Category Archives: Running

Sam’s Squad 5k race recap

If you’ve been following this blog for a while (or know me in “real life”), you know that I am not what I’d consider a “natural” runner. What I mean by that is that the sport (hobby? past time?) does not come easily to me, and that I am fighting against genetics and proclivity on each and every run. I did not run as a child or teenager, with the exception of a brief stint as a defensive back on my high school field hockey team for one season, after which I “suggested” to my coach that perhaps I would be better suited to the goalie position, which just happened to involve much less running.

She agreed. I’m pretty sure it pained her to watch me attempt to run almost as much as it hurt me.

This is all to say that when I enthusiastically signed up for the Sam’s Squad 5k charity run, a leadership project organized by one of our seniors to support the Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation, I had no idea that he was modeling it after a cross-country workout. When I met with him for his conference for the senior program that I run, I cheerily asked, “So fill me in, where is the route?”, imagining that it would span the local roads around our school.

He began, “Okay, so we’re going to start on the track. Then we’re going to go back in the fields by the community college, loop around there, then come back on the track, then loop on the fields over by the basketball courts, then run along the fence by the playground, then back by the baseball field, then loop again, then finish on the track.”

I blinked a few times. “So…so…it’s not..on…road?”

Him, “Oh no. Only a little bit.”

Me, “So…I’m guessing I won’t get a PR at this 5k, is what you’re saying.”

Him, “Um, well, probably not.”  #understatement

Did I ever imagine I would find myself running a cross-country practice/meet simulation at the age of 43? No, no I did not. But still, I was excited to come support a student endeavor and run with members of our community.

The weather was perfect, overcast and relatively cool for Dallas in mid-October. It was by far the most relaxed race I’ve ever been to, more like how I imagine a group training run put on by a running club would go (not that I would know, since I can barely muster the energy to run, never mind simultaneously extrovert). There wasn’t a clear start time, rather we mulled about chatting until bibs had been picked up, and then my student grabbed a megaphone and called out “Okay, let’s head to the track now!”.

We all (48 registered 5k runners) gathered on the track behind the starting/finishing line, and then he counted us down and we were off. We did a 1/2 loop on the track, then exited through a gate to hit the fields behind the community college campus. Student volunteers were posted at various points along the route to direct us where to go, which for me, was simultaneously fun (since they all know me and cheered me on) and disconcerting (since they all know me and cheered me on). A few senior boys commandeered a golf cart and played “Eye of the Tiger” on full blast as we made our way past them.

While in some places we were clearly running on an oft-used path (well worn dirt trail), in others, we were *literally* running through knee high grass. The New England native in me found myself obsessing on the possibility of ticks, and I kept fighting the temptation to high step to try to avoid touching the grass.

As I exited the community college fields to rejoin the track, I glanced at my Garmin, sure that I had run at least 1 mile. I was already tired, but without mile markers or a familiar route, couldn’t gauge the distance.

Clearly, since according to my watch, I had run exactly .55 miles. Oh dear. Those grass and hills were no joke.

Fortunately, the next section involved some track/parking lot/school drive running, and I was able to get into my normal rhythm for a bit, until I had to turn back on the grass to loop around the school grounds.

I hate running on grass.

As I looped back on the track to begin my 2nd school grounds circuit, I passed my husband and all the other non-runner supporters, who cheered. I looked at him and groaned as I passed.  He ran cross country in high school, so the “off-road” running was familiar to him. He laughed.

I disliked him tremendously at that moment on both counts.

I ran out of gas at exactly 2.1 miles (I know, because I looked at my watch thinking “welp, there goes that sub-10 minute pace I was keeping”). I run-walked the last mile, half-disappointed in myself, but mostly thinking how much I could never do cross country because running on anything other than a treadmill or asphalt makes a normally challenging activity, damn near excruciating.

I finished in 31:46, which all things considered, is okay for my first, and last, cross country run.

