TAT CN Header

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Getting the bad luck out of the way early

In retrospect, perhaps planning to run a marathon that was an 8-hour drive away wasn't the best idea.  While I love Wisconsin and am happy to get to do my first marathon with my brother, I'll spend nearly four times as long driving as running.  And somehow it all seemed so much smoother in my head.

Instead of the family trip up to visit and cheer for me, I ended up traveling here alone...with maybe a few hard feelings about the lack of support.  And I do get my husband's point of view.  It's a long drive, a long time to stand around, and I probably won't want to do a whole lot besides the race this weekend.  Not really a fun-filled mini-vacation.  I can't really blame him for not wanting to sign on for the chauffeur/cheerleader gig.

It's hard for him to win with me.  On one hand, I'm pretty independent and certainly don't like being told what (or what not) to do.   At nearly six feet tall and strong-willed, I don't awaken a lot of protective instincts, but there are times that I want to be taken care of and looked out for. 

Despite my dread of the hours in the car, though, the first five hours went very well.  I think marathon training has helped my driving...so much of it is mental, and I'm now well accustomed to running for a few hours with just music and my thoughts to keep me company.  Time crusied by, though I still would much rather spend 8 hours on a bike than in my car.  I made it 5 hours and had just told Jeff how well the drive was going when I changed lanes passing someone and hit something hard in the road.

Ugh.  Not 30 seconds later was the feel/sound I had dreaded...flat tire.  I had to cross back across the interstate to pull off on the shoulder and got out to see that my driver's side front tire was flat as can be.

OK, so, while I'm all I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never never never never let you forget you're a man, I've never changed a tire.  I don't know how to change a tire.  Honestly, I don't really want to know how to change a tire.  I have mentally filed that under "things God invented men to take care of".  Unfortunately, there was no man in my car (see, Jeff!! I told you you should come with me!), so I buckled down and changed that tire like a Daytona 500 pit crew.

In my mind.

I'd like to say that I handled the problem with my typical grace under pressure, but it was more like grapes under pressure: wet, messy, and lots of w(h)ine.

There I sat, in the dark, on the side of the interstate in Wisconsin, cars speeding past me as I called Jeff crying.  "I have a flat tire!" 

"Oh, hon, it's ok...I can talk you through it."

I really didn't want him to talk me through it.  I wanted him there, changing my tire.  I wanted to not be standing there alone in the dark facing headlights.  I was mad at my husband.  See? I knew something was going to happen, and now here I am, all by myself!  To his credit, Jeff was absolutely patient and calm with his sobbing, angry, tire-changing-impaired wife.  How patient?  Well, he put up with me saying things like (as I had to hang up the phone so I could crank up the jack) If you hear of someone being killed on the shoulder between Janesville and Madison, it was probably me.  Grapes under pressure.  Sour grapes. B****y grapes.

And I'll be honest.  It was scary standing out there in the dark with those cars flying past me and hardly knowing what I was doing.  Thank goodness for cell phones, otherwise I'd have been trying to read the instructions in my owner's manual by the light of the passing headlights.  Behind me on the interstate, I could see another car which must have hit the same thing.  A police car pulled up behind it.  Eventually they finished up and he came and helped me.  At that point, I had the jack most of the way up.  If he hadn't shown up, who knows how long I'd have been out there.

The fun didn't stop once I was back on the road.  I still had about 3 hours left to drive, and now my speed was limited by the donut spare I had.  I was inspiring a large degree of road rage among the drivers who didn't appreciate my slow pace (hopefully not foreshadowing for the marathon tomorrow!).  Once I start crying (flat tire), I have a hard time stopping, especially when I'm being tailgated and honked at and shrinking down in my seat. 

I pulled off at the next city to get some gas and dinner.  Barely keeping it together, I ordered a sandwich at Subway.  Looking at my puffy eyes and tearstained face, the guy behind the counter asked, "And how are you tonight?"

"Fine."  Please don't talk to me anymore.  Please just let me get out of here without crying.

Sniff.  Sniff. Wipe eyes with back of hand.  Sniff.

"Sooooo....how's your night going?"

(Waterworks.)  "Fine, until I got a...flat tire (sniff) on the interstate (sob)...and I've never changed a flat tire before. (sniff) and it was dark."

"Well...you got it taken care of.  And it could be worse...you could've been changing your tire in 3 feet of snow."

(Sniffle)  "That's true."  (sniff sniff)

And when he finished making my sandwich, he handed it to me and said, "Have a nice night."  I tried to give him my money and he said again, "Have a nice night."

So.  I had to buy two new tires, but I did get my supper for free.  And once I calmed down, it was kind of empowering to realize that I could change a tire if I needed to.  I am woman, hear me roar.  Or meow.  Whatever.

And I'm looking forward to smoooooth sailing tomorrow.  Thank you so much to all of you who've commented, reassured me, wished me luck, and just generally been the best kind of support and inspiration a girl could ask for.  I'm excited for tomorrow and can't wait to tell you all about it!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I'm just going to keep this to myself

Because I'm often accused of oversharing I like to project an air of positive self-confidence without taking myself too seriously, I'm just going to keep my worries about Sunday's marathon to myself.

