Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Run For Your LIFE!

Growing up, there was a lot of imaginative play with my older sister and our best friends.  Not to get all, "back in my day, sonny" on you, but we didn't play video games.  We didn't have cable, and only watched about an hour of television each week.  We read a lot of books.  We wrote a lot, and self-published our stories in magazines and newspapers which we would then distribute to our parents and their friends.  Most of the time, though, we played outside.  I think I heard the phrase "run for your life" for the first time on Scooby-Doo.  It was also probably used on Gilligan's Island and on The Brady Bunch, although not quite as often.  Quick digression-
Anyway, let's get back to the running for our lives thing.  'Run for your life!' is a really fun thing to shout, as is 'You'll never catch me!' and 'You're our only hope!'.  Another quick digression- wouldn't it be cool to really be someone's only hope?  I mean, to possess either the knowledge, strength, or superiority to be the only hope has to feel pretty awesome.  Okay, back again.  I distinctly remember that whether we were playing detectives or stranded islanders or football or Cookie Jar (in which one of us [me, except when I protested really loudly] played the mom of several demanding, whiny children who did nothing but crawl around and ask for cookies- not my favorite game, but definitely the best preparation for real life) or archaeologists or hide-n-seek or Carson Kids (in which we were orphaned, crime fighting, Macguyver-esque children except when we had to get away from our mean foster parents, when we would break all the rules) or A-Team, someone would inevitably shout, "Run for your life!" and we would all take off as fast as our scrawny legs would carry us.  We would run down the sidewalk, as far as we were allowed.  We would run circles around the house.  We would run until my friend's younger brother, who was always the Bad Guy, complained to our moms that we weren't letting him catch us, or until someone got stung by a wasp (okay, that only happened once, but it sticks out in my memory like nothing else).  Running was the most fun part of all our games.  Running was the constant.  Running was survival.
Not pictured: anyone I know.  I realized I was going to have to google 'kid running images' when I looked through my oldest photo album and found pictures of kids in sinks, wearing tutus, playing t-ball, jumping on trampolines, and baking bread, but nobody running, ever.  We must have been too fast for those '80's cameras.

Did you know I'm training to run my first marathon?  (If not, this is probably your first visit to my blog, so let me welcome you!)  I've been thinking a lot lately about why I'm doing this.  See, back when I ran my first half-marathon, there was someone holding a sign that read, "Remember your why."  I had trouble coming up with anyone's why, much less my own, at mile 12 of the 13.1 mile race.  Because of my new brain-training initiative, I decided I should explore my reasons for deciding to run a marathon so's not to be caught off guard, mentally, by the motivational signs on the course.  After a couple of days of trying to come up with good reasons to neglect my family for hours each week while completing training runs, to put almost every inch of my body at risk of injury, to spend a whole bunch of money, to be impressed almost daily by how much sweat it is possible to produce, I was feeling a little stuck and discouraged.  I decided to check out other people's reasons, hoping maybe I could find something inspirational and deep to tell people when they asked why I was running a marathon.  Thank you, google, for always being there for me!

What I found when I typed 'why do people run marathons' was not very encouraging, nor was it very surprising.  There was one article claiming that many of us are not genetically suited for long-distance running, and that no amount of training will make those genetically lacking folks improve.

Lucky for me, I seem to have good genes.  Thanks, Dad!
I also found a blogger who says that only white people like to run marathons, this guy who says it's the challenge which excites our sense of adventure, and a really interesting (maybe only to me) article in which the decisions we make which cause us pain vs. pleasure are explored.  You really should read the whole article, but I'll sum up the parts I found most fascinating:
  • Choosing to run a marathon is irrational.  Choosing to have more than one child is also irrational.
  • We humans are not oh-so-rational, really.  Nor are we very good at remembering just how painful some experiences are.
  • Apparently, it was the Hindus who inspired Westley's words in The Princess Bride, "Life is pain, highness.  Anyone who says otherwise is selling something."
  • Life can be measured as a sum of moments, and if the pleasurable moments outnumber the painful moments, we can claim to have lived a good life.  Or...
  • Life can't be measured as a sum of moments, and is "good" if we are able to appreciate the painful and pleasurable both as experiences which make us whole.
So, here's what I've concluded.  I'm going to run a marathon because I want to.  I stressed the word 'want' in that sentence to make it look closer to the word 'need', which might be more accurate.  I need to challenge myself, physically, mentally, and emotionally.  I need to know that I can do it.  I mean, I know I can do it.  But saying that at this point, when I haven't actually done it, is not much different from my saying that I know I can pitch a perfect game in Major League Baseball.

