Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston (the Race Report)

For me, writing is a lot like running.  Both are very therapeutic; they help me clear my mind and process my emotions.  But, also like running, some days the writing takes a lot out of me and must be followed by a day or two of rest and recovery.  And like hard track repeats or a hilly long run, writing about Boston has required some recovery periods.  So thanks for sticking around while I get out the rest of my story.

In the wake of all that happened--and all that could've happened--in Boston, I know many of us runners are having a hard time celebrating our race day victories.  It seems selfish to talk about running a BQ (Boston Marathon qualifying time) or PR (personal record) in the midst of such national pain and suffering.

But I believe we must celebrate our victories, small and large, or the terrorists win. 

Eighteen of us from my running group, Runners Edge of the Rockies, ran Boston this year.  Fifteen of us ran BQ's; four ran PRs; and one finished 7th in her age group.  On a tactically challenging course, those accomplishments are very impressive.  They represent a lot of hard work and determination, and should be celebrated.  (Edited to add:  At the 2013 Boston Marathon, 59% of those who finished before the bombs went off re-qualified; in our group we had 88%, a testimony to the great training we all receive.)

I'm a pretty heavy consumer of running clothing generally and marathon merchandise in particular.  Many mornings I struggle to find something respectable to wear to a City Council meeting that evening, but I could probably run every day for a few months in a different running outfit.  I have almost thirty pairs of Nike Tempo track shorts alone.  And I refuse to even count my running skirts.  Brad knows that for birthdays and other gift-giving holidays, a trip to the Lululemon store is all it takes to make me giddy.  Diamonds?  Pffft.

So when it comes to something like the Boston Marathon . . . well, I went a bit overboard with my shopping this year.  Leading up to this year's race I thought I might never run Boston again, or at least not for a while, so I'd better stock up.  I bought almost every single piece of Boston clothing available on the Adidas web site, and in both colors when offered.  (I bought in advance online so I wouldn't have to bring a separate suitcase to Boston to haul home my purchases, and tucked it all away in the top of my closet until after I finished Boston and "earned" it.)

After everything that happened on Marathon Monday, I felt a bit of hesitation wearing my Boston gear.  I'm so very proud to have qualified and finished it again, but the thought of walking around wearing "Boston Marathon 2013" felt like I would be trying to call attention to myself as having been personally affected by the tragedy.  Like I was inviting concern and pity from strangers.

Then I realized that, again, if I didn't proudly wear my Boston gear, the terrorists win.  Because I would've worn it without question had there been no incident.

So I wore my race shirt on the plane on the way home from Boston, and I've worn Boston gear at every opportunity since then.  As much as I wish it were otherwise, having a grown-up, lawyerly job limits those opportunities, but I've flown my Boston flag high whenever possible.  On my first post-marathon run last Saturday with my friend Christine, I broke my personal one-marathon-branded-item-per-outfit rule and wore my 2013 Boston race shirt, jacket and hat.

I'm proud to have run Boston, and proud to stand in support of Boston.  In your face, terrorists.

And I'm also proud of how I ran Boston this year.  My victories were small, but I choose to celebrate them.  Evil cannot take this from me; I refuse.

This was my second time traveling the course from Main Street Hopkinton to Copley Square, and I approached the race this year knowing what I'd done wrong last time.  And hoping to do better.

In 2010, the late start time tripped me up.  I didn't fuel property before or during the race and literally ran out of steam in the final miles.  Bonked, in runners' parlance.  Not fun.

This year, I had a better plan and I actually stuck with it.  Well, to the extent I was able.  I lost two of my gels during the first few miles, so had to re-work my fueling strategy on the run.  But my revised plan worked fairly well and, with the help of the one on-course gel station, I felt pretty good throughout the race.  (Other than the lingering taste of an unfamiliar gel flavor in my mouth.  Yuck.)

I drank an entire bottle of water while on the bus and in Athlete's Village, which proved to be a little too much.  Several marathons ago I finally came to terms with the fact that each race will probably include a potty stop for me.  It's hard to accept that I must lose that time, and at the Country Music Marathon I literally left my BQ in a port-o-potty, but it's better just to take the quick break than to run for miles and miles being uncomfortable.

