Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A fine line...

There's no instruction manual for this. And even if there was, the footnotes are no help. Yes, sure, there are plenty of books about how to raise a child, how to help a child with (fill in the blank), but there's no one-size-fits-all, here's-how-to-use-your-new-toy instruction manual.

Before you have kids, they're cute. Interesting, with their fresh, untainted perspective on things. Once you have your own, they're fascinating for much the same reasons. But from a mother's perspective, the fact that you played a vital role in creating this little thing, that was once a part of you but is now its own separate little person is incredible. Every little thing they do or say is endlessly fascinating (and no doubt, eventually tiring to other people, if you talk about it too much).

From birth, that little thing is moving away from you. Literally, and metaphorically. It's the way life is, there's nothing you can do but accept it and do what you can to guide it along a safe path. Don't touch the stove, don't lean off the cliff, don't get in the car with a friend that's been drinking; the forks in the road change with the passage of time but the end goal is the same.

But no one warns you about the heartbreak.

Of watching that tiny thing grow up and away, knowing that you can't stop it. Of the sleepless nights and endless laundry when its sick; the boo-boos that a kiss and some Tylendol don't quite fix; the days of panic and fear when the doctor sees something questionable on an x-ray and starts talking about pediatric oncologists (thankfully that turned out to be nothing). Of watching them get hurt by life itself and being completely powerless to change it.

You second-guess so many of the choices you make.

In September, I got them hamsters - one for each kid. The hamsters were brothers, had lived together so far in their lives. The pet store told us they could probably stay together for a while longer, but might eventually start to fight and would have to be separated.

So far, things had been fine. The novelty had worn off a bit, but Noah still took a carrot up to his each night, usually prompting Katelyn to do the same. No fighting, minimal biting of their little owners. And then Halloween night...  Katelyn had seen them earlier in the day and they were both fine. I have no idea if it was the doorbell ringing all night or the visiting dog barking every time the doorbell rang, but it seems the hamsters finally got into a disagreement. By bedtime, there had been a battle and Noah's hamster, Harris, had lost. Noah found him when he took him his carrot. Instant mayhem...

Today, Noah's better about it. Harris has been laid to rest under a holly bush in the backyard (I am trying to avoid thinking about what happens when we move). He doesn't seem to hold Katelyn's hamster or me responsible for this, bless the innocence of the young.

I feel terrible about the whole thing. Maybe I should have gotten Harris his own cage (which would have put him at risk from the cat, Noah can't close a door to save his life). Maybe I shouldn't have gotten them hamsters in the first place (why am I looking at rat and hamster cages for a new pet). But on the other hand, grief is something they will eventually have to face. Am I a bad mother for putting my kid in its path at such a young age, or a better one for not sheltering them from reality? It's a fine line, that balance.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

This is not so bad, and I'm not being sarcastic...

So I've been a little lazy with this. I meant to do a little write-up about the Carvin Cove Marathon back in early June, and then forgot. I meant to ramble a little, but then work shipped me all over the place for a few weeks. I was back at the Highland Games again, and meant to ramble about that, but there was just too much in the space of three short days - I was drained, exhausted and couldn't find the words. And then a week after that I decided that my left knee needed its ass kicked, and so here we are.

At this point I guess I am just thinking out loud a little bit.

The reactions I've gotten have been quite varied, which is to be expected. My own opinion on the matter is that it wasn't really IF I was going to screw something up majorly, it was WHEN. I just figured it would be out on a trail in the middle of nowhere, alone and with a useless phone as usual. Fortunately, this happened in a controlled environment with other people who could carry me into the AC and call 911. Who very helpfully told me that I'd have to wait to see ortho, there wasn't anything they could do.

I was lucky as far as getting in with my orthopedist. Usually no one will touch you for 3-5 days after an injury like this, they want the swelling to go down so they can actually poke at you. I was on the phone with my own doctors at 8:15 the morning after the accident, and in touch with the orthopedist by 8:30. The receptionist took notes, and called me back within 15 minutes - they would work me in that morning with whatever doctor had a few spare moments. Turns out if they can get to you within a day or two, they'll see you.