It's easy to say you can turn a pilgrim...
...into a zombie, but have you actually done it?
My life is a happy one, no matter how I choose to calculate happiness.  Maybe that's why I'm ready, now, to physically torment myself and put myself through 26.2 miles of pain.  Maybe Maslow had it right, and running a marathon is how I self-actualize.

Run for your VITALITY!  Hmm.  Doesn't have quite the same ring to it, but for me, it seems accurate.  No matter what is going on in my life, running is the constant.  No matter how hot and miserable I feel, physically, and how drained, mentally, running is still fun.  Improving my pace, setting new personal records, testing my limits and surpassing what I ever thought was possible, well, keeps me feeling alive.  Running is survival.

My advice for you was rather subliminal in this post, so I'll add a tip here just in case you stopped by looking for it.  I think you should get caught in some quicksand.  It probably makes more sense for me to be speaking metaphorically, here, like, "seek out some danger and don't be afraid" or whatever, but I mean it literally.  I would love it if someone would call me from quicksand.  I would totally know how to get you out, too.  Just give me 4 other people and a dog, and we'll be all set.

Have you ever been the only hope?  I will also accept stories about being "the only one I can trust" or "the last chance."  

Has anyone ever even seen quicksand?  Really?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Expert* Advice

I've been training for my first MARATHON for a while now.  19 whole days.  Therefore, I can now share with you the things I've learned about marathon training, and I can delude myself into thinking that my advice will be helpful (what's new, right?).

One of her newest words is "run."  Be still, my heart. :)

Once people know you're a runner, it's hard to shock them with anything running-related.  They already think you're crazy.  What's 26.2 miles to a crazy person?  Nothing.  I expected that the same people who laughed when I told them I was a runner would laugh when I told them I was training for a marathon.  Not so!

Logging miles is even more fun when you have a goal.  I've logged my miles on a few websites and on my wall calendar since I started running.  Don't judge.  I do it because it's fun, not because I'm, like, obsessed or whatever.  Now, I've got a fancy-schmancy ($10 from Target) planner, with my training plan all written out.  One of my favorite parts of each day is writing in my actual miles, and then I get to add them up at the end of the week, too.  Sometimes, I flip to November and just stare at the page for a few minutes.  It's so much fun.
The musical notes and stars represent the extent of my artistic ability.
So far as I can tell, every training plan has already been thought of.  I briefly considered making up my own training plan, then running a jaw-dropping-ly fast first marathon, then selling my plan for millions of dollars.  But then, I couldn't come up with an original plan, let alone one that would work.  Side note- Am I the only one who comes up with amazing ideas that have already been invented and marketed by someone else?  You know those gloves with the fingertip pads for using a touch screen?  My idea.  A single, short corded ear bud?  My idea.  Automatic transmission?  My idea.  I slightly modified Hal Higdon's plan for my own schedule, and it seems to be working for me.

Lots of people gain weight while training for a marathon.  Usually, later in their training than 2 weeks.  Possibly for reasons other than M&Ms and chips at 9 p.m.  Probably, I should listen to my own advice, and the creaking of my jeans as I try to button them, and concentrate on eating healthy foods.

Marathon training miles don't run themselves.  Weird, I know.  But, yeah.  Marathon training miles feel a lot like non-training, just-for-fun miles.  There are more of them, yes.  But, you don't suddenly run faster because you registered for a big, long, race, and you're not actually training if you don't run. 
"Time is an illusion"- Albert Einstein.  Often, I feel like I will never be ready for the music and running on November 9th.  Often, I feel like it can't possibly come soon enough.  How can 3 1/2 months (roughly) seem like an eternity at the same time that it feels like a moment?  That Einstein, he was a smart guy.  He had it right.  So, to pass the time, I'll run.  A lot.