At about Mile 7, I realized I had to pee.  And I was kind of pissed.  (Haha, punny me.)  Pissed because I'd used the port-o-potty not once, not twice, but THREE times before the race started, the last time being literally on my way to the start corral.  So I was like "seriously, bladder?!?"

The negotiations began.  (Hopefully I'm not the only marathoner who engages in these self-negotiations while racing.)  I told myself that I could stop and use the port-o-potty, but this would be the ONE stop that is included in my race plan and I'd better not hear any squawking about needing to stop later in the race.  And, I had to wait until Mile 10.  It was simply unacceptable to need a port-o-potty stop in a marathon while still in the single digits; poor pre-race planning was all that was.

So, there it was.  One stop, at Mile 10.  I lost a little bit of time, but it was time I planned on losing and I didn't end up needing to stop again.  And at least I ran with the knowledge that I began the race sufficiently hydrated.

I wish I were one of those marathoners who could recall all the fun details of what you see along the course, but I'm not.  I'm trying to get better about taking it all in, but mostly I could tell you what my Garmin looks like.  Even in Boston, where there's so much to see.

I'll sum up my observations by saying the Boston experience is incredible.  A race like no other. 

The spectators are wildly enthusiastic and, having run the course once before, I looked forward to seeing them again.  Like we're old friends.  "Yay, the bikers are here again!  That bar looks like a place for a great bloody Mary" . . .  "The Wellesley girls look awesome this year. Such sweet young things, with such powerful lungs" . . . "Good to see Boston College students still know how to party hard on a Monday morning.  Seriously should've gone to school there."

The volunteers are also amazing.  These folks expertly handle their various roles in making our day a success.  There's no fumbling at the aid stations; their swift hand-offs help even middle-of-the-packers like me achieve our best race times.  At the finish line, the volunteers are so full of praise that I can't imagine anything short of an Olympic medal would feel better than when they place that Boston Marathon finisher's medal around your neck.  The volunteers are, every single one of them, an integral part of the well-oiled machine that is the Boston Marathon.

Years ago someone gave me this advice about the marathon:  Run the first 10 miles with your head, the next 10 miles with your legs, and the last 10k with your heart.

I did this last Monday.  Mostly.

I reigned it in during the rolling downhill of the first 10k, trashing my quads just a little bit rather than a lot.  The middle miles are always tough for me, and in Boston you reach the Newton hills at the end of those middle miles.  Notwithstanding my coach Maureen Roben's stern warning, I flew down the fairly steep descent at Mile 16 and tore myself up even more before reaching the Newton hills.  My quads screamed the entire last 10k, which is mostly downhill again, and which I imagine would be a great stretch to run swiftly if you'd been smart in those earlier miles and saved your legs.

People hear "downhill marathon" and think it means "easy."  It's not.

For the last few miles, I kept repeating to myself "right on Hereford, left on Boylston."  I'd bought a shirt at the Boston Marathon expo with this printed on the front; it represents the final two turns of the race.

I also kept repeating it because I knew Brad and Eli would be there on Boylston Street, waiting to cheer me on to the finish.

As I ran up Boylston, scanning the crowd for them, it occurred to me that having them near the finish had the drawback of slowing me down when I didn't have much race course left to make up the time. But after seeing them standing there--arms waving, huge smiles on their faces, screaming my name, Eli proudly ringing his cowbell--I realized it also gave me the boost I needed to finish the race strong.

According to my Garmin, I ran the final 0.4-mile stretch at a 7:40 pace, by far the fastest of the day.  On legs that were basically jello.  (My Garmin read 26.4, instead of 26.2, because I suck at running tangents.)  And, because of this boost from Brad and Eli, I ran a Boston qualifying time at the Boston Marathon, a longtime running goal of mine.  With only 21 seconds to spare.

That's the power of love, right there.

