Winging it

Still. You haven’t been training and you can punch out 13.1 miles? You’re amazing.

The above sentence was part of a larger email conversation with some friends this week.  It was a work conversation but somehow it came back to running.  And my friend’s mistaken belief that I’m amazing.  Well, I am. Amazing (and humble too! Ha!).  But not an amazing runner.   Probably it’s just that I am amazingly delusional.

Okay maybe delusional is a strong word.

You read stories (if you read running magazines) about people who decide on a whim to start running and they wind up running 2 miles a day for 2 weeks and then they pound out winning times in half marathons.  Or I’ve heard of people whose longest runs were 8 miles (maybe) and they just totally rocked a marathon with paces I never have approached and probably never will. Seems that the more I read about running and people who take to it – the more I hear of people who are just flying down the roads even as newbies.

But I realize that most of those stories are of people who fall into one (or more) of three categories.  Either they have had previous athletic experience (high schools sports or the like) or they are those blessed with incredible DNA.   Or maybe they are really really motivated, active people.

Me?  I’m just ordinary.  Just your run of the mill middle aged woman who took up running cause she likes shiny medals but who does not have athletic genes or any high school sports awards (other than a varsity letter in badminton – which is a sport but albeit it not a showy, challenging one) and whose motivation level depends on how many cookies she’ll be rewarded with at the end of the given challenge.

In other words – I’ve not turned out to be one of those people who took up running to discover that there was a hidden Ironman inside just waiting to burst forth. I’m just putting one foot in front of the other and hoping for the best along with some small miracles.

And I do sort of look out for those miracle moments.

In response to my friend’s comment about being amazing, I said: I once swung randomly at a ball in putt-putt and got a hole in one.   I live life expecting random good things to happen to me when I am underprepared.  (it helps to know that prior to that incident, I once skinned both my knees playing putt-putt.  But that is a long story for another time)

Running 13.1 miles is obviously not the same as a putt-putt hole-in-one.  I get that.  But sometimes you just realize that while you might be winging it – maybe something good will come of it.  Certainly not award winning paces.  But maybe not bad ones either.

And winging it is really not a great description of what I think Saturday will hold for me.  I am a runner.  I do run.  My training plan fell apart but I still ran. And I’ve run Disney 2x before.  I have a good mental grasp of what it takes to finish those 13.1.  I know where my favorite parts of the course are.  I know how I feel (mentally and physically) generally speaking at about the halfway point and at other mile markers.  I know what it’s like to round thru the last part in Epcot when the freaking finish line seems to not be where it should.  I know how much I hate going up the ramp when the green solider from Toy Story yells at you.  But I also know that thus far I’ve been successful at looking down from the overpass after that and seeing MANY people still behind me.  I know which port-a-potties to avoid (the ones in the grassy areas with lots of bugs in the grass) and I know what it’s like to meet my family afterwards. I even know how to get to the medical tent (but that will NOT be necessary).  I know that I hate yellow Gatorade so I’ll wear my fuel belt but I also know I’ll give in and drink some of the darn yellow Gatorade anyway.  (WHY can’t races use orange Gatorade?  Hello??)

But I also know I am so blessed to have two legs and some (not lots but some) stamina. And I know I will be going into this with family members who are most likely going to yell at me and push me past some of my own limits.  But they’ll also be cheering with me to the end. And I know that I’ll be happy to have done the experience again because I like to run.

So yeah – all in all that seems pretty amazing, I guess.

Prayers for Boston

Today I had planned to write a long blog post about my third Irongirl 5K yesterday.  I was going to write about the joy of running as a mom/daughter team with my 7 year old daughter.  I was going to tie it back to the (still not written about) Disney Half back in January where I ran side by side with my sister and my husband and my brother-in-law. I was going to wax eloquent on the joy of running with those you love.  I was going to express how proud I was to hear via texts about split times that an old high school friend and her sister had successfully completed the Disney Princess this year.

And I was going to consider how amazing an inspiration Dick and Rick Hoyt are in all their races – including today’s Boston Marathon – their 31st time running the course.

I wanted to write about family.  And running.

And then as I headed home from a quick grocery store trip with the kids, we heard the horrible phrase on the radio:  This news is breaking from Boston…..there have been two explosions at the finish line of the marathon.

And I wept.

I called my husband. He checked online that the one person we knew at Boston today was finished – he had finished an hour earlier. We prayed that he and his wife had left the area of the finish line.

The kids and I got home and we gathered together to sit and pray.  Then I made sure they had things to do away from the tv and the news. And I hopped on Twitter, and FB, and turned on the news, and I sat in horror.

Today my daughter proudly wore her Irongirl medal to school.  And by evening, there were at least three deaths (at the time of this writing) that had occurred at the finish of the storied Boston Marathon.  Today I bragged about my daughter’s running to some of my students.  This evening, there are families torn apart and surgeries being performed to save lives.  This morning I was still riding high on yesterday’s effort and endorphins.  Tonight, I quietly cry as I work to tear myself away from updates and Twitter news.  It’s too much to take in.  Even the amazingly written pieces (such as this one by Ezra Klein) are almost too overwhelming to consider….it’s too much.

