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Monday, November 29, 2010

Scenic B&W - I Heart Faces Photo contest

I Heart Faces is hosting a photo contest this week.  The theme is scenic black and white.  I love this picture that I took on our hiking trip at Pere Marquette, especially the way the two hikers are framed by the trees.  You can check out other entries by clicking on the link above.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Great River Road 10 Mile Run (and virtual 10K race)

Subtitle: Running with drunks

This was my third race with my brother (the first two were the mud run and the Skippo), and it's the third race he's run hungover and beaten me.  Beaten me badly.  In this one, however, he added the new twist of beating me while wearing his dress clothes from the wedding reception that precipitated the hangover.


As you can imagine, he got his share of attention in the outfit.  The story behind it: he had a choice between moderation at the reception and getting in a good run OR getting his drink on and letting the run go as it went.  Since he chose the drinks, he figured he'd shoot himself in the foot all the way and run in his wedding clothes, too.  He did, however, opt for running shoes over the dress shoes...otherwise I might have had a chance at beating him.

So...this race was also my entry in Stefano's Virtual 10K.  The rules: wear something black, complete the run between 11/8 and 11/28, and let him know...which I will, just as soon as I finish this post. 


I had a terrible time deciding what to wear this morning because of the temperature. I ended up opting for a compression top underneath a long-sleeved...I guess it's a bike jersey (?) that Jeff picked up for $3 at Goodwill. I was leaning towards a technical T-shirt over the compression top instead (which would have been a better choice), but was swayed by the chilly temps at the start and the handy pockets in the back of the jersey (so that I didn't have to stuff my phone in my sports bra).

This is my usual ill-advised outfit for my pre-dawn morning runs.  (Yes, I know I need to get some reflective clothes.  As it is, I watch for headlights and hop onto the sidewalk when necessary)  I usually feel like I'm dressed like a ninja.  An honorary Black Knight is a nice change.  :)

It was chilly at the start, though not bad when you were in the sun.  Unfortunately, the start was all shaded.


The race route was an out and back along the Great River Road, and it's a beautiful course.  Bluffs on one side and the river on the other. 

photo.JPG photo.JPG

If you look at the bluffs in the picture on the right, you can see the painting of the Piasa Bird, a local legend.

The first two miles didn't feel great, but when I looked at my time at the 2-mile mark I was just under a 9 min/mile pace. Jim (AKA Drunk Brother) passed me around the 3 mile mark, maybe a little before, yelling "Go Team Hangover!!" I grabbed my phone to take a picture. That's him, directly in front of me, in the white shirt. The only reason he was ever behind me is that he started the race 3 minutes late because the bathroom lines were so long. Yeah, that's right...he started 3 minutes behind me and passed me before the 3 mile mark.  Hungover.  Wearing dress clothes.


The next two miles were a little bit of a drag, but right around the 4-mile mark, the front runners started coming back towards us.  I cheered for every single one of them, and focusing on them gave me a boost.  I could feel myself pick it up some. I saw Christopher from Daily Mile and was able to cheer him on.

Right before the turnaround I saw my friend Wade ("Oh, I'm guessing I'll be running about a 10 min/mile.")  Yeah, 10 min mile OR 9:30.  Whatever.  He beat me by a few minutes.  Good thing I'm not competitive or anything.  I might be upset.  :)


Usually, at least lately, my long runs start out kind of crappy (1 mile down...9 to go...) and end with me feeling stronger and better.  On this one, I'd say the middle was the best time.  Cheering on the front runners, watching for my brother, seeing a couple friends and waving...it was all pretty distracting in a good way.


It was a little tricky figuring out my 10K time since the course was only marked at mile intervals, so I checked my time at the 6 mile mark (56:04) and my 1-mile time for mile 6-7 (9:38), and best as my poor math-impaired brain can figure, it comes to 58 minutes for my 6.2 (a new PR, by about 35 seconds).  Feel free to check the math.