  • I'm not going to tell you that I'm wavering between serious self-doubt and periods of occasional terror about this marathon and just report the part about getting excited about the challenge.

  • I won't confess that I'm dreading driving 7 hours to Wisconsin alone.  I'll just claim to I'll enjoy the opportunity to listen to whatever I want, stop whenever I wish, and eat wherever I choose. 
  •  I won't admit that my feelings are really hurt that my husband isn't going to come along for the trip and cheer me on.  Instead, I'll grudgingly accept that I'm not the center of the universe and be thankful that my he puts up with my being gone for long runs and bike rides, doesn't complain (too much) about the cost of entry fees, and takes care of the kids while I'm away.  And I'll be grateful for all of the support I've gotten from my online and real-life friends, both the ones who run and the ones who would only run if being chased by someone with a knife.

  • I won't mention that I'm nervous about the fact that my longest run to date was 21 miles.  Instead, I want you to know that the longest run assigned by my training plan was 20 miles, so this self-professed slacker  actually went an the extra mile...literally.
  • I'm not going to complain about losing a couple of weeks of training to a foot injury; instead, I'll profess to be happy that I'm able to run...however slowly that might be.
  • I certainly won't acknowledge that I'm a little sad that my long run pace has dropped considerably, leading me to do a lot of math on my long runs.  If I run 10-minute miles it'll take me...if I run 11 minute miles it'll take me...if I run 12 minute miles it'll take me...if I run 13 minute miles...please don't let me run 13 minute miles. My story is that I just want to finish; any time goals can wait til next time.

I'm not going to tell you there won't be a next time.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Running on Empty Review and Giveaway

Running on Empty: An Ultramarathoner's Story of Love, Loss, and a Record-Setting Run Across AmericaSince I write both a running blog and a book blog, what better way to bring the two together than with a review of Marshall Ulrich's Running on EmptyI was excited to be contacted by Lisa from TLC Book Tours about hosting and giving away a copy of the book.

If you don't already know, Marshall Ulrich is an accomplished ultrarunner.  In addition to winning the Badwater Ultramarathon several times, he upped the ante for himself: "Running the Pikes Peak Marathon four times in a row. Doing the Leadville Trail 100 and Pikes Peak Marathon in the same weekend...Completing the Badwater solo [unaided]".  In addition to the many ultras he's completed, Ulrich is an accomplished mountaineer and adventure racer.  And as if all this wasn't enough, Ulrich decided to run across the country from San Francisco to New York.  Oh, yeah...and he was 57 at the time.

Unlike some athletes who are practically born running, Ulrich came to the sport late, using it to treat his stress-induced high blood pressure, to cope with his first wife's battle with cancer, and as an outlet to his pain after her death.  Much of his early competition was done in addition to his full-time job.  While this is inspiring to those of us who also must squeeze our athletic dreams in between work and family, Ulrich reveals the toll it took on his subsequent marriages and on his relationship with his children.

It was with the reluctant support of his wife Heather that Ulrich set out on the cross-country journey, and her presence was invaluable to him.  Most anyone would imagine that such a feat would require incredible physical effort, but this "record-setting run" was demanding in other ways, too.  The emotional rigors involved in putting oneself though repeated 60+ mile days, financial concerns of sponsors, and the interpersonal dynamics between crew members are all recounted in Running on Empty.

The cross-country trip wasn't just Ulrich's ultramarathon; it was very demanding of the support staff as well, and probably most of all of Heather Ulrich, who had to bite her lip and watch her husband suffer day in and day out.  And suffer he did.  Putting that many miles on his feet and legs led to repeated medical issues, most of which he simply powered through.  (Granted, he had a doctor on staff and got the kind of attention most of us would never imagine). Marshall Ulrich takes our excuses and throws them to the side.  Too old?  Not a chance.  Too busy?  Make time.  Too sore?  No way.

Definitely an interesting book.  TLC has offered me the chance to give a copy away, so if you'd like to read it, here's what you do:

1) Become a follower of this blog - leave a comment and tell me (1 entry)
2) What's the hardest thing you've ever done? (1 entry)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter weekend

My boys spent all of last week off for Spring Break, and I finally got to join in the fun on Thursday. 

Yea! Spring Break! Fun outside! Whoo hoo!

Ummmm, no.  I'd been looking forward to spending some time outside, hopefully on my mountain bike, but the amount of rain we've had lately ended those hopes.  Instead, I spent most of Thursday sorting through a huge basket filled with old insurance EOBs, kids' school papers, bank statements, and assorted stuff that you must save looking for the receipt for my brakes.  No luck, though I did get 3 years' worth of paper filed away.  I also took J swimming, which ended early after a kid vomited in the pool.  Mmmmm.  Spring break was off to a rolicking start.

Friday morning, we were greeted with this:

Hail.  Awesome.  Did I mention our garage door is broken?
The sky did clear up long enough for me to take J for a walk around the block, go to the playground, and have "how to stop your bike without jumping off" class.  He hasn't yet graduated, so we'll be practicing more before hitting the bike trails together.  He needs to get better, or I need to get faster, because I have a hard time running fast enough to keep up with him and make sure he doesn't end up blowing through a stop sign.