But I can’t forget the original premise of what today’s post was going to be – that running involves family. The running community acts like a family (and many races become family events for people).  And that running family tends to pull together in ways that demonstrate humanity at its finest.  I read reports that runners ran straight to hospitals to donate blood today. And EMTs and first responders RAN towards the explosions and the victims.

So tomorrow I will demonstrate my solidarity with the running community. As per a growing number of FB posts by runners, I will proudly don one of my race t-shirts tomorrow. And I plan to wear a piece of tape with “Standing with Boston” written on it.  I will wear it not to show that I run – but to show that my saddened heart is with those runners who finished and who were stopped before the finish, with the spectators, with the volunteers, with the race organizers, with the victims, with those Bostonians who cherish their city and it’s traditions, and with those first responders and medical personnel who have had to see and fix horrible things today.

As a slow runner, I have never had dreams of meeting a BQ – a Boston Qualifiying time.  But tonight and tomorrow – we are all a part of Boston and it’s running traditions.  And we are all Americans who stand with our fellow citizens in their time of grief and horror.   And as runners, we will run on – especially for all those who never will again.

Many many prayers for all those in Boston today.


Gotta run

This morning I was trying to dry my hair, tame my daughter’s out of control curly locks, fix my son’s bedhead hair, finish washing my face and put on make up, find my shoes and my keys, and get everyone and their Bibles out the door for church.  All in under 6 minutes.  And in the process of mentally cataloging all that needed to be done, I looked down at my poor toenails and their chipped polish.  Sigh.  Well, yet another thing that wasn’t going to get done this morning.

The hectic nature of my morning is not unusual for any mom.  And frankly for any given Sunday morning here at the homestead. But unfortunately I’ve been feeling like this ALL day long every day since August.  Since the kids went back to school and I started teaching three college classes instead of my usual 2.  Every hour has been filled with the stack of stuff I have to do right now AND the stack of stuff I’m trying to keep track of in my head AND all the emails I’ve answered in my head but not on the computer AND which kid has a project due at school AND what we might want to eat for dinner AND if we even want dinner AND whether dinner is actually the right term as opposed to ‘supper’ AND the never ending question of when will I have time to clean out the microwave and mop the kitchen.  It’s been go go go all the time.

Yeah right – having it all. If by all you mean “nervous breakdown”, then yes I am having it all. With a side of chocolate.

Part of all this crazy autumn has meant that my poor blog, which means a lot to me, has gotten the toenail polish treatment. That is Scarlett’s notion that “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”  (Side note: I have never seen more than 20 mins of Gone with the Wind despite having had two roommates who were passionate about it.  All I’ve glean from their knowledge of the movie is two quotes. That one and my other favorite one: “Quitting time!”  My apologies to Scarlett, Cristy and Betsy.)

Thus I’ve punted on the blog (despite starting a 1001 posts in my head while driving to work or grading papers) and in related news my running has been challenging. Not that I haven’t run. I have. Sometimes at 5 am. Sometimes at 10 am. But mostly not as far or as often as I should have. And so I didn’t know what to blog about. Cause you and my other reader don’t come here to read about my complaints, do you?

But I have stumbled forward….praying for the holiday break and for a chance to catch my breath.

And I’ve run. Or hobbled – depends on your definition. And before I knew it – we were driving up to Savannah last week for the Rock and Roll 1/2 Marathon. And I was wishing for a giant pause button so I could catch my breath and have another 6 weeks of training.

Despite it all, I finished the race. Yea!  Not very quickly. Boo. A time of 3:02 is not what I had in mind.  But then again I was worried about collapsing before mile 5 – so that’s an improvement.  And in reality I was chugging along on pace to finish in 2:35.  Which was awesome.

Until I hit the wall.  (Upon hearing that, our daughter asked me why anyone would put a wall in the middle of the race.)  Mile 8.  My legs just up and gave up at mile 8. And from there on out it was mostly walking with snippets of running to keep up the pace. Until mile 10 when my iPhone died and I had no clue how fast (slow) I was going. So then I trudged to the end. (Side note – I think Santa’s getting me a Garmin for Christmas.  Or a Nike+ watch.  Either way – there was a silver lining to that!)

But I finished. And I was not the last one across the finish. And had I been running the whole marathon instead – that would have been an AWESOME time.  LOL.

We had a great weekend – especially getting to spent time with my folks.  They were kind and got up at 4:30 to take the shuttle with us and they hung out with the kids while we ran (and I even got to see them at about mile 6.3 – yea!).  So while it was not the running triumph I had hoped for back in the summer. It was fun and that’s what counts.

Soon enough it will be time for the Disney run again. About two months and I’ll be up for another 13.1.

Meanwhile, I’ve been reminded of my first year in grad school. I enjoyed the work load and the new people to meet and focusing on my career. But I missed reading for reading’s sake. I am a huge bookworm. And I found myself trying to settle my heart by telling myself that “come summer break”, I’ll read all I want.  Pretty soon, I realized that you can’t cut out that which is a core part of you. So I read. In between classes and research, I made the time.

Granted – back then I didn’t have two kids and a husband. But I hold onto that important lesson. And I am trying very hard to get back to what is at the core of me nowadays – running. So what if the microwave has layers of crumbs and my toenail polish is chipped? They can wait till tomorrow. I gotta run.  (after I grade three stacks of tests….  🙂

Everything old is new and vice versa

The kids started back to school yesterday. Which meant that in the last few weeks of summer, blogging got pushed aside for things like camp (ballet and rockets), Vacation Bible School (where my husband and I stretched our acting chops in the skits), a trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s, and lots of back to school shopping. And definitely running.