The 2013 Boston Marathon was my 13th marathon, a coincidence that I felt certain was to bring me good luck.  The back of my "right on, left on" shirt says this:

"Lucky '13."  It was the reason why I bought it.

After all that happened, a Boston Marathon shirt that says "Lucky '13" seems odd.  But I guess I really was lucky.

Very lucky.  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Boston: The Next 24 Hours

Last Friday I left off writing at the point where I'd found Brad and Eli.  People have asked me how long it took to find them after the bombs went off, and the truth is I had no clue.  It could've been five minutes, it could've been an hour.  Time lost all meaning.

What I recall of that time is my mind bouncing back and forth between "they wouldn't have been there, they would've left Boylston Street after I ran by" and "they were there because of ME; if anything happened to them, it was because of ME."

I finally looked at my cell phone today to see how long it had been.  As soon as I found Brad and Eli I sent a text to my friend Christine, asking her to let me know she was alright.  Out of all my friends who were running Boston that day, Christine was the only one who I knew planned to finish after me.  That text was sent at 3:20 Boston time, so it had taken me 30 minutes to find Brad and Eli.

After the bombs exploded, I became disoriented in the chaos and didn't recall in which direction was the family meeting area.  I asked a race volunteer and he pointed in the direction of the finish line.  He told me he didn't think I'd be allowed to go that way, since they were trying to move people away from the finish line.  But he also seemed to understand I had to go that way, and didn't try and stop me.

When I saw Brad, we threw our arms around each other and, with Eli sandwiched between us, we stood on the sidewalk clutching one another like one of us was dangling off a cliff.  The rush of relief I felt upon seeing them is impossible to describe.

The three of us started making our way back to the hotel.  Brad and I each had one of Eli's hands and, for probably the first time ever, Eli held onto me as tightly as I to him.  I recall there were people heading in all directions, but mostly away from the finish line, making it difficult to navigate through the crowd to our hotel near the finish line.  I remember seeing a group of college-aged guys running by, urging people to follow them to Mass General to donate blood.  Every person around me seemed to wear the same expression of dazed confusion mixed with panic.

Our hotel was only a few blocks away, so we reached it relatively quickly.  The lobby was full of people and the hotel staff were trying to hustle the guests directly to the elevators and up to their rooms.  I would learn later that many people were unable to make it back to their hotels, which is probably why our lobby was so full.  As soon as we walked in, I was asked for identification or a room key.  I pointed to Brad, but before I could say anything the hotel manager saw us and confirmed for the employee we were guests of the hotel he'd seen for the past few days.  Being a conspicuous family will sometimes have its perks, apparently.

When we got to our room, we turned on the t.v.  Eli hopped up on the bed to play with his Nabi (kind of like a kids' version of an iPad) and put his headphones on.  Brad sat on the edge of the bed while I paced the room, checking my phone, desperate to hear news of Christine.  We watched the finish line video of the bombing several times before the image of the runner in the bright pink top and baseball cap caught my eye:  Dear God, was that Christine?  I checked the photos on my phone from that morning and knew it was.  That was her hat, her bright shirt.

With my family safe beside me, my prayers turned to Christine.  Please, God, let her be alright.  I lost one of my best friends on 9-11, and couldn't bear that happening again.  The news coverage showed that finish line video over and over, and each time I told myself to be thankful that it showed her running from the blast.  Toward the finish line.  That if she'd been hit she wouldn't be running.

An hour or so later I reached Christine's dad in her hotel room, and knew she was safely back at the hotel.  I took a long shower, standing in the tub in a daze, trying to rinse off the layer of anxiety and guilt-infused relief that was making me tremble.  How could a day that started so brightly, with such hope and anticipation, end so horribly?

When I finally emerged from the shower, the t.v. was off.  Brad told me that, although Eli was wearing his headphones, when the news reported an eight-year-old boy had been killed, Eli pulled his headphones off and asked "little boy hurt?"

