longer there.  He told me that he and another guy had been working there the last 60 days without a day off, and they wanted to get someone in there so they could get some time off.

I wasn’t sure what to think.  I now had two companies bidding for my employment.  I was really enjoying a stress-free life and being able to do things with my family whenever I wanted.  However, that came with a price–literally.  It meant no paycheck.  It wasn’t money that we relied on for our day-to-day expenses, but it had paid for things like a new washing machine, a new furnace, a new air conditioner, medical bills, running shoes, vacations, etc.  I at least wanted to consider these two offers.

In the end, I took the job Charles offered me.  We did some negotiating, and he bent over backwards to accommodate me.  The only thing he could not give me was working from home–the company wouldn’t allow it.  I was to work Fridays and Saturdays from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.  This would make for long days and for some big changes at home.  I knew I was entering a new season in life.

Sweetheart Run 5K

Last Saturday my daughter and I ran the Sweetheart Run 5K.  We were glad to be well prepared for this run.  We had a couple of friends that also ran this 5K with us.

This run was on the other side of town, so it was in an area that we were not well familiar with.  We had to pick up our packets the day before our race.  I went with a friend and we made an afternoon of it.  We picked up our packets, went out to lunch, and then decided to drive the course since it was nearby.  Once we saw the course, we were glad we did.

As any experienced runner knows, a big chunk of running is your mental state of mind.  If you’re convinced that you can do it, you are very likely to succeed.  Not knowing what to expect or what is around the next bend (literally) can defeat you.  Below I am inserting a course map for your visualization.  Yip, it was basically a big square.  Easy, peasy, right?

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Sweetheart Run course map

Wrong.  How this is even possible, or how anyone was able to find a place in the city that is mostly uphill, I’ll never know.  We started at the top of the map where the red pinpoint is.  Our first turn was a left hand turn, then there were four right hand turns, and a final left hand turn to put us back at the start/finish line.  This is not a particularly hilly part of town, but we were surprised to find that after each turn you got to run uphill!  None of these were big, nasty hills, but gradual inclines.  We were glad to find that at the beginning of mile 3, there was a reprieve.  There was a very nice decline in which we were hoping to get a bit of a break and try to make up for lost time.

Race day was here, and it was perfect running weather.  The morning started off a bit cloudy and foggy, but it had all cleared by the start of the race.  It was 52 degrees and a nice, sunny day.  We got to the race plenty early and had time to take a look around at the running expo that was taking place that day.  We were glad to know what was ahead of us.  We weren’t expecting a PR on this course but planned to do the best we could.

The race started in waves, so I knew not to pay any attention to the clocks I saw along the route.  Knowing what to expect during the race kept me going mentally and physically.  I had my metronome tick-tocking in my ear at 180 beats per minute to keep me focused.  I looked down at my Fitbit a few times during the race and was happy with the time I saw.

I crossed the finished line completely depleted but was happy with my performance.  Once I got my official time, I was really excited to find that I had run this race in my second best time ever!  Physically I was prepared because I have continued to run and train this winter.  Mentally I was prepared by reviewing the course before the race.  If it weren’t for these two factors, the outcome would’ve been completely different.

And, my daughter did get a PR!  Woot, woot!!

Afterwards, we strolled through the running expo and picked up several freebies and registered for some give aways.  I also found a really cool headband that I had to buy.  After that was lunch with my daughter and a friend.  Another great day to be alive!

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Loving this bright headband I found at the running expo.

Make Your Own Energy Bars

Sometime last year I saw a video on how to make these energy bars.  I put it on the back burner and let it percolate for a while.  At the time I had found some protein bars that I could buy that really tasted great.  I could get them at an affordable price, so I went on buying them.  Eventually, I was no able to get them at that great price, and I noticed that every time I ate one that I would get really, really thirsty afterwards. I decided that for my pocketbook and for my health, it was probably better to make my own so that I could control the ingredients.