Including the running from Target to Walmart to find the darn pocket dividers that one teacher required. Of course once I had everything purchased and labeled, we got an addendum list with MORE things on it.  And once again….off to the store. Our son’s lunchbox made it through ONE day of school before it ripped. As I had officially declared back to school shopping OVER, I went the route of duct tape to fix it. And now he can tell his lunch box from the other boy’s exact one by virtue of the tape.  Several life lessons there – including buy the more expensive lunch box no matter how much your child begs for the cheaper one. And the corollary one – you will have to purchase another lunch box when the duct tape is no longer cutting it.

As we walked the kids up to school yesterday, the street got thick with bikers and car riders. I spied one little girl excitedly sticking her head out the car window as she waited for mom to get to the corner to turn into the already jammed school parking lot and car line. I’m sure for every one of the “hanging the head out the window in breathless anticipation” kids, there were equally sullen kids rather excited by the traffic snarl which ensured another few precious moments of summer freedom.

Thankfully our children were more excited than sullen – if only because our son is cheered by the fact that we are going to Orlando on Saturday for the Star Wars Convention.  He sees that as the ultimate reward for surviving the first week of third grade. Our daughter is concerned there aren’t enough “girly” things at Star Wars.  

And so the circle goes.

As an academic, I’ve lived all my life on the school calendar.  K to 12. Then college.  Then 2 years of a Masters program.  Then 4 years of a PhD program.  (Yes I am over educated, why do you ask?) Then the years since then as an adjunct instructor, a visiting instructor, a post-doc, etc across a variety of institutions, depending upon geographical location.  For the last 8 years, I’ve been very blessed to be an adjunct at the same university where my husband is a tenure faculty member.  (In fact, we are in the same department – because we are both psychologists – but not THAT kind of psychologist.)  I’ve had the fun of teaching without the requirement to be advisor, go to meetings, and do other faculty related things.

But this year – I have the pleasure of serving a one year visiting assistant professor position in the same department.  In my mind that has meant I get to teach 3 classes a semester rather than 2, I get more money, an office to squat in, and I get the option of attending the department meetings that Steve tells me are not all that exciting. To the university that means – I have a lot of meetings to go to and things to think about that other adults tell me they worry about (like benefits) but I have chosen by marriage and profession to largely ignore.

Thus once we had the kids off to their respective classrooms (and I had deposited the immediately-wiped-off-while-scowling kiss on our son’s head) I had to race home to drive in for the day long orientation for “new faculty”.  I don’t feel so new as I have been around long enough for my husband to get tenure, but that is a mere footnote to the university. As I drove to campus I was a mixture of that girl hanging her head out the window and that child who wants summer to last forever.  Yes, I love teaching and new notebooks.  But I love summer and being an academic means that summers can be rather laid back.  And I was headed to all day meetings – oh joy. The only consolation being that I was required to go to a faculty reception at the end of it all which included an open bar.

Well I survived the meetings, introduced myself while turning beet red, tried to not yawn at the information I already knew (after 8 years I do know the policy on whether you can tell helicopter parents their darling snowflakes’ grades) and I tried to stop the brain explosion of information on benefits. Yes I get benefits and I am glad for that.  But trying to calculate 20% of a payment on a hypothetical medical appointment that may or may not occur makes one want to stab themselves in the heart with all the free pens we got. I stopped myself in time to realize that I wasn’t sure whether emergency room visits were covered before classes started.  Then again, there might be a caveat in the eye care benefits that covers it – I should have paid more attention.

I pondered all of this while I was running this morning. In addition to the three classes, I’ve packed a 1/2 marathon in this fall (Rock & Roll in Savannah) and the Disney 1/2 in January 2013. Yes I am insane. Even more so because, given our schedule for this fall, my running has gotten pushed to 5 am.  Four days a week.

Oh yes I am quite insane.  And it is quite humid here.

By the time I got back home this morning, I could wring my shirt out and fill the bathtub. At least 1/2 way up.  At times I wasn’t even close to outrunning the sweat dripping down my head. However, I had a steady pace for quite awhile that encouraged me. I hope the sweat cleared all the neurons that had shriveled during yesterday’s meetings and worked off all the sushi I munched on next to the open bar.  But moreover, I’m hoping these next few weeks are old and new.  Old in that running is a part of me now.  New in that I can get back to the 1/2 marathon shape I need. And running each run at 5 am will be new for me. I kinda like the lazy approach of walking the kids to school in the running clothes and then going.  Now I have to run, clean myself up, get dressed and packed for work and then get the kids all put together.  Hmmm…..what are odds this habit will get old sooner rather than later?  Or maybe I could get a new PR in the 1/2 instead.  Yeah yeah – I’ll lean towards that one…..

Here’s to good runs for you all – even those (especially those!) at 5 am!


Time is relative indeed

I got a letter the other day from my 3rd grade teacher. Now this is may seem odd to some of you. Maybe you don’t even remember who your third grade teacher was. But this is actually a regular summer occurrence for me.