Have you ever invented something that already existed?

Which is crazier- running a marathon, or jumping into the Bering Sea?


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Suck it up, Buttercup!

It's just one more race recap.  You can handle it.  I know I said I was done with the race recaps for a while, but, well, then I ran one more race.  It would be silly to just leave all the important to nobody but me details floating around in my head, don't you think?

Race #15- Suck it up Buttercup 5k, July 14, 2013
          H-E-Double Hockey Sticks! That's how we spell 'hill' in Florida!

A couple of people in my running group have made this phrase a mantra, of sorts, and everyone's favorite race director friend of mine decided to give us all something to suck up, so to speak.

Remember how I complained about the cold race day weather all those times?  This was not one of those times.  Florida.  July.  100% humidity.  In addition to being hot and sticky, the race course was definitely the hilliest course I've ever run, and likely one of the hilliest in the state.  One person called the hills "lung crushers".  Most people couldn't breathe well enough to get out any words.  Despite being a challenging race from every possible perspective, there were hundreds of entrants, all ready to suck it up and run.  The race directors actually ran out of finisher's medals a few days before the event, ~100 people still registered with the understanding that they were too late for a medal.

I, along with 25 or so other lunatics runners, ran a few miles before the race, and then ran to the race.  Yes, you read that right.  I purposely ran 5.5 miles (2 miles of which were on the very same race course hills) before running the race.  Then, of course, I had to run back to my car, so I put over 11 miles behind me that day.  (See, I'm training for a marathon.  I'm in marathon training.  I'm going to run a marathon soon.  Marathon.  Marathon.  Marathon!!!!!!!!)  Because of the extra miles, and because of the really-truly-significant-I-don't-care-if-it-is-Florida hills, I made it my goal to finish the 5k in less than 30 minutes.

I also made it my goal to sweat until I could wring out each article of clothing.  Congratulations, me!
My dad crushed his under 25 minute goal, and earned himself a 2nd in age group cowbell award.
The only bad part of this race, for me, was my stupid *#$%ing race-day brain.  Nothing makes me want to punch myself in the temple quite like the thoughts of, "Gah-hasp.  I'!" (Yes, I think out-of-breath when I'm feeling anxious.  You don't?).  The worst part?  I was thinking those stupid, breathless, nonsensical thoughts at the start of the race.  I wasn't fatigued.  I had just run the exact same course.  I have run many a race before.  Yet, there I was, slowing down before I even got to the first hill, thinking, "  I...don't...ruh..huh..huh."  Yeah.  You wanna argue with me about deserving a temple-punch?

It just so happened that the article I had bookmarked in my 4-months-old issue of Runner's World to read last night was:

From what I understand, stupid *#$%ing race-day brain, or "The Blerch" is a bit of an epidemic among runners.  According to the article, it's super important to train and tame the brain and those ridiculous thoughts that pop up and turn swift feet into leaden ones.  I haven't actually finished reading the article yet (the magazine has been sitting next to my bed for 4 months, you think I can read a whole article in one night?) but I think it's good advice to teach your brain to think helpful, true thoughts.  'Specially when you're also training your body for a marathon (EEP!!!).

Result: 28:58

Do you ever deserve a punch in the temple?

Marathon training. (It's on my mind, couldn't help but mention it again.)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Party Time! Excellent!

3 years, 2 months, and some days ago, we moved into our current home.  3 years and 4 days ago, we realized that we would be hosting a 4th of July party every following year for as long as this house is our home.  See, there's a lovely park just across from the end of our street, about 1/4 of a mile away.  It just so happens that "our" park is where the city holds its Independence Day festivities, and where they set off the big fireworks display.  We have a perfect view of the fireworks from our yard, without the headache of an entire city's worth of people crowded around us.