Most importantly, over $10,000 was raised for a very worthwhile and important cause, so huge props to my senior who worked hard to put together this race!

 

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Marathon 2018

I wrote earlier this year about my difficulty in finding a race that I wanted to run for my only first marathon. It’s very important to me that my kids attend this endeavor, for a variety of reasons. For one, I think it’s important that they witness their mom complete a goal of this magnitude, with all the blood, sweat and tears that will undoubtedly come with it (that whole role modeling thing).

For another, especially as my eldest gets ready to head off to college next fall, I feel like this is the culmination of an identity shift over the past several years. I began running in 2013 to cope with the aftermath of my divorce, and the main reason I’ve persisted is to keep my sanity with the ongoing coparenting challenges, and exposure to my PTSD triggers.

It’s been a long, long winding road. Pounding out the miles helps.

I was leaning towards the Houston marathon, which occurs in January, but I realized that it would interfere with soccer and swim seasons for my boys. Ideally, I wanted a race I could drive to, because our budget is quite tight, and it needed to be 1. on one of my weekends and 2. not interfere with a sporting or performance event for any of my 3 children.

You can see my dilemma.

This is all to say that several weeks ago, I unofficially decided that the Oklahoma City Memorial marathon fit all my criteria. While it is during my busiest time of year (I run a senior year program that occurs during the last trimester of senior year, ie April 29th is smack in the middle of it), Oklahoma City is close enough that I can drive back on Sunday and be in my office on Monday morning (and my senior won’t miss any of his AP classes). I have heard and read that the OKC marathon is heartfelt and full of crowd support, and one of the more desirable marathons to run.

I made my peace with it. But I wasn’t overly excited about it. I mean, it seems like a cool marathon, but for my first, and quite possibly only 26.2? Meh.

But then, during last week’s long run, I listened to a recent Human Race podcast. If you’re not familiar with the show, it features stories of unusual or inspirational “every day” runners (meaning, usually not famous).  This one featured a woman named Amy Downs, a survivor of the Oklahoma City bombing.

I know. Weird, right?

She told her story of surviving the bombing in 1995. How she was diagnosed with PTSD after being buried alive in the rubble, waiting for rescue, for hours. How she began running, and then eventually, competing in triathlons, as a therapeutic approach to her PTSD. How the gun going off at the start of races triggers her, as does putting her face in the murky water for open water swims (reminding her of being buried alive), but she keeps doing it. How she believes in telling her story, because confronting the trauma, talking about it, pushing past it, is the only way to get through it.

She divorced her husband. She eventually remarried, to a man she met through one of her training groups.

I was transfixed as she described her PTSD; “I describe it as an app that’s always in the background, it’s just there. The only time it’s more of a struggle is in the spring. During spring it becomes difficult. It’s not like I’m sitting around thinking about the bombing, I’ll become anxious and on edge, and then I realize it’s March.”

I thought of how Septembers are for me.

She ran her first marathon at the Oklahoma City Memorial marathon. She trained to break 5 hours, and then just a couple weeks before the marathon, she got injured in a bike accident. She described her frustration, “This is my life, I planned it perfectly, I did the training program for the 5 hour marathon, and nothing ever works out. My plans never work out.”

She still went on to run it, finishing in a slow and frustrating (for her) 6 hours and 30 minutes.

Exactly the amount of time she was buried alive, waiting for rescue.

When the interviewer asked Amy how she remains so positive, and inspiring, and athletically accomplished (she’s training for an Ironman), she said, “Even in tragedy, it’s important to ask yourself what you can take that is positive out of it. You can’t control what happens to you, you can only control how you respond it. Yes, it’s not fair. It sucks. Life is not fair. But what are you gonna do?”

Life is not fair. Plans never work out. But what are you gonna do?

I’m going to run a marathon.