My distraction on the way back came in a less supportive form.  I kept passing this guy who was walking.  He was pretty distinctive because he was a pretty big guy, not heavy but big.  And he was walking.  But I kept passing him.  So eventually I noticed him run past me after I passed him.  And then I passed him walking.  When he ran by me, I said, "Leapfrog!"  "Huh?" he asked.  "We keep passing each other," I told him.  "Oh."


So the next time I passed him, I ran just a hair harder (harder, by this point in the race, a very relative term).  When he pulled up next to me, I kept even with him.  And he dropped.  That's right, buddy...you just got chicked.  :)  And, ok, maybe his run/walk strategy just happened to coincide with my run/run pace.  But I still appreciate the push he gave me.


The very last mile flat out sucked.  It seemed like it took forever.  I wanted sooo badly to walk. Luckily, my friend Gary was there near the end to cheer me on and remind me to...


It was very cool having my own cheering section.  :)  These pictures were taken before the start of the race, but seeing Gary at the end was the shot of encouragement I needed.

And, of course, seeing my brother, who was nice enough to wait around for 6 minutes or so to cheer me on, as well.  6 minutes.  Sigh. 

Go Team Hangover!!
Jim's chip time--1:28:05 (gun time, 1:31:16)

My chip time--1:34:31 (gun time 1:35:41)

Hmmm...so now that I look at that, he only had to actually wait for me for 4 minutes.  Not quite as bad. 

 I love this guy, and I miss him now that he's living in Wisconsin.  With him around, there's always a good story.  And even though he beats me every time we do a race together, I'm so glad I get to run with my brother.

Now, our marathon is exactly 6 months from Wednesday.  I need to get cracking on my training...logging miles, anyway, the plan starts 16 weeks out.  And get him trashed the night before the race.  And if all that fails, I'm bringing a baseball bat with me.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Give me an "F"

F, as in FAIL.  Failure(s)

1. an act or instance of failing or proving unsuccessful; lack of success: His effort ended in failure. The campaign was a failure. The women's best efforts at Trivial Pursuit were a complete failure.

Holidays with my family are marked by competitive, no holds barred Trivial Pursuit.  The Genus Edition, none of these newfangled versions for us.  We play boys vs. girls.  Drinks are consumed.  Bets are made.  Last year, my brother, in a beer-induced bit of hubris, announced, "There is NO WAY you will get this right.  In fact, if you do, I'll take off my pants and dance outside in the snow with that penguin [yard decoration]."

Naturally, we answered it correctly.  I answered it correctly.  Somewhere on youtube is a very poor quality video of Matt dancing in the snow wearing only a pair of boxers and a shirt, but I couldn't find it.  Still, just knowing it's there is a lovely feeling.

This year, after the required smack talk, we sat down to trivia again with high hopes.  One of the joys of playing Trivial Pursuit with  my brothers is that they will talk for 15 minutes, in the absolute wrong direction, and right at the end someone will throw out, "Well, what about Fess Parker?" and it's the right answer.  It drives me to drink.  Last night, they creamed us.  We only had about 2 pie pieces when they won.  Then, to make matters worse, they offered to dump out their pieces, let us keep ours, and play again.

And they won. Yes, we ladies were lapped in Trivial Pursuit. 

I had to sleep on my stomach last night because I was so sore from that ass kicking.  Fail.

2. nonperformance of something due, required, or expected: a failure to do what one has promised; a failure to appear.  Mrs. S. attributes J's plunging grades to his parents' failure to participate in his education.

Jacob's parent-teacher conference was this week.  I've been looking forward to meeting with his teacher and hearing how he's doing...because he's doing well and it's nice to hear that.  Plus, since his school open house was scheduled on the same night as my school's open house, I wasn't able to go, and I was looking forward to meeting his teacher in a responsible, involved parent setting.

I wasn't sure exactly what time the conference was, and for whatever reason hadn't put it into my calendar, so I called the school on Tuesday to check the time.  "Ohhhhh....your conference was last night.  At 6:50."  Ughhhhhhhh.  I am the parent I complain about.  I'm the parent who can't keep her sh*t together.  I'm the parent who doesn't care enough about her first grader's education to show up to meet with his teacher.  And I'm a teacher! FAIL.

