Monday, January 31, 2011

My Better Half

This weekend, our oldest sister stayed with me for the weekend with her kiddos. It was so much fun, and my kids had a ball using their only (and revered) boy cousin as a jungle gym. Even though he's entered the teen years, he's not above romping on the floor with H and Charlie, and it always makes me proud of him to see how tender-hearted he is with them.

But above all that, a big bonus was that I had someone home to watch the kids while I did my weekend long run, as Big J was in Georgia serving Uncle Sam at a training. When I said how long I was going to run, my niece asked if I was joking. It caught me a little off-guard because seven miles no longer feels like that big of a deal. It's the longest training run for me in awhile, but because I have the big picture looming out there and am admittedly a little obsessed with it, it just seems like a normal stepping stone. It gave me a little extra pride in my workout for the day.

The skies were dark, so I had on my super awesome day-glo Athleta Wickit Workit shirt for visibility. Only a couple rain drops actually made it from the sky to my head as I covered the distance, but the cool weather was perfect. I'm still not jazzed at the idea of flaunting my full muffin top by strapping on the old fuel belt, but I knew I'd need to have fluids since what would take faster runners about an hour to cover takes me an hour and a half, so I carried one of the 10 ounce bottles from my belt.

Well, I'll not let my pride get in the way again, because about three miles into it, I was ready to chuck the bottle on the side of the road. The only thing that kept me from doing so was images of my parched booty laying face down on the side of the road at about mile six.

I love my compression tights, and my new acquisition of compression socks, as it feels like my legs are getting a nice hug when they need it most (I know, ack, but it's the best way I can describe it). Along with some fluids and the other half of my pouch of honey stingers, I ended the run happy and with a little bit of a spring in my step.

I realized that I only needed to add five miles to the day's run in order to get to a half-marathon, and that unless I injure myself in the middle of the run, there's no way I won't meet my goal of coming in under three hours. However, when I stopped to think that the distance I just ran was just over a quarter of the marathon...I'm still in the suspended disbelief stage on that one. I know that if I do the work, I'll be just fine, it's just that thinking of that huge number seems crazy to me right now.

With just two weeks of the 15k training plan (used to build a good base) left, I'll soon be starting the actual marathon training plan and I couldn't be more excited.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Back to Where it All Began and Update

This morning while my mom was making pancakes for the girls I laced up my sneaks and headed for the door. I let her know where I would be running, but her reply of, "Be careful, there are cougars out there sometimes," had me mapping out a new route in my mind! At a little after seven on a Sunday morning, my small hometown was calm and peaceful.

Outside my eyes instantly watered up, but it was not as cold as my first jog outside earlier this year. Natural sounds of birds and the river were only briefly interrupted by the rare cars whirring by with studded tires. Other than the few cars and one person walking on the other side of the road, it was just me, nature, and childhood memories - thinking of going to the creek growing up playing with friends or intertubing down it, thinking of friends as I passed their old houses, and memories of my cross country days. There is always something great about starting the day with a workout.

In general, I have been meeting up to my exercise and nutritional goals, with some days where I stray a bit on the nutrition side. I am still spending the majority of the time in the gym, but I know that getting back into a consistent exercise routine will help me out in the long run vs. waiting around for warmer weather where I would be motivated to run outside on a consistent basis. My personal training sessions are really pushing me, as well as giving me a better idea of types of exercises to do both at home and when I go to the gym on my own.

Sister #3 recommended that I get started on my training plan and just repeat the first couple of weeks for a while. Lately, I have been trying to balance out my different exercise options. I love going to zumba on Monday evenings, I am going to work out with a colleague one night a week at the gym, and I will meet with my personal trainer on another night. My goal is to exercise 4-5 times per week, so typically, I would like to get in an outdoor run on the weekends which gets me up to four. I am also trying to still make sure that I have a good balance between family, career, homework, and exercise.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wednesday Words to Run By

This Wednesday's post focuses on songs, rather than a quote. When I was in cross country in high school, I never ran with music. Though that was back in the 90s, and it was not as feasible to go for a jog with a walkman or discman as it is now with modern technology. When I saw an iPod for the first time while getting my Master's degree I was mesmerized. Yet, they were still pretty expensive, so it was not until about five years after that I finally got one (and only a shuffle at that).