 

Tri training and end of summer update

I have lived in Texas for 11 years (which still kind of blows my mind) but one thing I’m still not used to is thinking of the first (at most, second) week of August as the “end of summer”. Growing up in New England, we didn’t start school until after Labor Day, and even as a teacher in the late 90s and early 2000 years, I didn’t have to return for professional development until the end of August.

For me, “summer” is really July and August, even though here in Texas, it’s June and July (well, per the schools. If you go by the temperature, it’s roughly 65% of the year. Another aspect of Texas I am not fond of).

This is all to say that I’m about to head back to work, and the kids are in the thick of frantically starting finishing their summer work.

I’m still plugging away preparing for my September triathlon.  Training has been going well, in the sense that I’ve been very consistent with the 2x a week workouts in all disciplines, plus strength training, plus an additional weekly brick. I feel like I’m in solid shape, if not at my “fastest”. I’m not approaching this triathlon very competitively, given the timing (on the heels of the first 4-6 weeks back at work, which is always a beatdown). It seems every year, as I get older, I am a bit more tired with the teacher-mom August – September hamster wheel.

I am, however, looking forward to having a fun race, while (hopefully) feeling good. If you can believe it, I’ve only done one race in 2017 (a 15k back in February) so I’m ready to get my head, and body, back in the game. As I’ve alluded to in previous posts, 2017 has been a really, really difficult year, and my athletic hobby has been low on the priority list – I’m hoping I can turn that around heading into 2018.

Speaking of re-focusing on 2018, I’m almost ready to commit to my marathon. I’m starting to look at different first-time marathon training plans. For those of you who have covered the 26.2 distance, what’s your favorite newbie plan?

2017 – Dallas Hot Chocolate 15k Race Recap and Life in General

On Feb 4th I ran the Dallas Hot Chocolate 15k , and I’ve been meaning since then to post my race recap. I’m not sure how two and a half weeks have passed, except to say that my 2017 so far can best be described as the following:

There continues to be a lot, a lot, going on in my neck of the woods, and most days I feel like I’m drowning. So much so that I considered, seriously considered, bailing on the race. I’ve never bailed on a race since I began running in fall 2013 (if you don’t count the 2016 Houston half marathon, which I don’t, since I made the decision roughly a month in advance of the event not to participate after I pulled a muscle in my back. That wasn’t “bailing” so much as changing plans due to injury).

When I say I almost bailed on this race, I mean that starting 72-48 hours in advance of the Saturday race, I waffled on whether I was going to follow through. The week leading up to the race was particularly exhausting and overwhelming and difficult for my family, and I was averaging 2-3 hours of sleep each night, and going through the motions.

The day before the race, when I had to drive downtown to get my race packet (taking time out of work and traveling 30-40 min from school), I gave myself the mother of all pep talks, told myself I wasn’t a quitter, that I would and I could and I should do this, and set off.

And got rear-ended on the highway. I can’t make this up. The universe hates me.

That night, with a stiff neck and sore shoulders to add to my litany of physical and emotional ailments, I was so ambivalent about the race that I didn’t even take my traditional night before gear-laid-out picture. I decided to set my alarm, but gave myself permission to not attend if I felt worse in the morning.

Ultimately I decided that whatever physical discomfort I endured during the 9.3 miles would pale in comparison to the emotional pissiness I would feel at not following through with my race entry. I hate not finishing what I start.

I don’t have an in-depth race recap to share (partly because I waited so long to write this that I don’t remember most details) but I can say this: until this race, I never really understood how people don’t finish races due to cramps. I mean, I’ve heard of people not finishing races due to cramps, I’ve even seen it happen in televised races. Someone is clipping right along, and suddenly grimaces, limps. sometimes dramatically dropping to the pavement, writhing in pain.

I always thought that was a little … much. I mean, how bad can a cramp be?

And then I ran 9.3 miles after forgetting, in my zombie state, to drink many fluids the 24 hours prior. Hello dehydration. And agonizing searing quad pain.