3. a subnormal quantity or quality; an insufficiency: the failure of crops. Kate's utter collapse at the ten mile race is a direct result of her failure to train.

I haven't run for a week and a half.  Yesterday's Turkey Trot was postponed due to inclement weather.  I'm hoping that my new shoes and the general fitness from previous training carry me through.  Well, that, and sheer stubbornness.

My one goal for this long weekend, other than to eat lots of yummy food (accomplished!) is to get one (gigantic) box emptied and removed from our laundry room.  I'm about halfway done.  I set the bar for myself very low in order to not register any further failures this weekend.

7. a person or thing that proves unsuccessful: He is a failure in his career. The cake is a failure.

Kate's beginning efforts to organize her laundry room were a resounding success! (completion pending)

*Definitions from dictionary.com

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

In no particular order...

1. Tomorrow's Turkey Trot 5K was postponed until Sunday, and I'm not sure I'm going to make it now since I'm scheduled to work childcare registration at church.  This stinks, but it's probably a good thing because...

2.  Last night my 16 year old (6'3") son subbed in our ladies' basketball league.  Lucky me, I got to play against him.  He pretty well shut me down, and towards the end, I was going up strong with the ball and he stuffed me bigger than life.  I was jumping with my shot, and he slammed his hand down on the ball.  I bounced right back down, almost like he was dribbling me(!), and hurt my right (good) knee.  I'm hopeful that it'll be ok for Saturday's River Road 10 Mile race and had been toying with still running tomorrow.  Like I said, probably a good thing it was taken out of my hands.


3. I bought new running shoes last night! I broke down and used about half of what I have saved for a bike (sigh) towards them and then paid the rest with regular money. I went back and forth about getting new shoes, but the fact is that my old ones have been with me since February, have well over 400 miles on them, and are awfully torn up. And all that is fine, but I've been having a lot of foot and leg fatigue running over the past month, and I think it may be partly because the old shoes are worn out. (Hopefully it's the shoes and not me! :D)


4. I've made 4 pies today. One pumpkin (which I don't care for at all, but the pie looks better than mine typically do), two apple, and one apple cranberry. All of my apple pies have streusel topping because I have enough trouble with the bottom crust that I don't want to mess with attempting a top crust, too.

5.  It may snow tomorrow!  Only an inch of accumulation forecast, and it will (hopefully) melt off pretty quickly, but it's still exciting.

6.  I'm really excited because it looks like a friend isn't going to be able to participate in the Pere Marquette endurance trail run in December, and he offered to transfer his number to me.  Earlier in the year, I thought about registering and then wimped out.  When I looked back at the website later in the day, the race was sold out.  Of course, I immediately wanted to do it.  The race is at the same park as my last blog's hiking trip.

7. I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

8.  I'm thankful for...

...a husband who supports me even if he doesn't "get" me...
...kids who are relatively happy (hey, they're teenagers!), healthy, and involved in their own interests...
...a job I love...
...a wonderful class...
...two great aides...
...the opportunity to run and ride my bike...
...a roof over my head, enough food to eat, and a reliable vehicle...
...family that is nearby...holiday ping-pong is a blessing, not a curse
...new blog friends...
...lots of things to look forward to...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Happy Trails

Pm 1
 Jeff gave me a slight shock the other day when I asked if he wanted to go hiking today and he said yes. Normally, he's not so excited about the plan. This time, though, with little planned (and cleaning to avoid at all costs), he was all for it. So, on Saturday, after he and J got back from collecting food with the cub scouts (I slept in...ahhhh...), we headed towards Grafton and Pere Marquette State Park.

It's hunting season, so we were a little concerned about where we could hike safely, but the park ranger assured me that the hunting areas were remote and nowhere near the trails. I was happy to leave the orange clothes I'd brought just in case in the car. We also left the trail map in the car--oops--but are familiar enough with the trails that it wasn't a problem.

J was funny. He knew we were going hiking, but I guess it didn't click until we got there. He got out of the car and was a little upset bc he didn't have his running clothes. Ummm...you're 7. You probably run 6 miles a day on the playground in jeans. I think you'll be ok. And he spent the majority of the hike in the lead.