Although I love hosting parties, our < 1,000 square foot, single bathroomed house just doesn't lend itself well to holding lots of people.  And no, the 'I' in that last sentence should not have been a 'we'.  Husband and 6 y.o., while both being fun-loving, happy, friendly guys, do not much care for large social gatherings.  Therefore, most of our holiday and family get-togethers are hosted by others.

Since it is usually only once a year that I get to throw a party, I tend to want to cram in everything I can think of to make it fabulous.  One year, I made and hung a photo backdrop and provided patriotic-themed props for pictures.
He must love me a lot.
This year, I got new props.

I love cooking and baking, and I think red, white and blue are fun colors for themed food and drinks.  Especially in the Summer, when strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, raspberries, marshmallows, whipped cream, and cherries are abundant.  Two years ago, I served red, white and blue adult sno-cones.  Yes, they turned into super-sweet purple vodka drinks with tiny chunks of ice, but they started out pretty!

Last year, the specialty drink served was a watermelon margarita, made with homemade watermelon syrup, smooth silver tequila, sweet-n-sour mix and fresh lime juice.  This year's concoction was simpler.  I added pureed fresh strawberries to lemonade, and set a bottle of citrus vodka next to the dispenser for me guests to add if desired.

Happy Birthday USA cake.  And, a light saber.
Some of the foods I'm most proud to have served are: Apple pie trifle, American flag fruit-n-treat skewers, homeslavedmade white chocolate ice cream with strawberry sauce, and the cake pictured above.  Inside was a blue layer and a red layer.  This year, Husband bravely grilled the chicken wings that I had bravely (and successfully!) gotten chopped up by the friendly guy from the supermarket's meat department.  They were delicious, and a great addition to the giant spread of food we had (beef burgers, turkey burgers, hot dogs, pasta salad, potato salad, corn on the cob, chips and dips, cherry cobbler, and fruit).

The big fireworks show doesn't start until after 9:00 p.m., so we find other ways to keep ourselves and our guests busy.
Sparklers and grocery store fireworks


Football throwing
Not pictured: patriotic sugar cookie decorating (a.k.a. "I bet I can put more frosting on a cookie than you can!") and the educational games.  I've found it difficult to live up to the first party's trivia/scavenger hunt competition during the subsequent two parties.  That year, I numbered and laminated cards with different sorts of questions on American history.  I then hid the cards around the house and yard, and the guests were tasked with finding all the cards quickly (1 prize) and answering the most questions correctly (another prize).  I also reworded the Declaration of Independence, separated it onto several laminated cards, and had the kids search for and then put the words in the correct order.  I'm still pretty impressed with myself.

This year, I hung an un-labeled U.S. map on the wall, with States and Capitals stickers that could be re-positioned.  Teams of 3 people had 1 minute, then 30 seconds, then 10 seconds to get as many stickers as possible into the right spots.  It wasn't a very popular game.  But, when nobody was playing, I was able to get all the capitals into the right spots, without the names of the states on the map, and only needed a tiny bit of help from my dad (I always think Wisconsin is Minnesota.  Not that it matters, much.  Other than that day, I don't think I've ever needed to know which one is which.)

Choosing a special dress for Baby has been fun the past 2 years, also.

It's the only night of the year that we allow 6 y.o. to stay up way past his 7:30 bedtime.  Last year, he started crying as soon as the fireworks show ended, and couldn't stop crying or get any words out.  This year, he handled himself a little bit better, but still seemed totally dazed by about 8:45.

Turns out, I do a bad job of taking pictures of the actual fireworks.  4 years of bombs bursting in air, and I could only find the one half-decent pic up there ^.  You'll have to trust me that it's a good show.  Even Baby enjoyed it!  She doesn't like loud noises ("Sorry, Husband.  I just couldn't vacuum today.  Baby didn't want me to.  She was scared of the 'wowed'.") so we were worried that she'd cry like her brother after 9 p.m., but she didn't shed a single tear.
Just in case there was any doubt re: my photography skills.
Unsolicited advice of the day?  1. It's okay to stop trying to do things you're obviously bad at (*cough* fireworks photos *cough*) after a while.  You're good at other things.  2.  Make sacrifices for those you love, like Husband does for me at least every July all the time.  3.  Be a tradition-setter.  When my kids have grown up, I want them to reminisce about the traditions they loved, and I want there to be no shortage of happy memories, holiday and otherwise.  Those "remember the time..." conversations are much more valuable than pictures of sparkly lights.