I was doing pretty well for the first 7 miles or so. So well that I knew I was on track to bust last year’s 15k time out of the water. I’m not going to lie, I was feeling pretty badass – there I was, almost not even showing up to the race hours before, and now I’m flying along at a faster pace?

And then my legs starting twinging. Not badly, at first, but enough to let me know they weren’t happy. I wasn’t overly concerned – with less than 2 miles to go, I figured I was home free.

Around mile 8.5, with just under a mile to go, the pain got so bad that I actually had to do this weird Jedi mind trick where I pretended I was floating and my feet weren’t really striking the ground each time, but just skipping across clouds. I know it sounds weird and doesn’t make sense as I type it out, but it worked, in the sense that I hobbled-limped-floated to the finish line when all I really wanted to do was collapse on the ground and start crying. Like those people I had seen on television who I secretly called wusses in my head. #karma

Still, I finished. With a 4+ minute drop from last year’s time to boot.

In other news, yesterday my oldest turned 17. 17. I can’t really wrap my brain around the fact that I have a 17 year old. In one year, I will be the mom to a legal adult. How did that happen?

Wasn’t I just giving him kisses in the park on my 26th birthday?

In my mind, he’s still this age.

But actually, he’s about to be a senior in high school and next year, in addition to delivering cookies to his advisory down the hall, I’ll be ordering his graduation tuxedo.

Marathon by decree

As I wrote earlier this month, training for my only first marathon is on my agenda for 2017.

Let me elaborate.

Back in 2014, when I ran my very first half marathon, the crazy notion that maybe, just maybe, I could complete a marathon first occurred to me. The significance of even entertaining this endeavor is a post of its own (which I will write at some point), but suffice to say, I have been mulling it over for, literally, almost 3 years. For someone who tends to rush into graduate programs, mortgages and babies, this amount of reflection is indicative of just how intimidated I am by 26.2 miles.

Nevertheless,  I slowly began socking away money, because I knew, even then, that 1. I may very well be a “one and done” marathoner and 2. if I was going to do one marathon, it was going to be at Disney.

If you’re reading this, the odds are high that you’ve run at least one marathon (at least, when compared to the generally acknowledged statistic of 1% of the population that has run 26.2 miles). I have a lot of readers who found this blog through the running and triathlon communities, so maybe you’re thinking “oh, just you wait. Marathons are addictive. You’ll definitely do more than one.”

Maybe. But maybe not.

But there’s no uncertainty or hesitation in my desire to do my (potentially) singular marathon at Disney. I love Disney. Love. It. Beyond that, RunDisney is supposed to do a fantastic job at putting on the race, and it’s rookie-friendly. So, nearly 3 years ago, I began saving a bit of money each month. When I say “bit of money”, we’re talking less than a Starbucks coffee a day amount. Our budget is tight. We have 3 kids in private school, and “we” are teachers. But I committed to working on it. I threw some tutoring money in there. I saved my PTA Christmas bonus, every year. I taught an extra class in the summer, and split the extra between my Disney fund, and family vacations.

I knew, in 2014, that I wanted to go in 2018. It is the last year my oldest is living at home before leaving for college, and it is really important for me, as a mother, to have my kids see me complete this goal. That is also an entirely separate blog post, that I will also write.

But for now, please understand that my kids seeing my first marathon? Even if I go on to run 20 more and they see nary a one? Non-negotiable for me.

In 2014, when I began saving, Disney marathon weekend was the 2nd weekend of the month. As it was 2015. As it was 2016. So you can understand why it never crossed my  mind, as I saved for and fretted over this Herculean goal, that the Disney marathon in 2018 might be the 1st weekend of the month.

Also known as their Dad’s weekend.

You see where I’m going with this.

I wish I could say that asking my ex-husband to trade a weekend was a possible scenario, but it’s not. If you know me, you know why. If you don’t know me, just trust me.

So. Isn’t that just a kick in the teeth?