Mrs. R taught me reading, math, and all the assorted third grade tasks back in a small school in Central PA.  She and the other third grade teachers even took all the students on a field trip to Washington DC that year. Mrs. R was also our neighbor as she and her family lived right around the corner from us in our small town. We moved right after that school year but she has never forgotten our family, including us on her Christmas card list for all these years. She kept my parents up to date about events in the old neighborhood and encouraged me and my siblings in all our activities. When I started living on my own and started my own family, she added me to her mailing list for her Christmas cards and her regular rotation of summer letters.

Each time I get a lovely letter from her, I immediately vow to write back to her with details about all the things going on here. And inevitably, I will find her letter weeks later, in a stack of papers and I will kick myself for not taking the time as I had promised. And yet, despite my inconsistent summer responses (I do send her Christmas cards every year), she remembers me and still writes to me.  Her commitment to handwritten (not typed) correspondence and maintaining connections with friends always warms my heart. Very Downton Abbey like.  How very wonderful to open the mailbox and find something other than a bill or yet another advertisement full of coupons I’ll never use.

This year’s letter came about 2 weeks ago and one of the sentences in there caught me completely off guard. She wrote paragraphs to each of our family members. To our son she wrote, “Can’t believe you’re going to be in 3rd grade, C. That’s what grade your mom was in when I first met her.”

What?  What? How can that be?

Yes she was my third grade teacher – but that was like just yesterday, right?  How can it be that I’m a few weeks shy of 42 and that my eldest is going into 3rd grade a few weeks after that? He was just born the other day, and the week before that I was just in 3rd grade myself.  The age old question of how did time fly by so fast often catches me in the throat and causes a near panic attack.

When I think over moments in my life (large and small), they feel so close to me that they are almost tangible. I still can’t fathom that my friends from high school are now on Facebook, all of us talking about being parents.  Because in my head, we’re still those teenagers doing stupid teenage things.

I can’t believe I’ve been married for 13 years to the love of my life because that seems like a ridiculously large number of years to me.  It can’t be that long when it seems like Steve and I just met and have yet know each other forever.

There are days I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast. Yet, I look at my kids and wonder how it is that they are no longer in diapers and they can read and write and annoy each other. When they were babies – and they were only 17.5 months apart so they were back to back babies – I read an expression about parenthood that said “Welcome to the shortest years and longest days of your lives.” How true.  Days of diaper changes and baby spit up felt like 2400 rather than 24 hours. And yet, I simply turned around and in that split second, they became elementary school kids with long legs and occasional moody attitudes.  And I want to hug them tight and put bricks on their heads and go back to the baby powder scented days when they fit in my arms – minus the diapering of course.

And despite all my longing for time to pass more slowly, wishing for it to somehow pause to give me more than seemingly fleeting moments of my kids’ childhood, I am always looking forward to the next race, to count down the weeks of training, and to run faster with each mile. How ironic.

This last week, I was trying to type up my schedule for the fall. I’ll be teaching three classes  at the university and I needed to figure out which days are which classes, which days the kids have after school stuff, and all the other stuff we fill our time with.  And I put my running on the schedule, right there at 5 am every MWF.

Ugh – 5 am?  Yes 5.  Why? Because time is speeding by. I have just about 16 weeks until my next (next?!) half marathon – the Rock and Roll 1/2 in Savannah, GA.  Sixteen weeks. Four months. Vertiable ages to go before we’re there. I have to get through the rest of summer, the start of school, and Halloween before we’re even there.

Yet, before I know it, I’ll be standing on the start line confused as to how those weeks have sped by so rapidly. I’ll recall all the miles of training and be bewildered that I managed that all in the blink of an eye. Of course, it would be incredible if my legs would speed along so fast as I make my way along the race course. Yet, I’ll be just happy to make it to the finish line.  For after Savannah, I have Disney to get ready for again.

And in this way, I’ve tried to mark the future with race stops along the way. Meting out time in intervals between races, weeks between group runs, days between training, and minutes between miles. And despite my occasional gasps at how briskly those moments go by, time is not under my control. I can just do my best to enjoy time at whatever pace it comes my way.

So take time today to catch your breath. Remember those important people in your past. And think about your future, what are your markers along the way? What are you looking forward to and planning for? Or are you going to let it all slide past without looking at it all?

Sunrise (to) Sunset

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the miles
One leg following another
Laden with endorphins and tears

– Adapted from Fiddler on the Roof’s Sunrise, Sunset.  Apologies to Sheldon Harnick, lyricist

Some husbands like to go fishing, boating, or even hunting for the weekend.  Some husbands spend their weekends watching sports and then watching even more sports. Some husbands have hobbies that involve power tools, or musical instruments, or even alcohol.

My husband runs.

Hey – I’m not complaining mind you. My fellow runner widows all understand. I have two friends whose husbands have run the Boston Marathon. We’ve commiserated on our husbands’ diets, their training schedules, etc.  Yes, it’s annoying when they only want to eat healthy.  Do they need to run for HOURS on a Saturday?

But when it comes down to it – I’m really proud of Steve and his running. Which is why this post is about one of his races.  Yes this race was back in March – but like fine wines….sometimes time makes everything a bit sweeter…..