It was also pure luck who I drew for a doctor - when he came in I promptly asked him if a trail race I was aiming for in August was out of the question. Since that was a yes, when could I go back to the gym? He promptly turned around and stuck me in a full arm cast for a week.

I went back in to see him again on Monday (yesterday). Admitted I hadn't been wearing the arm sling because it was hindering my life. He didn't seem to care, and told me it was more to warn people to be careful around me, which I thought was funny. My mom has threatened to call him a couple of times to call and warn him that he has trouble on his hands with me, and he said he figured out the first time I came in asking about the race and the gym (I must have stuck in his head, his PA didn't remember me); a lot of people he sees in a similar condition are asking for disability notes for a year and I'm pushing for any inch I can get. Fortunately, his views on repair and rehab are as aggressive as mine (or close enough). I've been back on stationary bikes for just over two weeks, and was encouraged to continue adding more resistance and interval training. I've also been back on the elliptical, which he didn't officially approve, but it doesn't hurt and theoretically might keep me off the treadmill. This week I also graduated to squats and walking lunges (yes, seriously).

I also finally got my surgery scheduled. I had it set, and then the coordinator called back that the PA assist the doc wanted wasn't available, so it got pushed out a week. I would like to try to push for a week earlier, but I know he won't give because he wants the elbow fully healed and functioning. So I get to hang off doorframes and walk around holding a 5-lb weight to straighten it out (the kids are going to get a kick out of this one). I keep telling myself one more week of solid training will make or keep my leg that much stronger, so the recovery post-surgery will be easier and faster.

I will be running again by Thanksgiving. This mess has wiped my fall schedule completely, which is a bit sad because I had some events I was really looking forward to doing. On the flip side, this gives me a chance to reset some things about my running I had been meaning to do anyway, but could never find the time. Plus, other than a couple of early-year trail races I really wanted to run, I'll be right on track for my spring goals.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

These are the moments...

Preface: This has nothing at all to do with running, so if that's why you're here, close the window and move on. We will return to our regularly scheduled programming - at some point.

The last couple of weekends with the kids have been adventures.

Mid-May I took them camping up in the mountains. They had spent a night in a tent down at Jordan Lake last year, but they had never seen mountains before. I wish I had been prepared when I finally got their attention from the mayhem and destruction they were causing in the back seat to point out the scenery ahead of it. I wish I'd had the camera ready. Their identical expressions, eyes the size of saucers and mouths wide open in amazement... it was a priceless moment. Over the weekend, we drove down the Blue Ridge Parkway. The area we were in is at some of the highest elevations along the Parkway, and they were fairly impressed.

They were just as impressed by climbing down to some of the trout streams and playing in the clear,  sparkling water. Back at camp, they spent the afternoon running up and down the hills trying to find caterpillars (or as Katelyn calls them, calerpitters) that went into their bug houses. They hunted for snakes and lizards, and we tried to fish - we saw fish but they were barely bigger than the hooks. As darkness fell, they roasted marshmallows over the campfire and made smores (sure beats trying to do them at home on the grill). Noah roasted a hot dog. He no longer eats hot dogs, and really just did it for the sake of doing it. (A special thanks to the group we were with, for being very tolerant of my persistent, talkative little shadows).

This past weekend we went to Hollins, with one of my dearest friends and her three kids. It's the second time I've been back at Hollins for any length of time since graduation: my own reunion was a few years ago, and this weekend was a mini-reunion to celebrate the recent wedding of another dear friend. It was the first time the kids had seen it (more mountains, and the novelty was still there).

We arrived too late for any fun on Friday (at least for the kids), but Saturday when we went back to campus after breakfast, we turned the older ones loose. Now, both sets of kids are used to a fair bit of latitude - at home they each have perimeters around home to stay in. Early in the day we gave them front quad. By Saturday evening when we returned from dinner, we gave them the Hill, where there is a line of houses - the guest house we were in, some used as dorms, some actual residences, and back down to front quad. They chased each other and lightning bugs - around 9pm I took them on a barefoot walk to find more lightning bugs. We went back up the guest house, where there were hula hoops out and we all had a shot at proving how inept we are. Katelyn and I did manage to get a round going, and we both kept it together for about 30 seconds.