Unfortunately, that friendly weather was only temporary.  Friday night found us in the basement with tornado sirens going off.  Thankfully, the area where I live was spared, but cities and towns around us sustained some major damage.  Lambert Airport in St. Louis was closed for a day while they cleaned up all of the damage there.  Check out the picture I took of the Fox2 news broadcast.  That shuttle bus is not supposed to be there.  They also showed a picture of softball-sized hail.  Thank goodness that missed us!

Note some of my birthday balloons still rolling around

Saturday and Sunday we enjoyed Easter celebrations with first my family and then Jeff's.  Before church on Sunday, I managed to get in 6 of my 8 scheduled miles...and that's my last "long" run before the marathon this coming Sunday.  Now in addition to watching the local weather, I've begun obsessing over the weather forecast for LaCrosse, Wisconsin.  Right now it looks like high of 51 and rainy.  If you have advice on how to dress for that, please share it with me.

Now, my family is suitably slacker-ish about holiday celebrations.  We're there for the food, the company, and maybe the trivia.  Jeff's family, on the other hand, goes all out.  (Exhibits 1 and 2: our Halloween party and family costumes). This is fun, if you are the target of such holiday festivities; for example, my birthday balloons, or if you aren't the person sewing costumes or hiding eggs.  Ah, hiding eggs....I really couldn't say express my feelings about Easter egg hunts better than Cheeseboy's recent post  Easter Egg Hunts: Pure Evil.

Back yard picture to break up the text
Being solidly in the egg-hunt-scrooge minority, however, I was conscripted into hiding eggs in my mother-in-law's soggy (because, remember, we've had about two straight weeks of rain) back yard.  No one went for my plan, which involved dumping a pile of eggs on the living room floor and letting the kids count out their allotted number...innovation is apparently frowned upon.  And not only did I have a Bad Attitude about the whole thing, but I was also not dressed for the task.  High heels and wet ground don't mix well.

Now you see 'em.....................now you don't.

Because my heels kept sinking into the ground, I spend egg hiding purgatory walking around like a drunken sailor, inwardly threatening If I sprain my ankle doing this and can't run the marathon.... If you're thinking to yourself that I could've just taken off the shoes, a) you're right and b) please don't interrupt my complaining with your common sense solutions again.

Lots of eggs go into the plants...not sure how many come out...
The first thing to understand about my MIL's egg hunt is that we used to have about 12 kids hunting eggs.  Some of the kids have aged out, but somehow we have even more eggs to hide.  Each of the 5 kids hunting yesterday could collect up to 50 eggs.  Do the math: we had to hide 250 eggs in a yard that isn't all that big.  My strategy was to hide them all in painfully obvious places.

Perhaps not this obvious
The second thing to understand about the egg hunt is that each egg must be accounted for.  This means that we repeatedly count our child's eggs to make sure that they don't have too many and add all the totals up.  If they don't total 250, we have to keep looking.  And this is how the Easter egg hunt can stretch on longer than the duration of Lent.  The kids have all given up and are happily counting their money while the adults are still outside searching for the last few eggs. 

I love this picture.  She has a beautiful flower garden.

Well, not this girl.  Not this year.  After making sure that I got all the kids to pose for  great shots of each kid Easter egg hunting, I watched for a while and then quietly made my way back to the enclosed back porch where a nap was waiting for me.  A nap which lasted all of the way through Warner Brothers Trivial Pursuit, at which I stink.  A nap which lasted almost until it was time to go home.  And on the way home, I posted my book review for Little Bee on my book blog (next up: The Lacuna). All in all, a pretty nice weekend.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Wake up call(s)

First off, I am officially registered for the LaCrosse Marathon.  Yes, it's in a week and a half and I just registered today.  What can I say? Procrastinators of the world, unite (tomorrow).

Second, I recently reviewed This is Where I Leave You on my book blog.  Check it out.  I actually reviewed a book I liked a lot instead of one that I have complaints about! I also just read Little Bee by Chris Cleave, so look for another review soon. 

Third, two articles in the news lately have me thinking. 

Exhibit 1:

BELLEVILLE, ILLINOIS (KTVI-FOX2Now.com)— Belleville Police are investigating a report of an attempted criminal sexual assault that occurred on Sunday March 13. Police say the man attacked the woman on the bike path at Green Mount Road.

The victim reported that while jogging on the bike path she was approached by a male in his early 20's, 5'10", 180 pounds wearing dark pants and dark coat. The victim says the suspect pulled her pants down and attempted to knock her to the ground.