Back in January of this year, we were both recovering from our Disney runs.  Me from the half and Steve from the full.  There were days I thought I might never run again (thank you stupid foot injury) and Steve approached it quite differently.  He was quietly considering doing the Goofy in 2013 (which he has since signed up for!).  And then he got asked by someone at work, Joy,  to consider running across Florida.

Now, Florida is not a particularly wide state (if you don’t count the part where I-10 cuts from Jacksonville thru the Panhandle).  But to run across the state – heck any state – seems a bit much.  But the invite was to join a relay team to run the Sunrise 2 Sunset Relay – 180 miles from Ft. Myers to Jensen Beach. And because runners are those rare, odd ducks, he said SURE!  Why not spend two days in a van with other runners, alternating legs across the middle of Florida where there are bugs, rain showers, and alligators?  Cause you know – most of us think these things are slightly….crazy?

Even crazier was that Joy’s goal was to have an ultra team (2-6 members) so that there was EVEN more to run for each runner.  The other option is a full squad of 7 to 12 members.  But heck – why not go all out?  And Joy did meet her goal – she got 4 other crazies (including her daughter) to sign up with her and Steve.  All of them were runners but only one had had previous relay experiences yet they were all strong and motivated! And faster than me!  🙂

Now keep in mind I am not writing about this race from the perspective of a relay runner. I was just the cheerleader, moral support, snack chef, and Twitter update follower – the running widow as it were.

I dropped off Steve on Friday morning at the meeting place – complete with all his gear including flashing light for nighttime, reflective vest, Gatorade, and even some long run cakes I had made for the team. They headed to Ft. Myers for an early afternoon start – and I headed home to get the kids from school and plan our meet up with Daddy on the east coast of Florida.

The team had a plan for who was to run each leg of the race which was some complicated  Excel sheet that I never quite understood.  I think my comment to Steve was along the lines of ‘better you than me’.  But the downside of the race was that from the get-go it was HOT.  Not Florida in March hot but more like Florida in August hot. So things got off to a blistering start for all the teams.

I kept up with Steve by checking any Twitter updates and talking to him on his cellphone. I think all told, he and I talked on the phone more across those two days than we have in 13 years of marriage!  But it was good to keep his spirits up and hear updates of where they were and what was going on.

The plan for Saturday was for me and the kids to go help set up the Easter egg hunt at church and then leave to drive across to Jensen beach to meet the team at the finish. As it turned out – we probably could have stayed for the whole egg hunt as their team (the Roads Scholars) was a smidge later than we anticipated….like by about 6 hours or so.

I should have figured we had more time when I spoke to Steve that morning while still at the church. He was flagging and in his words “really needed to burp”.  Apparently while Steve is an incredible runner, he’s a lousy fueler. Somewhere along the night road, he took up the role of navigator (to the relief of the driver and the rest of the team) but that meant he forgot to eat and keep his intake steady and at a good level.  His gastric woes were overwhelming his focus and his emotions. And his math skills.  When I asked where they were and how far they had to go – his numbers seemed to suggest they had 10 more hours on the road.  Hmmm…. So I talked him for a bit and then passed the word around our church friends there to pray for him (and his tummy).

Despite the idea that the team wouldn’t be near the finish for half a day – the kids and I set out with hope high for improvement across the day. We drove across stretches of road we had never wandered before and saw huge trucks piled high with Florida citrus crops.  We also had a mini adventure in a FL turnpike service plaza that I don’t care to remember. I learned that the gps on my iPhone was MUCH better than my actual car GPS.  Despite the detours and the traffic, we eventually found our way to the finish line in Jensen Beach.

Many teams (especially ones with 12 runners) had already found the finish line too. So the parking lot was filled with white vans sporting inspirational writings on them.  I had forgotten how well our kids can read when our son pointed at a van and asked, “What does ‘suck it up, buttercup’ mean?” They both found the phrase hilarious until I used it on them the following week during some grumbling about homework. Reverse psychology indeed!

The kids spent part of the afternoon in a water splash zone, and I kept an eye on the time and the race course map. I talked to Steve a few times and tried to not mention how many teams had crossed the finish already. When it became clear that they were winded and dealing with a rainstorm on the horizon, the kids and I left to go find some dinner and wander in a few stores.

All the while, Steve’s team chugged on.  I can’t even imagine what it’s like to ride in a van with a team of sweaty runners – many of whom you just met the previous day. It seems that they got along just fine and really supported each other – through the night hours when alligator eyes were glowing at them (seriously) and during the last few legs when the rain was coming down in buckets. The camaraderie of the event is one that I sort of started to think might be fun.  I was watching the other teams finishing and counting up 11 other women I know who might run it with me. I even had team names and slogans for the vans. Keep in mind – I was not actually running while doing this. I was merely entertaining two kids – which should be an Olympic event anyway.  But you often get caught up in the moment and think “Well why not?”  (Of course many of you might be thinking I was a lunatic for even thinking “why not” – and you’re probably right.  Those of you not thinking that – click on the Sunrise2Sunset link above and let’s get a team together for 2013!)

Much to our relief and delight, many many hours after they had started, the team came in sight.  Yes it was dark, and they were smelly. And they were the last team to cross the finish (although NOT the slowest team by far as there were staggered start times).  And most of the beer at the after party was drunk already. But the first glimpse of Steve was wonderful – for me and the kids. Even if he looked pretty worn out, wet from the rain, and just tired.

is this the finish line???