At this point, dinnertime was approaching and we decided to try and get some food for all of us.  I hadn't eaten a real meal all day.  We suspected it would be difficult to leave the hotel, so Brad cancelled the reservation he'd made for our nice post-race, celebratory meal and went online to book a 6:00 reservation in the hotel restaurant.  Looking back, this seems a little silly, like we were oblivious to what was happening.  But doing something normal, like booking a table at a restaurant, was a soothing act.  Like order would be restored if we just went about our business normally.

We went down to the hotel lobby at 6:00, and were greeted by the hotel manager as we stepped off the elevator:  Can I help you?

The lobby was empty.  Through the glass front doors, we could see the SWAT team posted outside our hotel, the police crime scene tape spanning the length of street in front of our building.  We had no idea our hotel was on lockdown, and seeing this was like someone taking our world that was already on edge and tilting it another fifteen degrees.

We told the hotel manager we had a reservation at the restaurant, and he calmly and pleasantly told us the hotel was on lockdown.  The police department had ordered that nobody be permitted in the lobby.  The restaurant was closed.  He warily told us we could leave the hotel if we wished, but we would not likely be able to return.  He said room service was operating, but to expect long delays because they were very busy.  Of course they were, in a hotel where most rooms were occupied with runners who also hadn't eaten all day long.

Looking back, I appreciate so much the calm manner with which this hotel manager addressed us.  As I was standing there, taking it all in, my emotions threatening to spiral out of control--lockdown! SWAT! police tape!--his calm voice brought me back down to earth.  And he seemed to appreciate that we had a small child standing there.

Nevertheless, Eli saw and heard all of this, too.  As we stepped back on the elevator to return to our room, the questions from him began.  His fear and anxiety were palpable.

He was most concerned about the armed SWAT team.  Who were they?  What were they doing there? Where Eli is from, men in uniforms bearing guns hurt his people.  They are feared.  We explained to Eli that those men were there to protect us.

Protect us from what?

That's the question we couldn't answer.  Not really.  We told Eli that there were some bad people in the world, and they'd done something bad that day near the race.


That we didn't know.  We told him sometimes only the bad people know why they do things.  We tried to reassure him that although there are bad people in the world, there are so many more good people.  People who will help you, people who will protect you.  Like the men in front of our hotel.  That he wasn't to worry.  We were together and we were safe.

The next morning we ventured out of the hotel for breakfast.  The streets and sidewalks were eerily vacant, a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle we observed in the days leading up to the race.  There were police vehicles on every block and several news crews clustered at one intersection.  More SWAT teams.  A (presumably) bomb-sniffing dog and his police handler.  A few other pedestrians were out; mostly people with their suitcases, who were trying to leave the area.  It was somber.  Desolate.

We left early for the airport, not knowing what chaos we'd find there.  Just prior to checking out of our hotel the news reported a "security incident" on an incoming flight at Logan Airport.  The live video feed showed a plane grounded at the end of a runway, with all the baggage removed and sitting off to the side.  A safe distance away?

Our taxi driver apologized to us for the incident.  He seemed personally offended that guests of his City had to experience the tragic events of the previous day.  Surprisingly, the airport was relatively empty when we arrived and security screening was fast.  Homeland Security officers were there, and interviewed Brad about what he'd seen at the race.

Since we've been home, I've asked Eli if anything that happened in Boston was scary.  He said yes, but when I tried to talk further with him about it, it was clear he wasn't ready.

It breaks my heart that this boy, who lived among violence in his country of birth, was again so close to violence.  Brad told me that when the bombs went off, they were so close they could hear and feel the explosions, but Eli didn't react at all.  We don't know whether he didn't react because he didn't understand what had happened, or if the explosions didn't seem all that uncommon to him.

When we adopted Eli, I had the notion we were taking him away from the violence of his birthplace.  I won't use the word "rescue;" that makes me sound noble, and the simple fact is we adopted Eli because we wanted to have a child.  But I did think we'd be able to provide Eli with a safe home, in a safe country.  I now see how naive I was, because none of us can ever know we are truly safe.

I don't know whether it's the innocence of youth or Eli's incredible resilience, but he wants to go back to Boston.  If asked about his trip, he'll tell you about driving the Duck Boat and about our visit to the Children's Museum.  He brought my marathon medal to show and tell at school; he's proudly worn his Boston Marathon t-shirt.

