How I spent my summer

School is back in session and the smell of chalk, number two pencil shavings, and mimeograph chemicals fill the air. People are still using all of those things, no? What will kids reminisce about when they’re old? iPhone chargers, I suppose.

Anyhoodles, I recently lamented how much I miss the good old days of LiveJournal (you only though I was old when I mentioned the things above, now you know I am.) So I thought this is as good a time as any to dust off my corner of the internet and start writing again. Nothing deep here, and since I kind of use this site as a journal it may seem a bit “Hey, look at me…” So if this isn’t your thing just move along.  Continue reading

Three months gone

Time is crawling and flying all at the same time. Big D deployed on Valentine’s Day and if all goes as planned – here’s a first! – he’ll be home soon! Much earlier than expected!

I’m trilled (of course!) and I’m so thankful for great friends that helped me pass the time.

Continue reading

The People’s Marathon

Holy Guacamole, I’ve been neglecting our little blog! Fear not: The Nicoli have had plenty of adventures – I hope to post about the big ones and be caught up before the end of the year.

Marathon training is a pain in the neck. And legs. And calendar. It’s expensive. I’m a complainer. I promised Big D after last year’s race that I would not go the distance again.

And then: I watched this year’s Boston Marathon. I cried like a baby when Meb won, walked from the TV to my computer to join Team Fisher House, and laced up my shoes…

I trained the same as usual: inconsistently. And thanks to encouragement from a friend, I set a lofty fundraising goal: $2,620 – one hundred dollars per mile. No pressure!

My year in a nutshell:
– Procrastinate
– Run
– Sweat
– Hydrate
– Beg friends for fundraising donations
– Rinse and repeat.

Time sped by when it came to fundraising efforts and draaaaaaaged when it came to awaiting race day.

October eventually arrived, and during the team dinner the evening before the race, I got an e-mail notification that I reached my fundraising goal! Chances are if you’re taking the time to read this, you are one of my many supporters – so, once again: THANK YOU!

I stuck to my usual race routine, like laying out my outfit and writing the names of my donors on my pace chart.
all ready for tomorrow

#Teamfisherhouse #runwiththemarines
The early morning view from Charity Village was beautiful.

I had some problems on the course: though well-rested and properly hydrated, I had a headache. I washed a giant Motrin down with too much water and the sloshing made me sick in the stomach, so ate something, which made me more thirsty…you can see where this is going. I started walking at mile 18. My legs were wobbly, I felt weak overall, and just when I was doubting myself: the best cheering squad ever gave me a snack, the gulp of Diet Coke I was craving, and our pal Jym set out to run miles 19 to 23 with me, even though he was hurting since he conquered a Tough Mudder himself just the day before. Good grief, I really owe him!!

Cutest cheering squad!

Jym joined me for a few miles
Pretty sure I’m explaining that I just want to finish, and there’s no need to run – walking is just fine.

thanks, Jym!
My hands were so swollen – check out those sausage fingers!

at mile 23
I was able to run a bit here and there. (Folks in a FaceBook training group I belong to used that Thumbs Up you can see on my back to identify each other. Those “friends” were a such a source of encouragement and help to me throughout the year, even though we’d never met.)

#Teamfisherhouse #runwiththemarines I *think* I can...

And after 26 miles, just .2 remained: up hill. That distance and the incline doesn’t seem like much if you’re just out for a stroll, but man, oh man… Thankfully, Team Fisher House has coaches on the course and one (that I do not know) was helping me along when Team Coach Stacy spotted me and took over. She’s fantastic, tireless, and was so calm as she ran and talked me through it. I was out of juice and air – I can still hear her saying, “Breathe. just breathe. you’ve got it…” My lungs were heaving. I was ecstatic. And crying.

I thought of all of the people – some are friends of friends that I don’t personally know! – who donated to my fundraising efforts. I thought of the military families that would benefit from the Team – we raised more than $500,000! I thought of my sweet husband who put up with so much throughout the year (what’s new!?) and of my friends who drove for hours so they could crisscross the city a bunch of times to cheer me on. I am one lucky gal.

And: I was proud. I didn’t participate in sports when I was a kid. I’m not particularly athletic, I’m really uncoordinated, and I didn’t train properly (which isn’t anything new.) Yet somehow, I made it to the finish line, through the chute, and to a Marine, who hung a medal around my neck and saluted me.

2014 MCM 2014 MCM

Best Support Crew EVER
I couldn’t have done it without them!

not too shabby
Pretty consistent, considering.

It took a few days until I was really ready to celebrate, and we had a little retirement party:
retirement party

I’ll keep running (I’ve already registered for another half.) But no more marathons for me. I will be back at the Marine Corps Marathon in 2015: as a volunteer.

More photos from MCM2014 are over on Flickr.

Semper Fi!

Now it feels like home: Angie visited!

And what a great visit we had!

We spent Wednesday night on the couch snacking on charcuterie, guzzling wine (thanks to Big D’s very generous pours), catching up, and laughing until it wasn’t Wednesday night anymore.  After coffee and the Today Show (some people have hobbies, Ang and I have Matt, Savannah, Natalie, and Al…) we met up with Tricia and were off for a day of sightseeing.

US Capitol Visitors Center

US Capitol Rotunda
I was thrilled to finally see the Rotunda.

After a late lunch, we walked through the tunnel to the Library of Congress. I’d visited once before, but taking a tour lead by an enthusiastic, knowledgable guide made a huge difference. Maybe it really is the most beautiful building in Washington?