We cheered them all on across the finish line and found them some seats at the after party.  Thankfully many were still partying late into the night!

Been there, run that, got the medal!

A big thank you to Joy for getting him out there and organizing a whole team.  That’s not an easy feat at all. The team took up a challenge that many would never dream of doing and she cheered them all onward. I think they were all pretty pleased with their novice relay experience.

Later that night, I asked Steve if he’d consider doing it again – and his tired reply was along the lines of “ask me in about a month or so.”  I haven’t asked him again….but you know crazy runners…..he might actually say yes.

Check out these pics – see he looks like it’s so much fun!  Here’s the team before they started.

All smiles – cause we haven’t run yet!

They had lots of water breaks due to the heat.

Pit Stop!

See – he loves what he does.

Making it look easy

Sitting in a van going 5 mph means lots of conversations – and naps.

Let’s ignore all the stink in the van, shall we?

And yes it was that dark when they finished!

Whew – we are done!!! Where’s the beer?

I am an IronGirl!

No….not that kind of Irongirl….although beating up bad guys is cool even if not profitable.

Yesterday morning was the IronGirl 5K in Clearwater. This was my first race ever in 2011. This year it was my third race of 2012….what a difference a year makes.

Our wacky and wild Florida weather kept us all on our toes through race time. Bad storms blew through the Tampa Bay area overnight. Given the forecasted storms, Steve and I decided it would be best for me to catch a ride with friends and keep the kids out of the potential rainy morning.  Sad for me to not have them at the finish line – but understandable.

So off I went to the races with my friends Wendy and Heather….both speedier than I.  To ensure myself they would wait for me to finish and give me a ride back – I made sure I was the sole member of our caravan who remembered where we parked.  Tricky!   We made it to the race in good time and with clear skies above.

Great skies over the Clearwater Causeway

The worse part of the race (of any race) was the port-a-potties. Seriously folks – how hard is it to invent clean, non-smelly port-a-potties? We put men on the moon and can order pizza online but we can’t pee in a stand alone stall that doesn’t stink??

The irony of this is that the lines for the port-a-potties were SO long.  You have a couple of thousand women….we need to pee.  I seriously considered peeing on a palm tree…but I didn’t want to get arrested right before the starting gun.

Me, my hips, Heather and Wendy (note the stinky port-a-potties in the background)


This year’s course was point-to-point.  A change made due to parking and shuttle issues with last years loop course.  (There ain’t much parking in Clearwater Beach area…downtown is much better.) I’m not sure why but this then resulted in a very narrow first 3/4 mile or so. The starting chute was skinny and went back for forever.  And the few streets in downtown Clearwater that the course snaked through were not wide at all.  I found myself doing a couple of shuffles to not trip over people who decided to suddenly walk in the middle of the road, or were turning to talk to people.  Now I’m not all about winning – but I was eager to go forward at least.

But the pace was reasonable and eventually I hit the amazing and scary Causeway (see above pic).  Given that they were predicting high winds – I was sure we’d all get blown off the bridge. Of course the worry was for naught. Once I made it up the crest of the bridge (walking most of that), we were treated to the most amazing views of Florida coast, sunshine and even a sliver of a rainbow. In fact, I ran some of my fastest pace on the bridge – which is sad as I almost didn’t want it to end and come back to the flat end of the course.

Overall I enjoyed the race a whole lot….was proud of how much I kept going even when I wanted to stop. I only got a little teary with about .2 mile to go – thinking about how much my family’s support means and how I missed them being there to cheer me on.  But I wiped the tears aside and got across the finish in 37:42.  Which is about 50 second slower than last year.  I actually wasn’t too upset about it.  I know I have work to do – and the injury hasn’t helped.  But the best part was the momentum….I want and know I can do better next time.  And the shiny shiny medal helps a lot.

Woo HOO!!

Wendy and Heather ran great races too (faster than me of course) and waited for me. But by the time we all caught up – the dark clouds were rolling in off the Gulf.  So we just grabbed our boxed breakfast treats and caught a trolley to the car. For a great event – I was a little disappointed in the boxed food.  After I run – I crave FOOD….eggs, bagels, bananas – things with substance.  The food in the box was crackers, hummus, a fruit trail mix bag and edamame. Really?  Oh and we did get a small square of chocolate.  Not really the food I want….but maybe if that’s what I really ate all the time I’d be skinnier and faster….well and hungrier….but who knows….


I did manage to eat the chocolate square (after I got home and made myself a bacon, tomato and cheese bagel sandwich – hey I ran 3.1 miles I deserve!).  And I wrapped myself in the comfort of knowing that I want to keep doing this….and not just for the bacon….  🙂

Ahoy mateys!

Let’s go back in time to the first weekend in March when we all ran the Gasparilla 5K.  Cue the time travel music montage….
I think my groove is coming back….

ready to run!

Excited for the race to start









Last Saturday our family ran the Gasparilla 5K.  It was one of four races run here in Tampa – a 15K, 5K, 8K, and a half marathon all make up the Gasparilla Distance Classic Weekend. When most people in the Tampa Bay region hear “Gasparilla“, they think of the pirate festival that takes place in January every year. But our kids think Gasparilla means “RUN!” And that’s way cooler than a parade full of beads and mischief….