At the gym I love listening to music. I don't have to worry about potential dangers of not hearing traffic, so I am able to let the music pump through my system and push me forward. Right now my iPod is filled will upbeat Spanish music. I know that soon I will need to find some new songs for workouts, but for now these are songs that always get me going when they start playing during a workout. If you are looking to add some new songs into the mix for your runs, you might consider them. I put links to the Amazon pages where you can listen to samples.

Mentia by Miranda

Besos Faciles by Sonohra

El Amor by Tito El Bambino

Prohibida by Raúl (on Clase 406)

Y Todo Para Qué by Intocable (on Clase 406)

What are your favorite workout songs that you suggest I add to my iPod?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hit the Dusty (or Muddy) Trail

This weekend, I had the pleasure of doing my long weekend run with my marathon training buddy. Since we live over 200 miles apart, we rely on the powers of the internet and telephone to keep us connected for the most part, and slogging out the miles on our own.

January in Portland is often a rainy, sloppy mess so imagine our surprise when it was not only sunny but fifty-five degrees! I was in town to celebrate a friend's pregnancy, and we came prepared by packing our running clothes so we could leave the brunch and go straight to Forest Park.

Nothing helps monitor the pastry intake like knowing you have to run soon, so I was hydrated, happy and ready to go. Slightly embarrassed to change into my super awesome compression tights in the back bathroom only to parade through the crowd to leave, we chose to duck out the back door and walk through the driveway to our car. Because that's just how I roll.

I kept telling my bestie how nervous I was about the uphill portion and being able to get my stride to which she replied 'It's really not that much of an uphill. Kind of rolling. It really flattens out.' I had walked that trail before and distinctly remembered a bit of a climb. When we pulled up, I realized that I had remembered the other end of the trail, and she assured me that this end was much more flat.

Well, the bitch lied. I was huffing and puffing like a future heart attach patient for the first mile and it did not flatten out as much as promised (it starts to roll after the point at which I turned around, ha!) Since this was a step-back week, we were only going four miles. She decided to be an over-achiever and run five, bud I had to stick to four because we had time constraints. I just prayed in my little rapidly beating heart that I'd get to the two mile turn-around before she passed me, or I'd feel like an uber-loser.

Luckily I did, and after awhile I looked behind me and saw a flash of turquoise. Eventually she passed me in her cute little running skirt and said 'It's all downhill from here, baby!' And it was. Glorious, stride after stride downhill.

When it was over and we were in the car reveling in our stink and sweat, I was reminded, once again, why I would love to live in Portland again. I'm registered for a trail 15k in March that has a pretty wicked (for me) elevation gain, so my mission is to find a similar trail on our area that will give me some hills training because that was mah-velous.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Treadmill Updates

Granted, I am not doing any long runs on the treadmill, but I am realizing that it is not as bad as I once thought. Originally, I had memories from when my dad got a treadmill when I was either in late elementary school or junior high and it gave me motion sickness, so I did not even want to try the treadmill. Then, about this time last year Sister #3 told me that treadmills had changed a lot since then and that I should give it another try. I think it also has to do with the fact that it seems like I have a higher tolerance for car rides without getting motion sickness as well, but my sister was right.

Nonetheless, with my sporadic trips to the gym, it was not like I had grown to love the treadmill over the last year. Now with three weeks of exercising consistently, I find myself enjoying the treadmill more. Tonight I eased into a comfortable pace more quickly and then clicked up the speed as I realized that it was not as much of a challenge as it had been not so long ago.

One of the aspects of the treadmill vs. the road is that in the evenings at my gym the window directly in front becomes pretty reflective, so I can see myself. There's an unexpected pleasure coming from physically seeing myself making the effort to work toward a long-term life-style change that I do not get when I am running on the road.

Though I know that I will definitely still prefer the road for longer runs, it was fulfilling to realize tonight that the treadmill is becoming less of a chore and more of an enjoyable activity. Especially during the colder months (which are much warmer than Sister #2's winter months), I will often choose the treadmill.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wednesday Words to Run By

I also run to feel alive. To remind myself I am a corporal being, that I have a body. To feel a chilly breeze on my bare legs, to feel sweat streaking down my brow, to feel my arms pump back and forth, to feel the soles of my feet hit the pavement, to feel my lungs suck in the air. 
-Run Like a Mother (Kindle location 179).