As someone who has a lot of practice reframing and turning lemons into lemonade, I decided that I would just find another marathon that is worthy of my  investment. I mean, there are some other awesome marathons out there – even if they’re lottery-entry, I’m sure I could find one that is kickass, and on my weekend, right?

Chicago marathon? His weekend.

NYC marathon? His weekend.

Marine Corps weekend? His weekend.

I literally spent about 45min the other night, thinking of marathons I could get excited about, googling them, checking my calendar, and then dejectedly returning to square one. I commented to my husband that race directors must all be divorced men who are looking to make the most of their 1st, 3rd and 5th weekends.

I kid. They’re probably divorced moms who need to work on the weekends that their exes have the children.

I’m sad, y’all. But truly, personal growth, because I’m not angry, or resentful, or shaking my fist at the powers that be that godDAMMIT divorce is just the gift that never stops giving. I don’t feel upset.

I just feel sad. Dejected. But resigned. It is what it is. This is part and parcel for my life. It’s a marathon, it’s not life or death.

But it matters to me.

So, where does that leave me? Right now, I’m leaning towards the Houston marathon in January 2018. It’s my weekend, and a 3 day weekend, so the kids won’t even miss school. I hear it’s flat, with good crowd support, and I’m sure it will still be meaningful and amazing and heck, I’ve got the money more than saved for the entry fee and hotel.

It’s just not what I’ve envisioned for the past 3 years.

 

2017

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Happy New Year!

I think there are a lot of people exhaling that the dreaded 2016 is finally over, and looking forward to a fresh calendar year. The stroke of midnight like a tangible exorcism of last year’s demons, albeit with champagne instead of sage and resolutions replacing incantations.

Meh. I’m not all that excited for 2017.

Now, lest you think I’m just stubbornly clinging to the pervasive 2016 Debbie Downer mentality, I have my reasons. Sure, there are some exciting and anticipatory events on the horizon. We have a family spring break trip planned for March. I’m trying to work out the details to return to Yankee-land in July for a family wedding. I do have a pretty scary exciting fitness goal for 2017 (more on that in a minute).

But I have a hunch, somewhat reasonable and partly intuitive, that 2017 is going to bring the winds of change. For better or for worse.

I don’t like change. I would rather stay entrenched in known and predictable misery than face the unknown. True story: when I was a child, my mother would ground me*.  Only, she wouldn’t tell me how long I was grounded for. It might be 2 weeks. It might be 2 days. I didn’t know. This was far, far worse than the actual moratorium on Atari or television or sleepovers. I used to try to bargain with her that she could add on extra time to whatever number she had in her head if she would only tell me when my time was up. It was the purgatory that made the hell.

For a woman who, still, to this day, likes to call me her “brilliant Georgetown girl”, she’s clearly no dummy herself.

Anyway, most of these possible changes, I can’t blog about, for various reasons. I can say that my oldest will be applying to colleges in 2017, and will in all likelihood (fingers crossed) already have an acceptance or two under his belt by this time next year. That situation is particularly difficult for me (above and beyond the usual oldest-flying-the-nest hurdle), and I’m still hoping that there will be an amicable, non-litigious, resolution.

But I’m prepared for the alternative.

So, count me in the camp of giving 2017 more of a suspicious side-eye than celebratory squee.

With that said, I do have two goals for 2017.

One: train for a marathon. I have been saying for a couple years now that I would cross the 26.2 threshold in 2018. It seemed like a safe and comfortable horizon back in 2014. I blinked, and here I am, starting 2017, and realizing that the once far off shore is the next port of call. Since most marathon training plans are 3-4 months long, and I’m looking at marathons in the first month or two of 2018, the majority of my training will most likely take place in 2017.

So. 2017. Time to step up my running game.

On a smaller scale, I still want to do some sprint triathlons and shorter distance races in the meantime (I have a 15k in early February, and a triathlon on the books for the end of April).