Our prep for the race included a Friday afternoon trek over to the Tampa Convention Center for the race expo. We were all suitably impressed with the expo – well done!  The kids enjoyed getting freebies and stuffing them in their free Publix shopping bags. Steve and I were tempted to buy the new Merrells we both tried on.  (Loved them but we were trying not to spend all our money in one day.)  I think the kids really enjoyed the whole atmosphere of free food samples, shopping, and free food samples.
The next morning It was hot and sticky.  Let me say that again really loudly – HOT.  I know we live in Florida but it’s the beginning of March for goodness sakes! I was glad I had managed to find wicking shirts for the kids. In bright bright colors so as not to lose them in the crowds during the race. (Lots of people run Gasparilla – so my normally high levels of anxiety were a bit over the top at the thought of losing the kids.)
Of course I should not have worried too much about losing them and should have worried more about the heat.  It was hot. And sunny. And hot. And we didn’t bring water.  Dummies.
After about 1/4 of a mile, our son (who ran by my side) was huffing and puffing and saying “My chest hurts.”  Now let’s point out that the kids’ training for the race consisted of walking to and from school and one Saturday morning run with Mom of about 1/2 mile. So we weren’t expecting great timing here. But neither was I expecting any cardiac events.  The kid is 8 and very healthy.
While he and I took a walk break, some nice angel came out of no where and offered us her unopened water bottle.  (See – runners are some of the nicest people.)  That helped a lot as the water break stations were not for about another 1/2 mile.
All four of us shared the water, and Steve kept us on a pace of run for 2 min and walk for 1.  Thankfully we made it to the water stations (and the water sprays they had set up). Our son liked to dump the water on his head.  But his spirits perked up.
Our daughter was a little less affected by the heat – so Steve kept pace with her as she was a tad faster than Mommy and brother. In fact as we neared the finish she took off in a near sprint to end at a nearly 8 min/mile pace.  Clearly she’s got Daddy’s running genes.
Our son and I managed to finish about a minute after her at a slower but still determined pace.  (This was after some woman running alongside of us told me that she was a nurse and that he looked pale.  I fought the urge to point out that he’s ALWAYS pale thanks to German and Polish roots….)  In the end – Daddy and daughter finished in 45 minutes and 10 seconds and Mommy and son finished at 46 minutes.
Steve pointed out that it was definitely a different pace than he was used to. I told him to stuff it.  🙂
The kids had a great (if hot) time and really seemed to get in the spirit of it.  And getting metal medals (unlike the plastic ones from kid races) definitely made it more fun for them.


As for me – It wasn’t an easy race….not cause of the lingering foot issue – but the heat and feeling worried about the kids and keeping them on track.  But I definitely started to get back some of my mojo and felt like I could have broken out into a faster pace had the circumstances been different…..great day all around.

more medals!

I wrote a lot of that back in March …. and here I am – watching storm clouds gather and hopefully move on before tomorrow’s IronGirl.  I wasn’t so sure I’d make it to now.  But so far so good…..we’ll see tomorrow morning!

Full circle and back again….

IronGirl 2012 – Here I come!

So this weekend is an anniversary of sorts.  Last year my first race ever was the IronGirl 5K in Clearwater.  This weekend is IronGirl Clearwater 2012….I’m signed up for the 5K again.

Yes I have been running….sadly I’ve not been blogging (did you miss me?)  I’ve been lazy busy…..but I’ve been thinking about blogging – and I wish that counted for something.

The running has been okay.  The old Disney injury (ha – how many people can use that phrase to describe foot pain?) has just become a nagging pain in the morning.  It doesn’t hurt while running. The hardest part has been building back up my endurance.

We have experienced some races while I’ve been offline – as a family we ran the Gasparilla 5K in March and Steve, my crazy fast husband, ran a crazy relay across the state of Florida. And yes I will blog about those!  But mostly our running has been about getting back on track. Or at least on the roads in the neighborhood.

I signed up for IronGirl at the expo for the Gasparilla race….I felt a need to revisit the race that was my first goal. (Although the course has been changed from last year’s….)  And I felt the need to order a larger shirt size this year as I have never been able to squeeze into last year’s shirt.  (On a side note – when I tried on the new shirt in the above picture …. Steve pointed out the unfortunate placement of two flowers….yup every woman who wears that will have two purple flowery nipples.  Lovely.)

Last year, I remember being much more acutely focused on the race. I had a training plan…I had mapped out specific routes that I ran and reran. I fretted and shopped about what to wear. I had mapped out when we were leaving in the morning, and exactly what needed to be done in the wee hours of the morning. This year I hardly remembered that I had to go to packet pick up!  Yikes. But I did (hence the picture above).  And I am excited (although cautiously keeping an eye on the weather). Perhaps I’m more comfortable as I’ve actually run races now. The prep and the getting there is not as unknown as before. Cause it’s certainly not that I’m faster or anything. In fact I think I’m a tad slower….