Unless he was checking out huge leaves...


Or gigantic walking sticks...

Pm3-giant hiking stick

...or swinging from a vine...


(Ok, he wasn't the only one playing Tarzan...)


...or crossing a fallen log.


It was an almost magical day. There isn't anything huge to tell. Just lots and lots of small joys.


Like the fact that we hiked for 4.5 miles and my child never complained once.

I was dying to run on the trails.

Isn't this just begging to be run on?
Half of the terrain was still smoking from a controlled burn. J said it was a little spooky and reminded him of the movie How to Train Your Dragon.


It's rare for him to be with both parents these days bc of the demands of all the boys' practice schedules as well as PSR and scouts for J, and I think He has really missed family time because he spent a lot of time holding both of our hands


Usually we take a shorter loop that goes up through some rocky areas, bit this time we took a different route. J loves climbing rocks, but he had a blast running on the trail, scratching his name in the dirt, attempting to pee his name, talking a LOT about poop, and examining all manner of rocks, nuts, and leaves.


The first trails we hiked passed through rolling, wooded hills. I was breathing a little heavier on some of them, but overall I felt really good. Like I said, I was dying to run. J even asked, "Mommy, do you want to run with me," but I didn't because I wanted it to be a family hike and Jeff was wearing down a little. He mentioned a couple of times, "I need to get in shape before we go back to the Grand Canyon." (a trip which, at this point, is still a dream until finances pick up a bit)

This picture makes me smile. I told Jeff, "Look like you're having fun!", to which he replied, "This is my fun face!"  ...echoing my line from a past trip to the Smoky Mountains.

We were hiking up to the Chimney Tops, a trail only a couple mikes long, but up, up, up. He was filming and hiking and doing just fine; I was stopping, gasping at every tree we passed. I scowled as he turned the camera on me. "C'mon, look like you're having fun, he coaxed. "This. is. my. fun. face!" I grimaced. How things change  ...though, to be fair, I'd still be panting and hurting on that chimney trail.

The woods and trails were beautiful.



Leaves everywhere.


I kept looking back at Jeff and smiling. I felt such a sense of utter happiness and well-being.


We stopped at an overlook and gazed around us.



Stopped at another overlook and rested.



Looked out over the rivers.


I was getting chilly. I had on a compression top under a long-sleeved texhnical t-shirt. Perfect as long as we were hiking but a little chilly when we were still.


So we headed down the trail.


On the hike back down we stopped at J's rocks and did some climbing.


Took more pictures.


Whereas the first part of our hike was through rolling woods, the last part parallels the river and passes alongside bluffs.


We started at almost one and hiked for about 2.5 hours, but even early in the day it felt later than it actually was. The air was a little hazy from the burn, and the sky was overcast. By the time we headed down the trail back to the parking lot, the sun had peeked out, but it was after three and starting to seem a little dusky.


Back at the parking lot...


It was a wonderful day.  The weather was beautiful, the hiking was great, J. was a trooper, and no one mistook us for deer.  Close to a perfect afternoon!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Finally Friday

I actually managed to get myself out of bed at 4:45 a.m. on Wednesday to run my scheduled training (a 7 mile speedwork workout, which I like to do) and was rewarded with a progressively more painful knee throughout the last half of my first mile.  I was going to push on for another mile since often the pain goes away...or at least  a new part hurts instead.  It hurt enough at the end of the mile that I cut my run short and headed back to bed.  I'm sure my husband loved having me climb back into bed with legs that were icy from the 34 degree morning! Of course, I snuggled right up to him to warm up.  I think I may have heard his teeth chattering as I drifted back to sleep...

I was afraid that I was just wimping out, but my knee has been bothering me ever since Wednesday, so stopping the run was a good choice.  It's weird.  It's not my knee so much...but when I lift and bend my knee (like going up stairs), I get a pain that shoots down from my knee along my tibia (?).  It's been feeling better today, so I'm on the fence about a run tomorrow.  On one hand, I'd like to get a decent run in before Thursday's 5K and Saturday's 10 mile race.  On the other hand, I'd like to be able to run the two races and not reinjure myself first.