Library of Congress

I've gotta get a card. #DeweyDecimal

Library of Congress

The details of the architecture, decorations, and artwork are intricate and fascinating – I can’t wait to visit again.

Next up: The Pentagon! My good friend Jenny works in a muckety muck Protocol Office there and was kind enough to give us a personal tour on her day off. THANKS JENNY!

Photography is prohibited other than this one spot:

making a point


I loved seeing the Army Hall. We walked right past the office of the Secretary of the Army! And we strolled by the Chief of Staff of the Army’s office, too. Who knew they’d have fancy doormats!? Visiting the September 11th Interior Memorial and Chapel was especially poignant.

After all of that touring we needed refreshments, of course. Angie perfected the Ruby Red Lemon Drop Martini recipe, a drink we discovered in Chicago this summer.

I wish Angie was always here! #RubyRedLemonDropMartinis

As much as I loved our adventures, hanging out in the courtyard and sipping delicious concoctions was definitely a weekend highlight.

We shopped, ate, and drank our way through Friday.

Saturday morning had us up while it was still dark as we made our way to the Mall for the Navy/Air Force Half Marathon and 5 Miler.

Good morning! #nofilter

Tracy, Angie & me
It was great to finally meet Angie’s friend Tracy and to snap this photo at the finish line.

We rounded out our time together with more cocktails (of course) – can’t wait to spend time together again soon!

More pictures from our weekend are on Flickr.

Laufen, Laufen!

In the few years preceding our move to Germany I participated in about 10 or 12 half marathons and even managed to complete two full marathons. My first, the San Antonio Rock & Roll Marathon, was on my 39th birthday in November, 2008. And here is a post about my Marine Corps Marathon experience in Washington DC in October, 2009. Worth the read, if I do say so myself.

When the gang here decided to give the Munich Half Marathon a try I was all for it. Our guys are in the Army and are great at this stuff.

As for us ladies… We “trained” – if you count sort of running together but often just drinking coffee in our running clothes. And when we did set out to run, our route included darting across a busy road without a crosswalk, which is very un-German. (The Germans wait for the ‘walk’ sign to light up, even when nobody is coming for miles. Once, I saw a crowd wait for the light to change, even though the road was closed to vehicles!) We quickly dubbed our little group Team Breakin’ the Law.

One neighbor, Angel, had never participated in anything further than 5K, so she and I decided to run the Fulda Half Marathon a month before the big event in Munich so she’d know what to expect.

Fulda is an adorable town and just happened to be hosting a wine festival the night before our race.

Winefest? What winefest!?


As it turns out, most participants at this event are serious, serious runners who belong to running clubs. They ran in packs wearing matching outfits and zoomed right by us. There were seemingly no novices, other than us, the two American girls. We were utilizing my usual running plan – the Galloway Method. I run a consistent 12 minute mile. Hot, cold, feeling great, hungover, plagued by the flu, tired, refreshed, it makes no difference. I am a 12 minute miler. So, we’d run a minute, walk a minute, run a minute, repeat. It has worked for me in every running situation and is tried and true. But… the Germans did NOT appreciate our efforts since we were walking, and they were not cheering us on. Quite the contrary.

We circled through the streets, down a country road, and eventually ran on a dirt hiking trail, cross country style! It was here on the trail, somewhere around mile 10, that a man with a megaphone got very close to us. Close enough that he could have just spoken, or even yelled, but instead he made a very loud, German announcement into my ear with his megaphone, handed me a yellow card, looked at us in disgust, and shook his head.

We didn’t quite know what he said, but we knew it wasn’t good.

We plodded on, walking, running. Walking, running. Walking, running… Angel had some allergy problems and knee pain, but we aren’t quitters! Sometimes we walked through more than just one minute. I was glad there weren’t any (unfriendly) crowds to see us walk, but was also concerned we were no longer on the race route as there weren’t any indicators. The only participant behind us was a man who looked like he was in his 80s.

Eventually, we got to the finish line where I realized we ran a respectable time (by American standards, anyway.) But I can’t tell you what that time was because that yellow card handed over to us earlier? It was a disqualification. So all of the participant’s finish times, even the time for the old guy who finished after us, were posted the event’s website. But not ours. Seems our slow pace and the fact we had the the audacity to walk during a running event was just not acceptable. We were rule breakers! Team Breakin’ the Law, indeed!

The card did entitle us to a free beer, though. Oh, Germans. You’re crazy.

Angel & me at the finish line

So, we shouldn’t have been surprised when we ran in Munich, and the crowds would yell at us when we walked. “Laufen! Laufen! – Run! Run!” They seemed confused and thought we were participating though we were unprepared. It really made me appreciate friendly, encouraging crowds in the States.

Luckily, the marathoners started an hour or two after the half marathoners, so there was a crowd to blend in with, though they had all run twice as far as us. And despite the less than warm reception, the race still had some high points. My first ever glimpses of Munich’s historic MarienPlatz were as I ran through the streets and the local radio station blasted Kid Rock’s All Summer Long. So I heard the twangs of Sweet Home Alabama and I heard my name called out on the loudspeaker.



I feel like we had the last laugh since our big, sweaty crowd found our way from the finish line inside the Olympic Stadium to the Hofbräuhaus where we spent the day guzzling big beers, enjoying traditional German food, and sharing tons of fun stories.

Gary, Jen & me

Angel was REALLY thirsty

Team Breaking The Law

I’ll be sad when our time in Europe comes to an end. But I’ll be happy to return to a place where novice running is encouraged. Less giant beers plus more running might even result fitting into those “goal pants.”