She struggled with the attacker and got away. Bicyclists who were in the area heard the victim's screams and came to her aid. The suspect got away. Officers searched the area with negative results
Source: Fox News
That occurred just a few miles from the school where I teach and got me an email from a friend warning, "Carry mace."
Exhibit 2:
A female jogger was followed then sexually assaulted as she ran along State Street in Alton Thursday afternoon. Police arrested Latayuss Curry of the 1400 block of State Street after he allegedly approached the woman as she was running near the intersection with McKinley, then continued to pursue her until he eventually restrained her and assaulted her until she was able to call for help.
Source: Riverbender.com

Remember my 21-mile run?  How my husband didn't like me running alone in that area and I told him it would be fine? How I took a wrong turn and ran through a bad neighborhood?  Well, this assault took place on my intended route through a nice neighborhood. 
I refuse to live in fear and not do things because of what may or may not happen.  If I only ran or biked when someone could go with me, I'd rarely get out of the house...and you could be attacked in your own house.  On the other hand, I don't want to live in fear because of something that does happen to me. There has to be a balance.  For now, the result is that my dog is getting a lot more exercise.
Girls, what do YOU do to stay safe?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Great* Week! (*of running)

After my little Achilles-induced running hiatus and subsequent failed 20-mile attempt last week, I spent a couple days kicking myself.  Then I took the advice of my wise running friends and decided to put it behind me and get back on that horse.

Tuesday:  Scheduled: 2 miles @11:09
Actual: 2 miles @9:47

My foot was still hurting.  In fact, I posted on Facebook, "Isn't it ironic that my Achilles heel for the marathon will, indeed, be my Achilles tendon?"  I've continued to ice it and wear an ankle brace that keeps it flexed at night, though, and that seems to have done the trick.  Keep your fingers crossed!

Thursday: Scheduled: 8 miles speedwork; warm, 4x1600 @9:01 with 800 jogs, cool
Actual: 5.5 miles speedwork; warm (10:53), 3x1600 (8:52, 8:58, 8:58), .5 cool

Thank goodness for Newton's laws of motion.  At least the part that says "a body in motion tends to remain in motion".  I'd set my alarm for 4:30 a.m. (ugh) so I could get in the run before work.  When it went off, though, I quickly decided THAT wasn't going to happen.  Fortunately, I had to go to the bathroom, and I took my phone with me (don't pretend you've never done that!) and checked Facebook while I was up, and then sat there thinking that, since I was up, I reallly ought to just go run.  If it wasn't for the fact that my body is used to getting up and running, I'd have been right back in bed.  Instead, I got in the majority of my run, and it felt really good.  I have no question that I'd have hit my goal for the last mile, too...I just ran out of time thanks to all my stalling.

Sunday: Scheduled: 12 miles @11:09
Actual: 12.2 miles @11:25

So I didn't meet the target for this run, but I was really just focused on putting in the miles.  After last week's long run fail, I set the bar a little lower: completion! I planned to take it easy and slow down as much as I needed to. I hadn't gotten up in time to eat before church, so I went out on the run armed with some real quality nutrition: a QT taquito and a piece of cold pizza.  I filled my water bottle with Powerade and took a couple of GUs with me.  I also took my dog, who loves to run...
...but is camera shy.
Mile 1-11:21 
Mile 2-10:19
Mile 3-11:52
Mile 4.5-11:50 (including a big hill)

Lots of green, no shade
Since I haven't done any long runs with my dog since last fall, I didn't think to bring him any water.  It was in the high seventies today, and the heat was taking its toll on him.  He did have a drink from a ditch, but he was really dragging (and if he was dragging behind ME, he was really dragging!).  Luckily, my brother and sister-in-law live at mile 4.5, so I dropped him off for a playdate with their dog while I ran the next three miles out and back.

Mile 4.5-6  11:36 mpm (slight uphill)
Mile 6-7.5  11:07 mpm  (slight downhill)

This section of the bike path is a crushed limestone (?) and really nice to run on.
I stopped back to pick up my dog and visit with my sister-in-law and my sweet niece.  Always cheers me up to see this face!

I <3 this little girl!
Mile 7.5-9 10:34 mpm
Mile 10 12:13 stopped so dog could get a drink.  Instead he just ran in the creek for a while
Mile 11 11:36
Mile 12 11:20 (dog stopped twice--TWICE--to pee!)

I was definitely beat when I got back, but I felt good.  My pace wasn't super consistent, but I finished close to as strong as I started.  I needed a good run, and I got one.  Best of all, my foot didn't hurt at all during the run! I'm starting to get excited about the marathon.  I think I've decided on what to wear...

Possibly some tall socks, we'll see
That is, what to wear if it doesn't snow marathon weekend like it did THIS weekend!  On the other hand, I'd far prefer cold to the 80 degree temperatures the Go! St. Louis marathon participants had to deal with last weekend.

Ok, running question: I was covered in salt after the run.  Should I be taking something in addition to Gatorade/powerade and GU?  I read about people taking electrolyte tablets, salt pills, etc.  Is this something I should be using?

This concludes the running portion of this post.  Stay tuned if you're interested in hearing why it was ONLY a great week of running rather than an all-around great week.

Still here?

We now proceed with the complaint portion of this post.  You were warned.