And I agree with Eli.  I want to go back, too.

Grosz family of three, checking in for Boston 2014.  Join us?

Friday, April 19, 2013


"Boston."  The word that is forever changed for me.

I've loved the City of Boston for most of my life, long before I was a runner.  For a long time I loved it from afar, never having been there yet always thinking of Boston as "my people."  A place where being Irish was a badge of honor and they took no guff.

When I became a runner, Boston took on a whole new meaning for me.  Like pretty much every runner ever to wear a timing chip, I dreamed of running the Boston Marathon and after running my first marathon (Big Sur) I made it my goal to qualify. 

I trained too hard and gave myself a stress fracture in my tibia, ran the race injured, and missed qualifying by just over a minute (St. George Marathon); I developed severe stomach cramps in my next marathon, forcing a port-o-potty stop, and missed qualifying by 32 seconds (County Music Marathon); then, after hooking up with coach Maureen Roben I had the best training cycle of my life but, despite being on pace to qualify until Mile 22, I faded in the 84 degree temps on race day and missed my qualification time by more than six minutes (Chicago Marathon).  Not even close.  As I crossed the finish line in Chicago, I burst into tears, doubting that I had it in me to try again.

But try again I did.  I finally qualified at the Eugene Marathon the following spring and ran Boston for the first time in 2010.  Then it took me another five marathons to qualify again and be able to run it this year.

While waiting for the race to start this past Monday, I felt such gratitude.  After several cold and rainy days in Boston, it was a beautiful morning.  The sun was shining.  I have a husband whom I adore, and who adores me.  We have the child that neither of us thought we'd ever have.  And that child is the most amazing kid; every day I wonder how we got so lucky to have him join our family.

During the race, I thanked every volunteer who handed me anything on the course and at the finish.  I'd reached a point in my life where I truly had never been happier, and I wanted to share that feeling with everyone.  Knowing Brad and Eli were waiting for me on Boylston Street near the finish line was the best feeling in the world.

Until it was the worst feeling in the world.

I feel like I've told our story a hundred times this week; the facts about what happened.  What I haven't really been able to tap into are my feelings about what happened. 

Until this morning, I felt kind of numb.  When telling our story it's been like describing something I saw rather than experienced.  Like I was a witness to something bad happening to someone else.  Just the facts, ma'am.  I've thought about it all intellectually, and run through the various scenarios of how this could've been so much worse for us, over and over again.

But seeing the photos of the two men who very nearly took everything from me triggered a powerful wave of emotions.  While trying to pull myself together to go to work this morning, I finally cried.  I could hear Brad down the hall, helping Eli get ready for school, and I thought about what I could've been hearing right then, but for a precious ten minutes on race day:  Silence.

Because that's all that may have separated me from living the rest of my life without them.  Ten minutes.  For those who haven't already heard our story, Brad and Eli had been watching the race on Boylston Street, across from where the second bomb went off.  I finished the marathon about fifteen minutes before the explosion, and thankfully they left the finish area to head to our meeting spot right after I ran by them.  So, for them it was probably only ten minutes' grace that kept them from harm.

This week those ten minutes and the "what ifs" have plagued me.

What if I'd run slower? 

I started the race with my dear friend Christine.  We were in the same start corral but had different time goals, and so had agreed to run separately and meet up at the finish.  Christine was on Boylston Street nearing the finish when the bombs went off, and the video clip that has been played over and over on the news shows her running in terror.  Thankfully she was not hit in the blast, but she is suffering both physical and emotional repercussions from the explosion.  And thankfully her family was not in the finish area; they'd positioned themselves at Mile 20 or 21 to give her a boost in those tough final miles.  But Brad and Eli?  The would've been right there.

What if Brad and I hadn't seen each other?