Today’s run (last one before Sunday’s race) was interesting….I discovered that I can run 10 min miles…..just not for a whole mile in a row.  That is – my faster sections of my run are surprisingly fast for me.  Everytime I look down at my new iPhone and the Nike+ app – I’m surprised that my pace is under 11 mins.  But then that surprise translates into shock and my legs stop dead as if saying, “That’s totally impossible – see – unable to move.”  And then it takes a few minutes to get back to that pace again.

So I’m sure I will not finish in 30 mins on Sunday….in fact I’m not predicting any time at all. The new course involves running OVER the Clearwater Causeway.  As in elevation – a relatively foreign concept in Florida. See pic below….ugh.

Anyway – the important thing is that I’m running….and I’m celebrating a whole year of running races and working toward goals that I never dreamed of just a year ago. And that’s pretty cool.

from have to run UP and over this bad boy

Traveling Red Running Shorts

I need some traveling red running shorts.

The Bloggess (who is the most irreverent, wickedly funny collector of taxidermied animals EVER) started the awesomeness that is the Traveling Red Dress sometime ago. Her idea is that we don’t often celebrate silly indulgent things that can help remind us of how awesome we really are on the inside. And her afternoon of wearing a red dress and being photographed as the gorgeous soul that she is….well it taught her to embrace her worth and enjoy herself.

The traveling red dress has taken on a whole new life of its own since her first post nearly two years ago. She has prompted many others to find a dress (or something of equal awesomeness) to, in her words, “to remind them how amazing they were”.

And thus – I am prompted to find some amazing red running shorts.  The kind that doesn’t ride up my butt crack, that doesn’t cling to my cottage cheese thighs, and that makes me look like the (thin and swift) runner that I am in my head…..I’m sure they are on sale at Target as we speak….

Cause I need to remember the awesomeness that is the fact that I am a runner….a former non-runner. I do run. And that is amazing.

I ran the Disney 1/2 Marathon on Jan 7th of this year.  My first 1/2. And at the end of the day – I felt like it would also be my last race.

Mile 10 – I stepped funny. And it hurt.  On my foot.  A lot.

I hobbled and ached to the end. But after it was over and we were back home….I did not run.

And I drove the kids to school rather than walk. And I wore running shoes everywhere (even with work clothes and church dresses) cause they were more supportive. And I did not run.

And I went to the doctor and got x-rays. And I poo-pooed friends who argued that I needed a whole team of docs to poke and prod me. And I opted to not get crutches. And I did not run.

And I did not blog. And I ignored the emails from the group about Saturday runs. And I tried to cheer my husband on when he went for his morning runs.  And I tried not to cry while he was out.  Cause the foot hurt. And the pain of not running hurt me more than I thought it would. And so I avoided running.

And I still haven’t finished reading the latest issue of Runner’s World.  I stopped reading my Twitter feed from all the running people I follow. And I stopped believing that I could do anything I set my mind to.

The only good thing I did for myself – I tried to follow Weight Watchers….no, I didn’t join – I downloaded an app. 🙂  I figured I’d try to keep down the calories while not running.  And even that has fallen apart in the last week or so.

I finally did a .75 mile lap of our neighborhood nearly a month after Disney. I was slow, plodding and tired. And the foot was just okay.

Since then I’ve run an additional 11 miles over 6 other runs. Including a 4 mile run “with” the running group on Saturday – as in – they were running and I was walk/running behind them…well behind them.  And including nearly 2 miles today.

The issue really hasn’t been my foot across those miles….it’s my endurance.  It’s gone….shot….over…..kaput.   I feel like my body has completely forgotten what it’s like to break into a sweat and stay on a consistent and steady course….

And yet this Saturday – Steve and I are running the Gasparilla 5K with our kids. Three point one miles of huffing and puffing and trying to find my pace.

Now this makes me break into hives for two reasons….a) I’m not sure I can really come anywhere close to my usual pace….I’m figuring a time of 45 mins or so….not great but actually reasonable given my out of shape status….and 2) I’m slightly panicked at keeping track of a 6 yr old and an 8 yr old amongst the thousands of runners.  Hubby is not – but then again – he tends to not worry about things despite my pointed objections to his laid-back attitude.  “You realize that we have put a lot of effort into these kids – I’m not going to lose them now.  Not when they are on the verge of understanding multiplication!”

Of course Steve did not make me feel any better today.  I mentioned that I had purchased neon colored running shirts for the kids so we can spot ’em easily.  He claimed we really shouldn’t worry and that he was planning on us all finishing in 36 minutes. I’m thinking I might opt for losing him somewhere along the race course….despite his rock-steadiness that strengthens me…

But the crux of it is that I’m looking for some awesomeness for myself.  Some reminder that I can do it – I’ve done this for a year….I certainly can come back from the challenge of being laid up and out of shape.  And wouldn’t it be awesome to break out a pair of RED running shorts to do just that….?  Cause running in a red ball gown is certainly an idea….that might not be ideal….

And in the spirit of the traveling red dress – I could share those awesome red running shorts with my friends who have suffered setbacks as well this year.  Vicki – who’s running has been put aside by a torn meniscus….ouch.  And Lis… whose doctor examined her injury and suggested that she might find a new hobby instead of running….. Awesome women who might need a pick me up that reminds them of that fact.   And then we can pass them along to those who are just starting a journey of fitness….and so on and so forth…..

I need to find some traveling red running shorts……what do you need to help you remember how awesome you are?