I just finished up with one of the most stressful weeks of work I've had in a few years.  I love my job, but it definitely has its challenges, and anyone who thinks teachers are overpaid should have spent the past week in my classroom.  I guarantee you that I earned every penny and then some! It is a wonderful privilege to be able to teach first graders and even more so to be able to teach students who have difficulty learning in a typical setting.  It can also be incredibly challenging, particularly when a student's behavior disrupts the entire classroom.  And to make it clear, it's not the disruptive behavior that's so upsetting, it's struggling to find what works to improve it.  And struggle we have! I've cried more in the past week at school than since my first two years of teaching.  Friday was better, though, and this week is only a three-day week.  I can do anything for three days, right? :)

In addition to the fun at work, it was a very full week.  Here's a snapshot of our schedule:

Tuesday: N. volleyball match (away)
Wednesday: N volleyball match (away); J PSR class
Thursday: N volleyball match (away), J cub scouts, D concert

I made it to two volleyball matches and the concert.  This week brings another 3-match week.  At least one of these is a home match, though.

Friday was my niece's 8th grade musical.  Apparently, they performed Godspell, but what I saw was this:

Slouch a little, would ya?
Rather than enjoy the musical, I spent the entire time resentfully staring at the back of the biggest head I've ever seen and stabbing it with imaginary voodoo pins.  If he woke up bald the next day, I'm sure it had nothing to do with me.  I also may or may not have had a bit of an attitude problem that evening, leaving my husband ignoring me while I shared my woes with twitter:

You'll have to read it from bottom to top because I don't know how to flip it around.

See, Chris K? Maybe I'm not the one to write that relationship book after all.

Saturday's bike ride was cancelled due to rain, leaving me free to go to a swimming party with J.  That was fun.  Then it was time to take N to meet his prom date.

He has his own sense of style!
Yes, I know his vest doesn't match her dress.  That's why you don't use a cell-phone picture as a fabric swatch.
And Saturday night was even more fun, a rare grown-up night out.  Jeff and I joined some friends for my school's Trivia Night, where we were solidly beaten.  I did a pretty good job answering questions, though, and the food was great, so it was all good. :)  And then, after an hour and a half of sleep, I was back up to go pick up N.  As I said on Facebook, This hurts me more than it hurts you is never more true than when you're up at 1:30 a.m. in the morning to go pick up your child because his grades aren't good enough to warrant a good student insurance discount (our requirement before our kids can get their license).

Monday, April 11, 2011

A week in the life

It's been a pretty random week or so.  Not much training to speak of since my foot's been bothering me.  I did go to the doctor last Monday, and she said my problem was likely Achilles tendinitis.  Prescription: rest, ice, stretch.  I've been pretty much doing that, and it's definitely improving.  She also said that I can run my marathon on the first and that, while I may aggravate the injury, I'm not going to make it significantly worse by running on it.  Yea!  It would have really disappointed me to have to skip the marathon after I've been training for it for so long.  On the other hand, any thoughts I had of potential goal times are pretty much gone.  I'm going to have to be satisfied with finishing....this time.

You want to know a secret?  Just this past week in an email I typed these words: "my next marathon..."  Shhhh...don't tell my husband.  I'm pretty sure that he thinks I'm going to get this out of my system and then no more of these crazy four hour runs.  I'll break it to him gently.  I'm sure I'll have to sweeten the news a little, but I think he'll be happy with the trade-off.  What the heck, I'm already losing sleep with these early morning runs...what's a little less, right?

Since I haven't been running much, what have I been doing?

Ummm...eating birthday cake.  On Monday we celebrated my annual 29th birthday.  Well, actually, we celebrated with the family on Sunday.  My gifts: a bike rack for my car, running/biking books, two running shirts and the shorts I'll be wearing in my marathon, and money for my road bike.  Do these people know me or what? :D  Since we had the party on Sunday, I wasn't expecting anything for Monday.  In fact, I went to a tri-club meeting and then had to do some shopping for school on the way back.  When I got home, the lights suddenly went out.  Huh?

I came in to this:

If J wasn't wearing camouflage, you could see him in this picture. :)

While I was gone, Jeff, N, and J had filled the living room with balloons.  Every one of the balloons had a message written on it.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Every one of my birthday balloons filling the living room had a msg on itEvery one of my birthday balloons filling the living room had a msg on it. This is one of my favorites.  :)Every one of my birthday balloons filling the living room had a msg on it. This is one of my favorites. Every one of my birthday balloons filling the living room had a msg on it photo.JPG

This was an amazing gift!  First, just that they took the time to blow up all those crazy balloons, but also because J is not an effusive kid.  To see such sweet messages was really touching...and I LOVE the first grade spelling.  I'm "pefect".  Clearly. And loved totalee.

The rest of the week was pretty abysmal due to some issues I've been having with one of my students.  I'm darn good at my job, and I'm struggling right now with helping her to succeed with behavior.  Not a good feeling.  Luckily, my sweet sister-in-law took me out on Wednesday evening to celebrate my birthday.  Pitchers of margaritas and lots of girl talk were involved.  And then, as we were ready to leave, the waiters all came by singing Happy Birthday.  Totally (totalee) took me by surprise.  Best part: instead of cake, they had a flaming shot for me.  And a hat.

Best. birthday cake. ever.

Quite a look for me...
So my SIL drove me home and my kids ended up going to pick up my car, which I thought was a great way to remind them about the importance of calling for a ride when one has been drinking.  Aren't I a great parent, modeling correct behavior like that? :)

On Friday, I returned to the scene of the crime, where one year ago today I had my first taste of mountain bike trails .  Not coincidentally, one year ago this coming Friday I had hand surgery to pin my dislocated thumb back into place.  Since I've got a little more mountain biking experience now, and since it was a beautiful day, I wanted to get out on the trails. 