I knew generally where Brad and Eli planned to be on race day, but not specifically.  The finish line area can be very congested and so I knew he'd be looking for where in that general area would afford the best view of the course.  And Brad told me later he almost missed seeing me because he was checking his phone for the Athlete Alert text messages.  Everyone around him had received a text about their runner crossing the 40k mark, but the last alert Brad had received for me was at 30k.  He'd started to worry that something had happened to me between 30k and 40k, and looked up from his phone just in time to see me. And I only saw them because Brad was waving his arms at me.

If we'd missed each other, they easily could've been there on Boylston Street, still waiting for me to run by, when the bombs went off.

What if I'd started the race later?

Christine and I were in the first corral of the third wave.  Starting places are determined by your qualification time, with the faster runners starting first.  I qualified and registered for Boston using my time from the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon in January 2012, and then ran more than three minutes faster at the Rock 'n' Roll Denver Marathon in September.  I wasn't going to bother updating my time with the BAA because I really didn't care all that much about where I started, I was just happy to be running the race again.  But in February the BAA sent an email out reminding everyone to update their times if they'd run a faster race than they'd used to register and I thought "what the heck."  All it took was clicking on a link in the email, so I did it.

If I hadn't updated my time, I would've been assigned a later corral and it would've taken me several minutes --ten?  who knows?--to cross the start line.  So even running exactly the same race I could've finished later and Brad and Eli would've still been there when the bombs exploded.

What if I didn't have that faster time from Denver, to get me into that first corral?

As many of you know, although I ran a PR (personal record) in Denver, it was not the best race for me.  In fact, my "A Goal" for Boston was "Finish upright. No trip to ER, no black eyes, no skinned knees." 

I've never been one who could dig deep and push through pain, which I know has held me back in many races, and I didn't even have a lofty time goal for Denver.  I'd already registered for 2013 Boston and had no thoughts about 2014 Boston.  But something pushed me that day.  Looking back now, I think God helped me find the strength within to finish that race in record time.  Only He knew how important that faster time would later be to me.

And let's talk about God for a moment, because I felt the power of His grace in so many ways on race day.  I felt it in the love, concern and compassion I received from both friends and strangers.  I also felt it when something inexplicable happened.

I brought my phone to the start so I could take pictures of my friends and me getting ready for the race.  Like this photo of Christine and me waiting in Boston Common to board the bus to the start in Hopkinton.

And once Christine and I made it to Athlete's Village in Hopkinton, we found our friend Cristy and we had someone take another photo for us.

Then my phone died.  I tried to turn it back on, but it showed my battery was completely out of charge.  I tucked it away in my jacket pocket, and checked it with the rest of my gear before we started the race.

I was at the gear buses when the bombs exploded, and had just retrieved my bag.  After the first bomb exploded, a race volunteer, who had just handed me my bag, and I both looked in the direction of the sound.  In the direction of the finish line.  We had a clear view up Boylston Street, and could see the smoke rising above the crowd. 

At first I thought something connected with the race had just happened; as crazy as it sounds, I thought that fireworks had gone off to celebrate somebody important crossing the finish line.  Crazy because that would never happen.  They'd never set off fireworks, in the middle of the day, while people were still running.  But that's the only place my mind allowed itself to go:  It must be a celebration.

But the volunteer said "that's not good" and I immediately knew it wasn't a celebration.  And then the second bomb went off.  I panicked, trying to calculate how long it had been since I'd seen Brad and Eli, and tried to reassure myself that they would've already left that area by then. I got turned around in the crowd and couldn't remember in which direction was the family meeting area, where Brad and Eli were supposed to be.  And I had a phone, but the battery was dead.

I saw a woman whom Christine and I'd met while in line for the bus that morning in Boston Common, who was also looking for her family.  She said if we found them they'd have a phone I could borrow.  Then I lost her in the crowd.  Feeling totally lost, helpless, and panic-stricken, I pulled out my phone to just try it.  To see if I could squeeze one little call from my dead battery.  And when I turned on my phone, it showed half battery power remaining.

Explain that to me.  The phone battery is dead at the start, and then more than four hours later when I need it, I have half the battery remaining.