This afternoon I came home from work, energized with a plan in mind. As I approached my house after classes last night, I clicked my tripometer to zero and started mapping out a running route for today. I am still easing into it, but I figured that instead of a one mile run I would aim for a mile and a half.

The weather was perfect this afternoon, basically spring weather, and the ice had melted away, freeing my mind from worrying about slick conditions. Aside from occasional patches of packed snow, it was going to be easy to keep my footing on sure ground.

Then came the pug. Barely after leaving my house a woman was working in her garage with the door open. The dog darted out after me, and aside from one weak attempt to call her dog back, she did not do anything. So the dog followed me and followed me. I kept on thinking that anytime the dog would turn around as it realized that it was farther from home or as it got tired, it was a wheezing pug after all!

However, the pug had other plans. Rather than getting swept up in the moment, I was worrying about what I should do ethically with this dog that the owner did not seem to concerned about to get back to her property and care. I resented the dog and the owner. It kept on darting close to my legs. Its wheezing was pestering me. I tried stopping to get down to its level and tell it to go home. The dog could have cared less. I tried to cross the road and avoid the dog, but wherever I went, it went. Though it would slow down at times, it would eventually zing back forward.

I deviated from my route thinking that if I could just make some turns and leave it behind everything would work out, but no. Frustrated, I did an alternate route and wove home earlier than I had expected as we moved farther from our neighborhood. Worried that if the dog did stop following me that maybe it would not make it back home, I looped back. When I got to my house, I decided to talk to my husband in my yard for a moment. After all, I did not want to be rude with the owner about how I did not appreciate baby sitting her dog and having to change my route plans for the day just because she was too irresponsible to keep her dog in her yard. I could recognize how that would definitely be behavior that would embarrass and was a bit irrational since having her dog run off with someone else probably was not her idea of a blissful afternoon either.

The pug poked around in my yard, and soon after, I saw the owner walking toward my house with her leash. All's well that ends well.

And the pesky pug's name? Nike.

Tomorrow will be take two. If that garage is open, I will have to run in the other direction starting from my house. I've also learned my lesson to not  continue with my run trying to ignore dogs thinking they will go away soon. I am determined to continue working running into my schedule, even when unexpected situations such as this come up. After all, as the quote from Run Like A Mother illustrates, the positive feelings from a run far weigh other obstacles that come up along the way.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Week One, Sister #2

As Kyle and I turned the corner back to our neighborhood on Saturday morning, we huffed, almost in unison, "We did it!" The "it" that we did was to complete our first full week of running. Three whole miles That's three more than last week, or the week before, and even, well, ever in our lives together. We had stopped and started exercise routines more times than a Geo Metro driving uphill. But this week, we did what we promised we would: to ourselves, to each other, to my Sole Sisters, and really, to the world wide web. And for some reason, that seemed to be the trick.

Now, I know studies show that it takes a whole lot more than a promise kept for a week to make a lifestyle change, but I am encouraged nonetheless. And we already feel different. My husband, who has for close to a year been having trouble going to sleep, has had almost a week of restful nights. Whether or not this coincides with the fact that I got a job last week and he no longer has to face the possibility of living with an unemployed PhD, I'll never know. But, again with the encouragement. As for me, I sleep like a baby no matter what crap is going down in my waking hours, but I found another benefit: I am finding a new sort of esteem that comes from saying, "I'm a runner." Even though that definition for me means "I am a runner who runs around her block for now," it's a return to something that feels really good.