Here's how the GORC website describes the trails: This trail system is made up of nearly 8 miles of tight, twisty, all-dirt singletrack in 4 separate trails, with a 5th trail in the works. Modest elevation gain, thick forest, and smooth hardpack make for rides which will satisfy every rider from beginner to advanced. The trails were designed in such a way that they would be a place not only for beginners to try out mountain biking, but also to allow more advanced riders an opportunity to test their bike handling skills by riding the narrow trails at a more rapid pace

There aren't any real technical areas, some dips and climbs, some roots, and some logs.  It was a good place for me to practice riding switchbacks without a death grip on the brakes (though still using them plenty), picking a line, hopping downed (small) trees, and keeping my gaze ahead of me rather than right in front of me.  It would've been nicer to have company out there, but I had a blast riding on my own.  And I only thought I was going to flip over my handlebars twice--once when I braked too hard going downhill, and once going over a bigger tree.  Definitely still need practice with that.
I could've stayed out there all afternoon, except that I couldn't.  We had to get supper eaten and head to the high school to watch my oldest in his last musical at the school.  Our high school has a phenomenal performing arts program.  These kids are amazingly talented.  The spring musical was Hairspray.
Enjoying the best seats we've ever had
We have the movie version that John Travolta is in, but I decided not to watch it until after I'd seen the high school presentation.  That way, I could see it with fresh eyes.  Unfortunately, I was also seeing it with my 7 year old son and was completely unprepared for some of the content.  And thus it was that when the stage-mother producer lady sings, "...I screwed all the judges...", my child, who had spent his time up to that point whispering, "What did he say?  What did she say?" heard that line loud and clear.

"What does 'screwed' mean, Mommy?"

Total parenting fail: caught off guard and (frankly) trying to watch the play and keep him quiet, I answered, "It's a way to make friends."  Then, realizing that my first grade son was going to come home some day telling us that he screwed the new kid in class, I added, "But not a very nice way!" 
Ohhhh, dear.  Sigh.

And finally I resumed my marathon training on Saturday, despite Chris K's assurances that I could BQ possibly finish the marathon without running for the next couple weeks.  My thinking was the doctor said I'm not going to make it much worse if I run...I just want to do one more long run... Unfortunately, I totally set myself up to fail.

I had plans to have lunch with my mom around 1:30.  I got up at 7:30 to go run, and it was pouring outside.  Now, I know that I won't melt, but I didn't want to run 20 miles in the rain.  Back to sleep.  Got up between 8-8:30, and the sun was out.  Rather than get moving right away, I helped J clean in his room, got him breakfast, got me breakfast, just generally poked around.  When I finally decided to get my butt in gear, I still had to track down all my running clothes.  By the time I got to the trailhead, it was almost 10.  I called my mom and said it would be closer to 3 before I'd be ready.


I parked along a 10-mile loop, thinking that I could stop by my car after the first loop and get more water.  Two weeks after we had snow on the ground, the temperature climbed above 80 on Saturday.  It was probably mid-70's while I was running.  Beautiful, beautiful weather...unless you've been training in cold weather and are completely unprepared for the heat. 

The first part of the run went OK.  I've gotten spoiled with all the trails I've been running and company I've been having on runs, and my iPod just wasn't cutting it.  Still, I was happy to be out and running again.  Even so, I thought early on that if I was taking too long I could just cut the run short so I could meet my mom on time.  Or instead of running the second loop I could run so far down the trail and then turn around.  Or maybe I'd just run the other half on Sunday. 


Can you see where this is going?  The run got more difficult for me...mentally, not so much physically.  I mean, I was tired, no question.  But I kept stopping to walk.  It was like when I first started running and I'd tell myself, "You can do it, you can do it," and then just...stop.  By the time I got back to my car, I felt thoroughly defeated.  I'd been mentally composing my blog post about my failed run for about 4 miles.  Talk about your self-fulfilling prophecies!

I sat in my car, had a drink, and called my mom to tell her that I'd be on time after all.  I sat in my car and sent a quick whiny blog post.  I started driving home and realized what a big baby I was being.  I totally had time to finish that second ten miles.  But I'd already changed plans with my mom twice, and I don't get to see her nearly enough. So...I left the run in the bag and headed home.  I'm still annoyed with myself, but I'm letting it go.  Let that be a lesson to me about talking myself out of something I know I can do.  I need to start making one of Amanda's collages.  Or at least ban the RISC (Running is Stupid Club) from my solo runs.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

It's my race-iversary

**First off, thanks to those of you who commented and reassured me about yesterday's lousy run.  My mental game was way off, and while the 10-mile loop route I ran was convenient for switching water bottles, it was bad for talking myself out of going for the second half.  After I posted my little whine and called my mom to tell her I'd be on time after all for lunch, I sat there and realized what a baby I was being.  Having already changed plans with my mom about three times because of the run, though, I just went on home.  It was definitely the capper for what was a week with some disappointments and frustrations.  BUT, it's a new week.  So thanks again for reminding me that one bad run isn't the end of the world, and now I'll return to my regular scheduled Super-ness.***

Exactly one year ago today, I ran my first race since competing in grade school field day.  I signed up for the Go! St. Louis 5K after my sister-in-law suggested it and faithfully trained using the Couch to 5K plan.  I was a total non-runner.  Those first 1-minute run intervals hurt, and then the 5 minute intervals hurt.  The 8 minute intervals were scary, and the first 20-minute run seemed downright impossible.  But the plan said I could do it, so I did.