Shortly after that, the party moved down to the rocking chairs on the front porch of one of the campus buildings. The kids all came along, since no one was willing to start a fight about bedtime. The porch runs around the entire building, and is mainly painted wood, as any proper Southern porch should be. The kids decided to chase each other around the building. I may or may not have decided this sounded like fun, and thus may or may not have chased them. After that, they all settled into playing hide-and-seek and tag on front quad while all the moms sat in rocking chairs, still catching up.

Some of these moments will mean nothing to the kids - they have no use for adults sitting around yapping, and it means nothing to them. I don't know that it will mean anything to them later in life. Thinking back over these two weekends, I wonder what it is that will stick in their memories - will it be standing on the side of a mountain for the first time, looking out over miles and miles of green valley? Bringing home caterpillars and watching them make cocoons? Running barefoot through the wet grass to catch a tiny lightning bug?

And for Katelyn... she has said she wants to go to Hollins when she gets older, and I got a picture of her standing on front quad this past weekend. If she does end up there, I wonder if she will remember her very first visit to the campus, and what her moments from the weekend will be - the rocking chairs? The post office and our talk there about what I remember from when I was at Hollins? Noah letting her lightning bug free? 

My parting thought is that I hope these moments are things they can look back on later in life, and find peace and happiness. And a dream to pass these kinds of moments on to their own children, in their own way.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Outside Looking In

 don't have so much about running this week - not that there hasn't been much of it; there has, but little of it has been noteworthy. My "best run" (amd I use those words loosely) lately was the MTC Shirt Run last weekend. I have been wanting to do it for over a year and things just didn't work out until now. My foot could have fallen off at Umstead or Hampton and I wanted that shirt bad enough that I would have stumped my way through the 15 miles from Mangum to Ellerbe. It was a lot of fun though - I "ran" with my friend Sharon (who triumphed with a buckle at Umstead) and Jim drove around handing out bottles of water and taking pictures of everyone. To top it off, there was pizza at the end, and Jim had thoughtfully brought some other restorative beverages.

I had an interesting experience the other night, which has obviously stuck in my head.

I found myself in the middle of a conversation with a couple of friends who were trying to set up a single friend. They were tossing around ideas of potential matches, and I was offering up opinions, since I also knew the non-present people being suggested. Apparently the single individual was tired of having to go places alone, and wanted someone with which to go out to dinner or a movie. Somehow or another, my single status got pulled into the conversation, and my response was that if I wanted to go to a movie, I'd just go. The rest of the conversation is irrelevant at this point, it's enough to say that my response (or the action itself) seems to be unusual.

Why? What am I supposed to do, sit around and hide until I have company? Yeah right...

I didn't think twice about taking off alone to Boone last year, for the races done "alongside" the Highland Games. Didn't really know anyone else going, but that just wasn't a legitimate reason for me to NOT go. I wanted to run the Bear, was signed up for the marathon again, and got a road bike a month beforehand and decided the week before to enter the Grizzly. I had at least one friend essentially tell me I had lost my f---ing mind, and I'm not saying I disagreed (particularly halfway through that damned Grizzly).

It ended up being one of the best weekends I'd had in a long time. Met a bunch of really cool people that I still keep in touch with, and I am really excited about seeing them up there again this year.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

It's a tailgate party... with some running.

The last couple of weeks have been... well, they've been there. The first week after Umstead I didn't do much outside of work other than sleep and eat, and a lot of both. Last weekend I started to go stir crazy - went to spin class Sunday morning and had to fly out that afternoon to NYC for work. I got in early and boredom sent me to the hotel gym and the treadmill. The rest of the week was basically a repeat - work all day, sneak in a few miles, head out for dinner and drinks with my coworkers (it's a vicious cycle, but I felt less guilty about all the food by at least pretending to run a little). By Thursday afternoon, I was worn out enough I took a nap in the airport terminal. Friday I drove up to VA to be part of "Team Awesome" at the Virginia 24-Hour Run, to raise money for Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society. There were 12 of us, and over half the team was made up of some no-joke, high-mileage-in-a-hurry runners (no, I am not one of them).