What is your favorite holiday tradition?  

Be honest- at least a little part of you is wondering about my marathon training, right?  You kinda wish this post had been about running, don't you?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Brownies, Cheesecake, & Homemade Ice Cream

These three things have more in common than being delicious desserts.  For one, I'm really good at making all three.  I'm not usually one to brag, except when it comes to my kids and my desserts.  For another thing, this post is not about any of these three items.  Ha ha!  It was a trick!  I know how you non-runners operate, all, "Oh, great, she wrote another post about running.  I think the dryer just buzzed.  I'd better go fold laundry."  
I feel like a meaniac (combination maniac and meanie; also 6 y.o.'s favorite made-up insult to throw at his cousins) for posting such pictures and then giving race recaps instead of recipes, but I'm okay with being called such a thing.

Race #12- Blazin' The Trail 5k, March 9, 2013
As the sport of running grows in popularity, the number of available races in which to run on any given weekend is also increasing.  It seems like the 5k race is the new chocolate bar sale for non-profit organizations.  I was excited to learn that my son's school was up in the front of the bandwagon, and had decided to put on a race to benefit the physical education department.  Even more exciting was that they were using my friend's new race management company!  The race was less than a week after my second half-marathon, so I was not expecting to be in record-setting shape, and registered for it without even really expecting to run.  I figured I would volunteer for sure, run if I felt like it, and be okay with my time no matter what because I would be supporting my son's school.

Then, then 5 y.o. (Then 5 y.o. then?  Then, now 6 y.o.?  You decide.) made an announcement that he was going to run the 5k, also.  He had recently run a mile in just over 13 minutes, and really loved the whole racing deal, but had never come close to running 3.1 miles.  Husband and I talked it over and decided to let him run it after we set some ground rules.  We made sure 5 y.o. knew that it was not just okay for him to change his mind mid-race, or to stop running if he felt too tired, we would be very upset if he didn't let us know that he couldn't finish.  We explained to him that running that distance is hard, and that many people can't do it at all, let alone do it before their first double-digit birthday.  We also let him know that we believed he could do it, and that we would happily help him reach his goal.  He paid the registration fee out of his own money, and I signed him up.  Immediately, I realized that running with him would make it a perfect race for me, too.

Race morning dawned clear and cold (in the mid-40s), and I arrived at the school early to help with packet pick-up and registration, which went really smoothly for an inaugural event.  Husband arrived a bit later with the kids, and soon more family members arrived- some to cheer, some to run.  The Galloway racing method is a run-walk-run deallio that is gaining a lot of popularity among new runners, especially.  We had decided to put it to work for 5 y.o.'s race, and I had set my Garmin to alert us to run for 2 minutes, walk for 1.
I strapped my pretty, pink watch onto my son's wrist, and we were off.  He amazed me the whole time.  He remembered all of our advice, about not going out too fast at the start, about not whining when people passed us, about water stop etiquette, about listening to his body- I teared up with pride a couple of times, even.  On two occasions, he started walking about a minute before the watch indicated that it was time to do so.  All the other times, he followed the beeps religiously; running hard for 2 minutes, slowing to an easy recovery walk for 1 minute.  When the finish line was in sight, we let him know that, "Yes!  Now you can do a sprint!" and off he shot.  He placed 10th out of 20 boys aged 9 and under, and was the youngest one to run the 5k.  A few minutes after we finished, he joined in the couple-hundred-meter kid's run and did very well in that, too.
Finisher's medal for the kid's run (made by the school's art department- cool, huh?) and Youngest Runner medal that may or may not have been a planned award.  Maybe it's cool to have your aunt and your mom's friend be the race organizers.
He was the cutest and the youngest, and we were the proudest of parents.  With all those -ests, you can be sure he was a pretty happy kid.  26 years sooner than either of his parents ran a 5k, and in a far-from-shabby time frame, too?  Yep.  Probably the happiest kid I saw all day.