I posted obsessively about my training on Facebook (something that will come as no surprise to those of you who are my Facebook friends...sorry for clogging up your wall with my overuse).  I was so excited and nervous.  I can remember driving there with my sister-in-law and being disappointed that neither of our husbands were there to take pictures of such a momentous event for us. 

Finish line!
Pre-race shot of the finish line
We picked up our packets, pinned on our first bibs, attached our timing loops to our shoes, and lined up in about the middle of the pack.  It was all so new and nerve-wracking.  We had to walk for a bit to get to the starting line, and even though I'm not at all fast, I had to weave around a TON of people before could really get moving.  The race was held in St. Louis's beautiful Forest Park, and while it didn't have big hills, it had some hills.  Of course, I'd only trained on flat routes.  I had also trained using the Nike+ system, but I'd never calibrated the foot pod, so I got another unwelcome suprise when my iPod told me that I had run 5K...before I'd reached the 3-mile point.  Turns out I was even less fast than I'd thought I was. 

I pushed hard to cross the finish line before thirty minutes, and I did it: 29:13.  I watched for my sister-in-law and cheered her in.  We grabbed a couple of food items, snapped some pictures, and headed for home.


Sadly, I don't look much different now.

We did it!
So proud of ourselves! :)
 And even though I never expected or really wanted to be a runner, here's what I've done since then:

Run: (4) additional 5Ks (PR 28 min)
(2) 10Ks (PR 58:37)
(1) 7.8 mile trail race (2:21)
(1) 15K trail race (1:43)
(1) 10 mile race
(1) 20K trail race (2:20)
(2) half marathons (PR 1:58:37)
...and  my first marathon is on May 1.

(202) blog posts (most, but not all about running)

(75) new blog followers and countless new blog friends

It's been a busy year.  While I'm a little sad that I won't be able to slip into conversations that I've only been running a year, I'm really excited to see what the next year holds.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Oh, dear

Dear diary,

I'm about 20 miles short on the week. Went out for my last long run before the marathon, and I completely wasn't feeling it. More mental than physical. Cut my 20-mile run in half and went home.

I wonder how long it'll take me to walk 26.2 miles.


(Not so)SuperKate

Sunday, April 3, 2011

I get by with a little lot of help from my friends

In my last post about the good advice I've received and still having to figure things out for myself, there's one BIG thing I left out: listen to your body. If I've learned anything from all of the running blogs I've read, it's the need to pay attention and be careful about running with pain so as to not injure/further injure yourself.  The reason I didn't list it was because I was well on my way to learning that one the hard way too.

I don't even really know what I did to my foot.  I'm not even sure which part of my foot is hurt.  Sometimes it's the heel, sometimes it's the ankle, sometimes it's the achilles.  I've been icing it and taking ibuprofen, and last weekend I thought I was getting better.  I did a 20-mile run (with ibuprofen) without having foot problems.  Awesome!  And then my next two runs, each just two miles, hurt.  I gave myself a couple days off and started wondering about the weekend.

My marathon is less than a month away.  Counting this weekend, I have time for probably two more long runs before tapering.  This is my first marathon, so I'd really like to go into it feeling prepared.  On Friday, though, my foot was still hurting, and I was trying hard to avoid making the right decision.  I posted on facebook and twitter: Trying to decide whether to do my long run tomorrow on a hurting foot or bag the run and do a long or trail ride.  Suggestions?  Oh, yeah.  There were suggestions.

Stay off the foot!
Don't run!
Better 90% trained than 50% injured.
Skip the run.

And yeah, I knew that.  I knew that. But I needed someone else to tell me.  So, thanks Darin, Sasha, Debbi, Mike, Melissa, and Adam for telling me what I didn't want to hear.

Decision made, more or less, then I posted a link to a Trailnet ride for Saturday.  None of my bike friends bit, but then I got an email from Ms. Sasha Petrosevitch.  We had never met, but we have some of the same friends, and I've been reading her blog for a while.  We'd commented back and forth on Daily Mile and Facebook, but I never would've thought to ask her to go ride with me because we are so not on the same level.  God must've known I'd waver on the run-skipping and wanted to make sure I stayed off my feet, though, because Sasha was emailing to see if we could work out a ride time on Saturday.

I was so excited.  I love to ride with better riders (and they're much easier to find than worse riders, lol) because you can learn so much.  It's much easier to try riding things that look scary when you see someone else do it first.  Having read Sasha's blog, I knew that she'd started out mountain biking at the same age I did and in the same manner: flat on her ass, requiring medical attention...so seeing and reading how she rides now gives me a lot of hope for myself.