I wasn't able to get a cell signal, and found Brad shortly after that, but I was able to start texting my friends at the race to check on their safety, and start returning the many texts I had already received from those who were very worried about us.  That miraculous cell phone battery eased the minds of many people.

The word "Boston" will now be forever linked to this horrible tragedy, but my love of Boston and its people--my people--remains. 

There's so much more I want to say about Marathon Monday, but I'm exhausted.  I feel spent.  I'm grateful my friends and their families escaped injury, but feel such deep sorrow for those who weren't so lucky.  And I'm also grateful for those, like Maureen and David Manthey from Runners Edge of the Rockies, who gathered information from afar to confirm the Denver runners in Boston were all safe. 

I also feel such anger toward the people who did this to us.  Whether in Boston or not, we all feel the impact of this horrible tragedy.

While I'm writing this, authorities are conducting a door-to-door search for the one suspect who remains alive.  I am in awe of the law enforcement response, and am so thankful to live in a country where such excellent men and women devote their lives to the safety and security of others.  They are true heroes.

I pray they find the remaining suspect quickly, and I pray he is alive when taken into custody. 

Because we all need answers to this unfathomable incident.  And we need justice.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Punta Cana!

We had a great time in Punta Cana.  And since we leave again for Boston in three days for the marathon, this update will be quick.

Highlights from our trip:

Watching Eli experience the ocean and the beach for the first time.  I think a lot of people don't see themselves adopting an older child because of all the "firsts" they'll miss, but there are so many firsts we've gotten to experience with Eli.  This was one of the best.

And Eli is already tall enough to cover my midsection in beach photos.  You don't get that when you adopt an infant.

One of his favorite things to do on the beach was build sand castles.

And sand volcanoes.

With a front door, of course.

Another highlight of the vacation was paying for wifi for the week but never using it.  Not once.  No email, no facebook.  It was awesome.

Eli became quite accustomed to his daily croissant and learned he loves crepes as well.  Looks like a trip to Paris may be in order soon.  (Yes, please!)

Pool, beach, pool, beach, pool.  Sleep.  Repeat.

Club Med has roving professional photographers, so we have lots of pictures of the three of us together.

And Eli actually posed and smiled (most of the time) for said photographers.

Eli's a pretty great photographer himself, even when equipped only with an iPhone.

Another classic for the family vacation vault?  Brad being pulled up onto stage for a performance of Little Red Riding Hood, a story that Eli had never heard before.  Afterward, Eli asking Brad why he dressed like a grandmother in front of everyone.  And why the other man was trying to hurt him.

But the sound of horrified embarrassment in Eli's voice, once he learned the man wasn't really trying to hurt his daddy, was priceless.  I'm sure we'll  hear that again someday.

Btw, Brad was spectacular as the Grandmother.  He really missed a calling, going into IT instead of acting.  I mean, check out that sexy leg poking out from under the covers. I don't remember that in the original.

And his Gangnam Style dance with the rest of the cast at the end?  Stunning in its execution. Sadly, we'd left our video camera back in the room.  Because you know I'd be posting that video.  Everywhere.


Bocce ball.


After signing the liability waiver, of course.

Driving the glass bottom boat.

Climbing a coconut tree on the beach.

Using the squirt gun that he bought at the gift shop with his own money to hunt ants.

That squirt gun saw a lot of action during the week.

Mom and Dad bought the hat.  Isn't it awesome?  Little gangsta' action, poolside.

And the replacement squirt gun, which he also purchased with his own money after the first one cracked.

They even had a "marathon."  A 5k marathon.  (Is that a collective groan from my runner friends who cover 26.2 miles for their marathons?)

No, I didn't run it.  I think I was by the pool sipping a mojito when the gun went off.

I will say, I loved that Club Med is so active.  They hosted a triathlon the previous day, with ocean swimming, sea kayaking and running legs.

So much to do if you can tear yourself away from the beach and pool.  Eli wouldn't go near the trapeze, but maybe next time.

Or you can just hang out in the bar.

But the very best part?  Eight days with my two favorite people.

It was a fabulous, exhausting vacation.

Ok, not such a quick recap after all, haha.