I invite you to take the recipe and make it your own.  Experiment by using different nuts, seeds, dried fruit, etc.  I have stuck to almonds on this one because it’s a nut that no one in our house is allergic to.  I have tried various seeds and dried fruit as they are available and as they go on sale.  Some I like better than others but all have been delicious.  The important thing is that everything is raw, not roasted, unsalted, and no added sugars.

As a side note, I never did see an attribution for this recipe; so I am unable to give credit to the creator.

Almond Berry Energy Bars

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup raw, unsalted almonds
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit (berries are best, make sure there is no added sugar)
  • 1/3 cup coconut, no sugar added
  • 1/4 cup pitted dates
  • 1/8 cup raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chunks or chips (optional)
  • salt to taste (optional)

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line the bottom of an 8X8 baking dish with parchment paper.  Grease the sides with coconut oil.  Believe me, the hardest thing about this recipe is getting it out of the pan!

In a medium size bowl, mix dry ingredients except for the chocolate.  If you like your bars chunky, set aside 1/2 cup of the mixed dry ingredients.

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Add the bowl of dry ingredients (except for the chocolate) and the remaining wet ingredients to a food processor.  (I used dried blueberries for my fruit in this one.)  Blend well.

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Pull the blade from the food processor and add the chocolate chips and the 1/2 cup of dry ingredients that was set aside.  Stir well.

Place the mixture into the 8X8 baking dish.  Use a spoon to spread and pack well into the dish.  Bak at 350 F. for 25 minutes.  Make sure your bars are well done so that they will stick together.  The edges should be brown and the center should be firm to the touch.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes before removing from baking dish.  Go around the edge of your dish with a knife and make sure they are all free from the pan before flipping the bars out onto a cutting board.  Once removed, allow the bars to cool to room temperature before cutting.

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Once cooled, cut your bars to the desired size.  I cut mine into 10 bars.  Wrap your bars in foil and store in the fridge.  I keep mine in a gallon ziplock bag so they’re easy to find and I know how many I have left.

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These are great before or after a workout.  Sometimes I have 1/2 before a workout and 1/2 after.  They really go great with a glass of nut milk.  They are also easy to take with you.  You can put one in your purse or jacket pocket if you’re out running errands and think you might need a snack while you’re out.

Please tell me about any variations you try.

Enjoy!

Making my List; Checking it Twice

As I mentioned in my last post, I have begun reflecting on the past year and setting some personal goals for 2017.  I made a list of things I’d like to accomplish this year and how I’d like to get there.  Making the list is easy, but none of these things will happen if I don’t come up with a specific plan on how I’m going to get there.

The exercising part, I feel like I have down.  It’s as addictive as crack cocaine, so once you start doing it, you’re good.  There are those days that I don’t want to do anything.  I’ve had a couple of those days lately.  However, I’ve never had a time that I went for a run or to the gym and later thought, “Gee, I wish I hadn’t done that.”  I know if I make myself just go and do it that I’ll feel better afterwards.

Unfortunately, sugar and carbs are also just as addictive as crack cocaine.  I do not believe that I have a good handle on that part of the equation.  I probably do 75% of the time, but the social gatherings, holidays, and special dinners really blow me out of the water.  There’s been plenty of times with food that I’ve thought, “Gee, I wish I hadn’t done that.” This year I want to come up with a plan so that those times are fewer and fewer, even non-existent.

Below is my list of things to work on for 2017.  This list is not in any particular order.  Some of these things I’m already doing and I just need to continue with.  Some of these things I’ve done in the past, and I need to pick them up again.  Some of these things, like the social events, I need to come up with a plan and keep trying until I find something that works.

What are your goals for 2017?