As grateful as I was to have an excuse to sleep in on Thursday (instead of running again), I miss being able to run.  And I think not running shows up in my mood.  I've been feeling really overwhelmed the past few days, not by anything huge, but by a lot of little things.  If I could have gotten away with it, I'd have come home and climbed into bed every night after work.  Since these people in my house actually expect to be fed, instead I relied on a bottle of $5.00 Riesling.  As I mentioned on facbook, cheap wine beats no wine, but not by much. 

Thursday, I opted to skip J's cub scout pack meeting. He was very excited to receive the fabulous marshmallow crossbow (pictured at left) that he earned for selling over $600 in popcorn.  As an aside, despite being very happy for my little boy for setting and meeting a goal and winning the prize he wanted, after being pelted repeatedly by stale marshmallows by the 7 and 16 year olds, I'm totally over the marshmallow crossbow.  Just saying.

Why did I skip the meeting?  Well, in addition to the reality that pack meetings are akin to the Dante's 7th ring of hell, I had a turkey to roast.

Ahhhh, turkey!  Why exactly was I roasting a turkey a full week before Thanksgiving?  Because every year my class has its own Thanksgiving dinner.  We make the pies the day before, I make the turkey the night before, and we prepare all of the food in our classroom.  It's amazing how much food you can cook using only crock pots and a 2-burner hot plate!

Each family sends in a small part of the feast (2 boxes of Capri Sun, or 3 cans of corn, etc.).  While I may sometimes have trouble getting homework back, every single family contributed to our feast.  Not only that, but they got their "assignment" the day before I needed it.  I was very impressed!  We celebrate Thanksgiving as a class because they celebrate the "big" (aka classroom party) holidays with their regular classes.  That's important, but I want them to have a sense of community in our class as well. 

The feast can be a hassle, but it's well worth the trouble...and today, it really wasn't even a hassle.  I've done this now for 7 years, so my aides and I are something of a well-oiled machine.  We did some projects in class: creating a disguise for paper turkeys so they wouldn't be eaten and coloring feathers for headdresses.  We read some Thanksgiving stories: A Plump and Perky Turkey and "How the Turkey Got Its Tail Feathers".  I made felt pieces to go with the latter story, and the kids loved it.  We played "Pin the Wattle on the Turkey".  And we cooked.  Well "cooked"...our Thanksgiving dinner comes out of boxes and cans.  I'd love to make real mashed potatoes with them instead of from a box and cook my mom's stuffing recipe instead of using Stove Top, but I haven't gotten that ambitious yet.  Maybe next year.  Our principal and asst. principal came to eat with us and then spent about 15 minutes just hanging out with the kids and talking. 

It was a great day.  Rather than being busy moving from one task to another and trying to fit everything in, we just took the day at our own pace.  We hung out together, cooked, made art, and listened to music.  Instead of being at their desks, the kids spread out across the floor.  One moment that I loved came when the "ABC song" started playing.  All together and on their own, the kids started singing along.  It was like our own little concert.  I really love this group of kids.  I'm going to miss them terribly when they move on to second grade.


The sunset on my ride home was beautiful.  This picture doesn't do it justice, but at least you get an idea of what it looked like. 

We had a quick dinner (Thanksgiving leftovers, before Thanksgiving...how lucky am I?), I got a short nap--much needed...I was afraid to close my eyes at stoplights on the way home because I thought I might fall asleep, and then we headed off to N's basketball scrimmage.  His JV team got creamed by the varsity...hopefully that's a sign of how good our varsity is and not how bad our JV is!

N is in black, I guess you'd call him top left in the picture.  I think he made one basket and got a few rebounds.  J, as you can see, was enthralled...just not with his brother's game!

I'm really excited to sleep in tomorrow...and I'm really looking forward to going for a hike!  It's supposed to be a nice day, decent temperatures and sunny.  Hopefully we'll have a good time (no guarantees of that with J...sometimes he has a blast, sometimes...not so much) and get some good pictures!  Enjoy your weekend, whatever you do!