A few weeks ago I wasn't sure how I'd feel after Umstead - injured or burned out were high on the list of possibilites, but last week I wasn't feeling any of that. So.... the goal was 50 miles. Timed races are more fun than they sound - there's no such thing as a DNF, no one is going to laugh at you for walking as much as you want (though this can be said of most ultras), and they tend to have a pretty laidback atmosphere. Some friends talked me into my first 24-hour race last year by presenting it as basically social hour with a bit of running here and there.

It was windy and muggy most of the day - mid-April is just not a good time for 90% humidity. The warm temperatures were at least a happy change from this cold winter stuff. Shortly after full dark the cloudy skies opened and we went from dry trails to 4 or more inches of water standing on the trails, plus rain blowing sideways from at least three directions. After the storm passed and the skies cleared, I did my last two laps with my buddy Jim, and on the very last one we didn't bother with headlamps - the full moon was more than enough light and made for a good ending to a really long day.

What surprised me the most was how tired I got, and how quickly. The course at Hampton is FLAT, so unless you put yourself on some sort of time or distance schedule for run/walk breaks, it was hard for even a lazy runner like me to find a legit reason to slow down for a minute or two. The first two laps were good - got the typical aches and pains from not being warmed up, but those passed after a couple of miles. And then it went downhill.

Everything hurt, but I wouldn't say any of it was balanced or symmetrical. My right shin hurt, my left quad hurt. The hamstring started grumbling. Then my left calf and right quad... it was annoying, but ultimately by 10 miles in I felt like I'd already done 50. The only comfort there was that I had so recently seen this level of pain, and knew that as sore as I was, it wasn't going to get any worse. It wasn't injury pain, it was muscle pain and fatigue. Nothing to do there but keep moving and keep it easy. And keep up with the ibuprofen...

Things got better when I switched from chocolate-covered donuts to real food, and I maintained a state of steady discomfort for the rest of the day. I had a couple of really good laps right around 7pm - I like to run at that time of day anyway, it had started to cool down some and the rain had picked up (but not yet become torrential). The storm was interesting - lightning strikes visible in multiple directions, thunder  immediately following, and then the rain - hard enough that despite my hat and headlamp, I honestly had trouble finding the trail. Caught up with another runner, and our two lights got us through the worst of it.

It was a 24-hour race, we are not going into time because that is not pretty. A lot of time, though, was spent parked on my ass at our Team Awesome HQ, doing my part to make sure that the obscene amount of food we brought and our crew fetched did not go to waste. I am listing out what I ate for a couple of reasons: 1) When I do fess up to my strange hobby, the most common question is what do I eat. 2) I am either embarrassed or impressed by what I did manage to eat, and still can't decide. And I'm sure the list is missing something. Probably several somethings.

Total mileage:

52.5 miles (double marathon). No, it didn't take 24 hours, and I actually left the park shortly before 2am on Sunday after sitting around for a while (we started at 7am on Saturday).

Fueled by:
8 or more chocolate covered Sweet 16's (mini donuts)
1 Twinkie
1 chicken and cheese quesadilla
4 cheeseburgers
2 slices of white pizza (with spinach)
3 pieces of fried chicken
1 cup mashed potatoes
1 biscuit with honey
1 banana
4 mint Oreos
2-3 Ghirardelli double-chocolate brownies with peanut butter cups
salt and vinegar Pringles
Wavy Lays (way too many)
grapes (no clue how many)
48oz+ of Dr. Pepper
4-5 small bottles of Sunny D
at least one tube of Nuun tablets
3-4 gallons of water? (just guessing)
several cups of Dunkin Donuts coffee
One ice-cold Yeungling at the end of the night

Don't get into an eating contest with me. It might not be pretty.