  • Run a 10K:  Sign up, train, just do it!
  • October:  There is a destination race that I plan to go to.
  • Couch to 5K Group:  Do it again this year with an eye on improving myself and encouraging Cinderella who also wants to do the program.
  • Exercise 5-6 days a week:  Schedule (that means put it on the calendar) a run or workout everyday.  Go to the gym if the weather prohibits outdoor running.  Sunday:  walk in the afternoon if nothing else.  Keep a log.
  • Get a grip on social events:  Make a written plan to adhere to before the event.  Share it with someone else attending the event that will help keep me on track.  Or consider bringing my own food (salad in a jar?).
  • Vacation/holiday:  Create a written menu plan for vacations.
  • Quiet time:  First thing everyday.  One verse if nothing else.
  • Lose 50 lbs:  Log, log, log everything that goes into my mouth.  Drink lots of juice.  I am already signed up for a 30 day juicing challenge starting January 5.
  • Read more books:  No screen time until I have read at least one chapter in a book.
  • Less screen time:  Read more books.
  • Chi Running:  Work on figuring this thing out.
  • Review this list, reassess, and adjust monthly.  Set a calendar reminder.

A PR and a Photo Finish!

Last Saturday I ran the Christmas Light 5K.  It was one of those runs that was a lot of fun.  It was a very cool and crisp 35 degrees.  There was a costume contest at 5:00 pm with the run starting at 5:30.  The whole idea of the run was to look at the Christmas lights through town and then pick your favorite after the race.  There was a Christmas light contest for the neighborhood, with $200 going to the winner!

There were people dressed in regular running attire, along with people in full costume:  Santa Claus, a snowflake, reindeer, Mrs. Claus, you name it.  How some of these people ran in their costumes, I’m not sure.  I had lots of garb on just trying to stay warm–something I found to be a hindrance later in the race.

As with any cool run, it took the first mile to get warm.  After that, I spent the rest of the race slowly taking off layers and trying to find a secure place to put said items until the end of the race.  I ended up running across the finish line with several things in my hand.  I was too busy running and keeping track of all my garb to take time to look at the lights.  Plus, I didn’t see anything to indicate which houses were in the contest and which ones weren’t.

I am not good at pacing myself, so I spent most of the race running with a friend–either side by side or right behind.  I did not feel as if I was doing well, so I refused to look at my Fitbit and see what my time or my pace was.  I knew I was not doing well.

As we rounded the last corner and began to sprint to the finish line, I said to my friend, “Are you going to race me?”  She said, “I have a feeling I’d lose.”  We both made a mad dash for the finish line, trying to get ahead of the other just by a nose.  We crossed the finish line side by side and then gave each other a hug of accomplishment.  I looked at the clock in amazement.  I knew it would be a PR for me.  At that moment I learned that it’s a lot more fun to cross the finish line with a friend, even if she beats you by 4/100 of a second!

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It’s a lot more fun to cross the finish line with a friend, even if she beats you by 4/100 of a second!

 

 

Less Than Palatable

There’s nothing like food and family.  That seems to be what Thanksgiving is all about for most of us in America.  It is the biggest travel time of the year–people traveling to be with family.  I am fortunate enough that all of my immediate family is close by.  We can all be together for every holiday.

This year was no different in that there was more than enough food for everyone.  We had the traditional Thanksgiving fare of turkey, potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and rolls, as well as various casseroles, salads, and desserts.  It seems like every family dinner we end up with more food as if we’ve lived through a famine and are afraid there won’t be enough.  This year we had so much food that there was no place to put it all.  Our solution was to stack the desserts on top of each other.  It brought a whole new meaning to the words ‘food pyramid.’

As I do every year, I looked forward to this meal.  Not only to the time with family, but to the food itself.  Most of the dishes that were served I only fix twice a year (Thanksgiving and Christmas) simply because we’ve changed our eating habits.  When dinner was served, I fixed my plate.  I took a little of everything and filled my plate with turkey, potatoes, stuffing, a roll, and a few more dishes–all loaded with carbs.

I had spent three weeks planning this meal, shopping for groceries, and then actually preparing the food.  That was three weeks of thinking about what was to come.  How delicious it was all going to be.  Then, I took my first bite and another and then another.  Let’s just say that I was severely disappointed.  This salt and carb-laden food which I had spent three weeks looking forward to consuming no longer tasted good to me.

Overall I thought this to be a good thing and thought how I would make different choices for Christmas dinner especially since I will not be hosting it and fixing the main courses.  What frightened me were the things that DID taste good–the chocolate brownies and the cheesecake.  I also remember taking a swig of Coke a few weeks ago and for the first time in over two years it actually tasted good.  I felt like a back-slidden sinner.  It scared me to death.  Evidently, my palate still needs some work.