We met at the Lost Valley Trail   in Weldon Spring, MO.  This is where my first mountain bike was with the Dirty Girls series, and I met some friends there for a run this winter, as well...but I'd never been there without snow cover.  This was much nicer, except for the fact that now I could see the rocks that were waiting for me instead of just imagining them. :)

Photo credit: Singletracks.com / toolboy70
The trail started with some flat doubletrack, and then we came to the top of a hill.  Sasha went flying down and I putt-putted down, at one with my brakes as usual.  I immediately took a wrong turn at the bottom but we found each other pretty quickly and then got to head up a longish climb.  I'm not a hill-climber, let me tell you. Thank goodness for all those gears!  We had a nice time getting to chat on the doubletrack, and then we made it to the singletrack section. 

Of course right away was that dip in the trail that had me scared the first time I rode at Lost Valley.  I took it with a little more confidence this time and made it to the top before I had to put down a foot -- way better than almost the top and almost rolling backwards!  I feel a little more comfortable each time I ride, and this day was no exception.  I was still slow, but I didn't spend quite as much time clutching the brakes.  After the initial dip in the trail, I didn't get too nervous until we got to to a section that is a gradual downhill with a hill on one side.  This is the section where I turned around on the Dirty Girls ride, but this time I rode it...and I wasn't too terrified. 

Some of the other things we talked about:

"Momentum is your friend" (cycling truth and the title of a great book by Joe Kurmaskie)--like "don't run while injured", I know this, but it's hard to put into action sometimes.  OK, always.  I'm a chicken.  My first instinct in a bumpy or rocky area or on a downhill with something tricky on the other side is to slow down.

"Look where you want to go" -- I'm getting better at this.  Not just keeping my eyes ahead of me on the trail rather than right. in. front. of. my. wheel, but also keeping your eye on the line rather than the obstacles in your path.  OK, truthfully, I'm only getting better at the former part.  The latter is still problematic.  I can't tell you how many times I rode right into the biggest rock or root because I was looking at it instead of my line.  Obstacles are like eye magnets.  One thing Sasha would do that helped was to put something small on the line I was supposed to follow and then remind me to focus on that.

Choosing a line -- a lot of path of least resistance.  For example, I'm very good at running into the tallest part of a root on an uphill instead of finding the side of the root.  Once she mentioned that, it was a light bulb moment.  There were several sections where she'd ride a section first so I could see it (always helps me feel better...ok, clearly it can be done because I just saw that) and then come back and run the line so I could get a mental picture. 

"You can do this.  I know you can do this." -- I'm not going to lie.  There were parts that made me nervous.  I was born without any kind of daredevil bone in my body, so what I'm doing mountain biking I couldn't tell you...except for the fact that I LOVE it.  I never felt like I had to do anything, but I wanted to...that's why I was out there.  And it was invaluable to have someone coaching and encouraging me through some of those places. 

Photo credit: Singletracks.com / toolboy70
Like this mess above.  This is an older picture, so that bigger tree on the right isn't there anymore, but it was still an intimidating section for me.  You come down a hill about the same size, zip across the creek, and then have to climb the rocks.  And I'm just looking at it like, really?  But OK, she talked me through it, and it took two tries but I made it maybe to that big root?  (Because of course, momentum might be my friend, but it's having a hard time getting around my brakes) And then she says,

"You know how long it took me to learn that?...two years" -- I heard something similar a few times on the ride. And to be clear, I didn't LEARN it...I just rode part of it.  But I guess what I learned is that I can. 

We got to ride some fun rolling trail and I worked on keeping my hands off the brakes more and more.

Saw several other bikers out there, a surprising number without helmets.  I may be hard-headed, but not enough so that I want to take on those rocks with my skull.  I really don't get why you wouldn't wear a helmet...especially when you're riding that kind of terrain.

I had a blast out there.  Of course, once you finish with all the sweet singletrack at Lost Valley, it's time to pay the piper.  And the piper, if you're parked at the Mound, is a big long hill that just gets steeper at the top.  I can remember having a hard time walking up it after the 11-mile run we did out there, and now I was going to ride up it?  Right near the top, it gets steep, but I made it up finally, pedalling the whole way.  Score one against the hill.  If I lived closer, I'd go ride up it regularly just to get better at it; of course, I've got hills around here, too.  Guess I ought to get to work.

As we rode, I mentioned something to Sasha about the last time I rode out there and it being my first mountain bike ride because I'd gotten my bike at Christmas. "So you've only been mountain biking for like 3 months?" she asked. I thought for a second: "Um, yeah...I guess so." Three months. I think this was about my fifth time riding on mountain bike trails. I guess maybe I can cut myself a break.

I really appreciated having someone experienced who was willing to go out and ride with such a beginner.  As I said today, one of the best things about endurance sports is the awesome people, and Sasha is a prime example.  But the amazing thing is that she's hardly the only one.  In my very short time in this community, I've been blessed to find some wonderful people who've been very welcoming to me: the Team Revolution ladies, the members of Team Godzilla, the Team Virtus guys, the blog community...really, everyone I've met.  I've got friends in the right places, for sure.