Oh, and FOUR blisters on ONE foot. One even had the pleasant manners to pop up in the same spot as the blister I had a Umstead. Ouch.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Yeah, I'm *that* girl.

OK, so first things first. Whoever said running is an inexpensive hobby is a damned liar and should be taken out behind the building and slapped around. I guess it is if you are intelligent, but if you trip enough times (like I do) then eventually you will fall and hit the Stupid Tree (like I apparenly did). Some people go after speed, some after distance, either way, it's going to cost you. Ask my Umstead crew about all the crap I brought that weekend. Little do they know how much was left at home... 

Anyway. 'Tis the season for REI dividend checks, and the accompanying "20% Off One Item" coupon. You could tell it was the last weekend for the coupon - REI looked like Toys R Us on Black Friday tonight. I went in after a camp chair. I don't have one, and I look like a dork showing up with a lopsided rusty beach chair to some of these events (ie, Hinson Lake last year). I did the math and my coupon plus dividend check would score me a nice chair, plus a Clif bar or two for next weekend.

As I parked, I started thinking about Umstead (I know, shocker). Part of what did me in was the cold, and there wasn't enough clothes in my box o'goodies to fix that problem. It is spring now, and maybe the winter stuff would be on sale... So I headed for the clearance racks. I was muddling over some North Face (OMG I've gone granola snob) down jackets thinking about how I do at some point need to acquire a winter coat (I don't actually own one) if I plan to continue bouncing around in the woods on Horton adventures (not for the race itself but before and after). I was trying one on and a very nice sales assistant came over and asked me what I was looking for. I told her I needed to find a heavy layer to keep warm, that last weekend I was the coldest I had possibly ever been in my life and it sucked. Of course, she asked where I was, and replied, "The Umstead 100." A few more exchanges go on - she was a volunteer at the tent on the airport spur during the afternoon. I remembered her, and said so. Apparently I seemed vaguely familiar to her, so I said, "The kilt. I was the one with the kilt." Guess the fame extends past the runners.  :)

It was hysterical. She said something about totally remembering seeing me that day (I think she ticked my number on two laps, actually) and we went on talking about how chilly it got and how flat-out frigid it got overnight. It was awesome - she completely got what I was after and I am now the happy owner of a synthetic down jacket that weighs all of maybe 6 ounces, but will trap heat even if wet, and will take layers over and under. Yay!

I still got my camp chair. And my Clif bars, too. And actually, the jacket is made by REI, so I guess I failed at being a granola snob. Bummer. I've still got my eye on that heavy down coat though.

Only 5 months till registration opens...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Four days out

Is it four days? Or five? I'm going with four, I stopped moving on Sunday and today is Thursday.

It seems like it was so much longer ago... or at the least that I didn't run 84 miles last weekend (I still have a hard time fathoming that distance)

Today my weight is lower than it was before the race. The food binge has started to slow down some (finally, I was starting to run out of food and am too lazy to go to the store). I have zero pain or soreness left. My left foot still feels a little odd, but I'm no longer thinking I need a medical opinion. In fact, the main problem right now seems to be related to me kicking the sidewalk at a perfectly stupid angle last night when I went out to get the kids for dinner. I may nor may not have done something similar in the past to know what the sensation is... *cough, looking the other way*

Last night was the first night I didn't crash before 11. This morning I was up at 6:30, but that was because my 5-year-old woke me up at that time calmly and politely asking for tissue. Still half asleep, I was fumbling around for the tissue box as I asked why. In the same calm way, he told me his nose was bleeding. Yep, I'm awake now...

And right now I really just want a nap. That's the only thing that seems to linger - the fatigue. I usually get by on 5-6 hours of sleep a night. The week before the race, I took melatonin and slept 9-10 hours a night. This week, no melatonin - but 9-10 hours is not a problem.

I can't wait till next weekend - 24-hour ultra "relay." I am trying to stick to the advice I got about taking the next couple of weeks off, knowing I have that coming up. I managed to survive 84 miles without any damage, now to make it through the spring and fall the same way...  :)