Looking on the positive side, I did manage to get in a run Thursday night.  It did make me feel a lot better after having a heavy dinner.  And, I was pleasantly surprised to find Friday morning that the scale had not moved.

305 lbs. Couch to 5K, the Big Finale

The end of our 15 weeks of training was rapidly approaching. For the last three weeks of training, I had no other exercise classes to go to. They had all come to an end, and I decided not to sign up for any other classes until the Couch to 5K program was over. I definitely felt a difference. I didn’t feel drained all of the time and could tell a difference in my running performance.

The last week of the program, we took a break so to speak so that we would be running on “fresh legs” for our big finale–a 5K race on Saturday. On Monday our plan was to do our normal out and back down the big hill, across the bridge, and up the next hill. We started off like usual and had only gone a short distance when our coach brought us all to a screeching halt. He turned around and told us all, “that was one minute.”

We all chuckled. Wow! I immediately had a flash back to the first day we met and were to run for one minute. What was the hardest thing I had ever done 15 weeks ago, was now a breeze.

On Tuesday night we ran for about a mile, then on Thursday we were to take a short half-mile run. I was frustrated on Thursday that it seemed extremely hard. I couldn’t even run half a mile without taking a break and walking.

Friday morning, I soon found out what my problem was Thursday evening. I had the flu, was running a fever, and felt miserable. Friday afternoon was packet pick up for our race. I had until 7:00 Friday night to pick up my packet. I spent most of the day in the recliner trying to psych myself up enough to pick up my packet. I finally did at the last minute.

Saturday morning, the day of the race, I got up feeling better. However, I knew I was dehydrated from not eating or drinking much of anything the day before. I’m also not a morning or breakfast person, so I got up extra early so I could eat a slice of toast with peanut better and a banana. I knew I needed something for energy. I drank as much water as I thought I could stand. My stomach was still not feeling real well, so I was relying on peppermint oil to help with the nausea.

At the time of the race it was a crisp and sunny 45 degrees. I came to the race with my husband and seven year old. My two adult children got out of bed early and left their spouses at home to come see Mom perform this Herculean feat. One of my workout buddies, Velma, came to run the race with me. I wore my hooded sweatshirt until a few minutes before the race and then handed it off to someone in my family. My two necessities were my headband for my ears and my peppermint oil for my stomach. I was using the peppermint oil liberally, putting it on my wrists and upper lip.

The race started and we were off.  I knew the course and had run it several times, so I felt like I was prepared.  I knew I could do this.  I did well until the last hill.  It was always the most difficult for me, and I had only conquered it a few times.  I pushed myself as hard as I could and made it about half way up the hill.  At that point the nausea took over, so I had to walk the rest of the way up the hill.

Once I had recovered, I ran the rest of the way.  It was slow going, but I made it.  As I neared the finish line, I could hear my family and the other people in the Couch to 5K group cheering.  I was surprised to see some of our neighbors that had showed up after the race started.  One of our Couch to 5K coaches, Dana, ran with me during the entire race. I felt bad that she had given up this opportunity to go out and do her best to hang out with a slow poke like me.  She had been where I was now a year before, so she was an inspiration to me the whole 15 weeks.  As I got closer to the finish line, she hung back and let me take all of the glory.  This old, fat couch potato had become an athlete!

305 lbs. Couch to 5K, Part 4

As time went on, our runs became longer and longer.  I don’t think that I ever got to where I could run the full distance we were supposed to run without walking at least part of it.  I still continued with the program and did the best I could.

Many days I simply felt fatigued and spent the whole day trying to pump myself up physically and mentally before our meeting time at 7:00.  Many days I didn’t want to go or simply didn’t feel like going.  I was always glad that I did.

My boss, Mr. G., became a great friend and encourager to me during this time.  I worked from home, and we lived on opposite sides of the city, so we rarely actually saw each other.  It was a crazy summer for the fuel industry, so we were in communication frequently throughout the week.  Mr. G. needed some encouragement himself, so I was more than happy to return the favor.