Two: write more.

new-years-greetings-quotes-for-friends

I’ve always written, in various forms and fashions. I journaled as a tween and teenager. As an English major in college, I was always writing. I did the mommy blogger gig before it was even deemed “mommy blogging”. I’ve written for my eyes only, and, once upon a time, for an audience of several thousand viewers a month (in my previous incarnation).

I’ve always written. Except not so much the past few years.

So, I’d like to return to that. Some of my writing will appear on this blog, natch. If you’re interested in reading my ramblings, especially once I figure out my marathon plans (gulp!), feel free to subscribe (top right), especially if you’re visiting from Facebook. I’m not planning on promoting most of my blog posts on there in 2017.

But some of my writing will not be published in this corner of the internet. This is not a resolution for public consumption. Not yet, anyway.

Happy 2017, everyone. May it be bigger, brighter, and filled with more hope, love and optimism than that stinker 2016.

 

*a lot. All the time. I spent approximately 67.4% of my childhood and adolescence on restriction.

Sayonara

So, how about that 2016?

If you’re on social media, or heck, sitting around kvetching with family or friends, you have probably heard, even declared yourself, that 2016 was the worst. year. ever. Don’t believe me? See here.

Here’s the thing, though. It wasn’t. I mean, it hasn’t been a banner year. Certainly for some people I know, who have endured personal grief, loss or challenging circumstances, it has legitimately been one of the worst. I’m sure there are people out there, maybe even reading right now, whose 2016 was their version of my 2010.  I’m not talking about those versions of 2016. Y’all go ahead and give 2016 the trophy for the biggest loser.

I’m talking about this.  How our access to information, and groupthink catastrophizing, has led us to this mantra. Yes, many celebrities died. Yes, the election was a clusterfuck. Definitely, the violence, both domestically and abroad, is tragic. But we still have it pretty good. By we, I mean those of you (myself included) with internet access reading from your comfortable First World abode. For the record, I’m in pretty good company with this assertion.

So can we agree, on this last day of 2016, that while the year set the bar relatively low for 2017, it wasn’t a total wash?

Personally, when I look back at my resolutions for 2016, I discover that, beyond completing my triathlon and continuing to eat healthy, I didn’t really make any grand goals. This is a relief as I prefer apathy to failure.

I kid. Well, not really, but my lack of resolution making last year was purposeful. Still, I had a fairly productive year.

  • Miles run: 683 (much lower than last year’s 835, but #triathlon)
  • Miles biked: 898
  • Miles swam: 38 (okay, this number makes me giggle. Really? Remember when I won my OWS AG by 10 minutes.  If only running and biking came to me as naturally as swimming. I could be a triathlon SUPERSTAR).
  • Races: 2 half marathons, 2 triathlons, 1 15k,  1 5k, and 1 open water swim race.

I feel like that is a decent year, although in retrospect, it doesn’t seem like many races. I would love to do more, but I try to limit the impact of my midlife hobby on my family’s budget and weekend time.

I’m ending the year at the same weight I began (actually maybe a couple pounds lighter. I think. I’ve orbited the same 5-6 pounds since 2011, but I’m currently on the lower end of the range).

In other ways, 2016 had many other achievements, tangible and measurable, and otherwise. I completed my first year running a new program for the senior class, and it went as well as could possibly be expected (which is to say with 91 out of 93 completing it on time, which is statistically successful but not up to my 100% or bust standards).  I saw my girlfriends more than in previous years, and considering we have 19 kids between the 6 of us, that’s no easy feat (we even squeezed in a weekend getaway for a 40th birthday celebration. Not mine of course. I’m older than 4 of them. Bitches.). My kids continued to flourish and celebrate their own achievements, and my husband is wrapping up his year-long administrative leadership training program, and considering potential career trajectories.

There was a lot accomplished in 2016, despite the year’s bad rap.

Still, I’m not sad to say goodbye to 2016.