Result: 45:44

Race #13- Victoria Park 10k, March 16, 2013

I keep forgetting that I ran this race.  I'm not sure if it's because it wasn't a comeback race, an out-of-the-country race, or a personal record setting  Wait.  I did set a P.R. for that distance.  Hm.  Maybe I just run too many races, and can't keep all of them in my head?

My sister and brother-in-law registered Husband and I for this race as part of our Christmas gifts.  Is that weird, to give races as gifts?  We didn't think so, but it probably isn't the most common gift, is it?  Because of the problems I had been having with my IT band and all the knee pain, I hadn't exactly trained for this race, and my only goal was to finish without pain or further injury.
Merry Christmas!  Have some cavities!

Victoria Park is a neighborhood in a nearby city, and since our running group meets there on a regular basis, I was quite familiar with the roads.  There has been a race there for the past several years, but this year, they added the 10k distance for the first time.  Unfortunately, they had us run the 5k loop twice rather than coming up with a unique 6.2 mile course.  I'll tell you, it's not my favorite thing to run past the finish line and not be done running.

There were definitely a few notable pluses about this race:

  • I was either related to or friends with about 40% of the racers.
  • My sister and a friend of ours each earned medals in the 5k.
  • My dad, brother-in-law, and his brother each earned medals in the 10k.
  • Pancake breakfast.  Not that I ate anything, but pancakes always make 6 y.o. happy.
  • No pain!
  • Good music!  I had made a fabulous playlist the night before my half-marathon a few weeks earlier, but didn't actually add it to my iPod (doh!).  This race was the first time I was able to enjoy my perfect running song selections, and I definitely deserved my self-congratulations for choosing such great music.  My singing along might have slowed me down by a few seconds, though.
  • Oh yeah, and I shaved more than 2 minutes off my previous 10k race time.  That's pretty good.
Result: 55:36 (4th in Age Group)

Race #14- A Mile For Boston, May 11, 2013
           The Final Mile

The Boston Marathon was memorable this year for more of us than usual.  Thankfully, all the people I knew who were spectating or racing came back safe and sound.  
Following a tragedy like the deaths at the Boston Marathon, most people want to do something--anything--to help.  The race director/running group president/Boston Marathoner friend of mine understood that desire and changed this 1-mile race from just a regular ol' race to a charity fundraiser benefiting the family of Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy who was killed in the blast.  With nearly 200 runners registered and lots of extra t-shirts and such sold, the race generated a pretty hefty sum to give to the Richard family (I'm not sure how much, exactly, but it was a lot!)

I'm glad I was able to participate, and it was a fun race, despite the lingering sadness of the tragic events.  But... The course was actually 1.07 miles, according to my Garmin (and other folks' watches, too).  In a race that short, that near-tenth can make a big difference.  When my watch beeped at the real mile mark, my time was 20 seconds faster than in the 1 mile race I ran last September.  However, the posted, official result showed the same finishing time for both races.  Just so, you know, you know.  I'm faster now than then.

That was my final racing mile from 8/2012-5/2013!  Can you believe it?  The race recaps are over(ish.  For now.)!

Result: 7:47.6

Today's advice is a bit like the old standby re: book judging and covers.  Don't judge a blog by its title.  Unless, of course, its a really good title on my blog that makes you want to read the post and all the archived ramblings writings.  While we're (sorta) on the subject, I'll tell you my opinion-- it's perfectly fine to judge a book by its cover.  Or at least, by the title and the vibe.  And now that we're totally on the subject--
Cool cover, great book.  Zero bias.  Okay, some bias.
You should all read this book by my aunt, Sue Perry.  Cover art by my cousin.  Judge away!

What's your favorite fundraiser?  Bake sale?  Magazine subscriptions?  Candles?

Be honest.  You're a little bit sad about the end of the race recaps, aren't you?