I had not fallen in love with running yet.  We always started off with a three to five-minute walk before we started running.  That would be three to five minutes that I would spend dreading what was about to come, telling myself how hard it was going to be, and feeling like I was the weakest link in the chain.

I did, however, fall in love with accomplishing new things.  On Mondays and Tuesdays we would do an out and back that we later learned was part of the 5K course we would run at the end of the program.  The course started out fairly flat, then down a steep hill.  Just when we started running up hill again, there was a bridge that we crossed, then it was up to the top of the hill to turn around and run the same course in reverse.  The whole course was about 2 1/2 miles.  These were timed runs, so at the half way point we would all turn around and go back.  I was always at the back of the pack, but when we would turn around I’d be at the front until the faster runners started passing me.  As time went on, it took them longer to catch up with me, so I knew I was getting better.

I was also running further and further every day.  First to the half mile mark without stopping.  Then, to the bottom of the hill.  Then, to the bottom of the bridge.  Then, I made it across the bridge.  Finally, I made it all the way to the top of the hill.  The way back was always tougher, and it took me until the end of the program to conquer that hill, but I did.

On Thursdays, we met at a local park and ran on a trail that was about a mile in length.  These runs were for distance.  These were the times that we would split into groups that ran various distances so we would all finish at about the same time.  Still, I was always last, but just like during the timed runs, I was getting better and better each time.  I finally got to where I could run a mile without walking.  Once we were running two and then three miles, I would walk a short distance between each mile.

On the days that I was not able to meet with our group, I would run on my own in my neighborhood.  I came up with a strategy that I would make myself run up every hill.  If I thought I needed to walk, I would do that on the downhill.  Once I made it to the top of the hill, I often found that I could keep going.  There was one steep hill in my neighborhood that it took me all summer to conquer.

This was by far the most difficult thing I had ever done.  It was 15 weeks of what seemed like brutal torture.  Often I wanted to quit.  But, with the encouragement I got from Mr. G., I kept going.  Mr. G. was someone I could share my accomplishments with–things like, “I ran two miles today!” or, “I finally conquered that hill in my neighborhood!”  Without him telling me that I could do it, telling me how proud he was of me, telling me not to give up, without all of those thumbs up emojies, I would have quit.  It made me feel like I had someone on my side, as if I were no longer going at it alone.

305 lbs. Couch to 5K, Part 3

The Couch to 5K program was definitely tough, but I decided to stick to it.  After about three weeks it seemed like it took a dramatic jump in the length of our runs.  Still, I kept going back.

We were meeting at 7:00 pm, which in the Midwest is the hottest point of the day in the summer.  We ran in all kinds of weather.  Mostly hot and humid out in the blazing sun without a lot of shade.  We never reached the century mark, but did run one day that it was 98 degrees.  Sessions would only be cancelled due to lightning, and we did have that happen once.  Many times I thought I would drop.  Still, I kept going back.

As time went on, our group became smaller and smaller.  Finally, there was a group of 10-12 of us that actually finished the program.  When we met for our sessions, we became three smaller groups.  There was the fast and furious, the average runners, and then us slow pokes.  Eventually, all the other slow pokes dropped out and I was the only one left.  I became my own group!  Still, I kept going back.

I had at least two days out of the month that I knew I was going to miss due to a prior commitment.  I was scared to death that if I missed any sessions that I would fall behind and never catch up. Any sessions that I missed I ran another time at home on my own.  I called it “the neighborhood freak show.”  Still, I kept going back.

I kept going back because the people in the running community are the most encouraging people I know.  No one ever laughed at me or made rude comments.  It was quite the opposite.

There was always a coach with each group, and no one ever ran alone.  This meant that I always had a coach running with me, encouraging me, getting me to stretch myself further than I ever thought I could go.  When I finished my run, everyone else in our group would be waiting for me cheering, clapping, and yelling.  Afterwards we would do some stretches together.  We were becoming a close-knit team.