So, for Sole Sisters and Brothers everywhere who wonder where they might find the inspiration to get off the couch and on the road, I can tell you that you're sitting on it right now.  It's your own, big ole beautiful bum that can get you going and nothing else. And not to get all Phil Knight on you, but you just have to do it. You can because I, who has the genetic disposition to hunker down in the winter and eat starch, did it. I did it in the cold and snow without any fancy running gear for just 20 minutes out of our day. And I'm looking forward to this week...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

For Pity's Sake

This morning, as I headed out for my pre-mapped 6.6 mile run, I was fuming. It was one of those mornings with the kiddos filled with the heavenly sounds of screaming, yelling, biting and hitting. In short, it was awesome. J had worked late the night before (and stayed up even later pretending to be a cattle rustler on Red Dead Redemption, but that's another story) so I let him sleep until nine before I sweetly announced that I was leaving for my run. And may never come back.

I was scheduled to run 6 this morning, so I padded it by .6 since I've been walking a good quarter to half-mile in the beginning of late and I was already about .2 down the road when I realized there was an x over the heart icon on Pam's face. Shoot, I forgot my heart rate monitor! When I was about .6 down the road, I went to swallow and realized I hadn't put my customary stick of Orbitz gum in so I had something to gnaw on. Crap! No gum? Chewing gum is what helps me get over the fact that I don't have water. I have a fuel belt, but I'm saving that dork-tastic muffin-top creation for my 8+ runs. Nobody looks cool with a fanny pack, so having a fanny pack with two water bottles coming off the sides? Yes, my sentiments exactly.

I was scheming how I'd break down the beds and separate them into two bedrooms with puritanical furnishings and zero toys, since they don't appreciate ANYTHING and I licked my lips. No lipgloss. NO LIPGLOSS?! I can't run without a healthy smattering of Juicy Tube slathered across my mug!!! At just under 2 miles into a 6.6 mile run, I was being the biggest whiny beyatch you've ever met. Ever. Pam was way ahead of me. Having a hard time catching my breath through the iron curtain that is my new sports bra (though after 6 plus miles of zero bounce, I have to say God love you, Moving Comfort), I was just not feeling it.

Maybe I should just turn around. How am I ever going to run 26.2? What the eff was I thinking?! Then I turned a corner, literally, and looked at my watch to realize I had utterly wasted almost 2.5 miles of what could still be a great run.

As I was peeling off my gloves and shoving them in my waistband because this glorious weather just didn't require them anymore I found myself thinking, Get over yourself! I'm sure there are orphans in the Sudan who don't cry over lip-gloss and bubble gum. I picked up the pace, fell into stride and caught my breath. I kept setting my sites on landmarks, passing them, and setting sites again. I looked down at one point and was about to go into a snit when I thought my watch had stopped timing, but it was just zeroed out because I'd looked down at just the point that I caught up to my virtual Pam and was pulling ahead.

Zen took over and I started to think that maybe my kids weren't so bad after all. When I got home, I'd have a rational conversation with them, and try to be a better model of how I want them to act. Nobody likes mean mommy.

Another glance told me I was 15 seconds ahead of Pam now, no way was I going to take a walking break. Since I've started using my garmin, I'd yet to beat my virtual training partner and I'd be damned if I was going to lose that chance now! As I turned into my little neighborhood, I realized I'd beat my last 10k time by almost four minutes, and I'd run a half-mile further.

A quick stroll down the block and back to cool down and I was ready to greet the rest of the day with a clear head and a positive attitude. I'm so glad that I rediscovered running for more reasons that I can name with perhaps the greatest being that I know I'm a better mother when I've given myself the gift of time. And lipgloss and gum.

With the real Pam in Massachusetts after what I still feel was my best run ever. 11.7 miles of sheer bliss through the country-side with some wicked hills and I ran the whole thing!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Training Plan

Motivated by my sister training for a full marathon, I signed up for a 12K race that she had already signed up for in May. At the time I did not think twice about the length. After all, it did not seem anything compared to the marathon and half marathon lengths that she has been running/training for. Sometime within the first week though I started thinking about how the longest I have ran before was the 5Ks of my cross country days over ten years ago. I am excited for the new challenge, as well as getting back into running, but I am also a little more insecure with knowing exactly how to prepare.

My sister recommended Hal Higdon's training plans. Though he did not have one for a 12K (at least that I could find), I found his 10K novice 8-week and 15K novice 10-week training plans. I also found one on Active Route specifically for the Bloomsday 12K that I will be doing. I like the extra detail of Higdon's plans, and on one site I saw that a 10K training plan will also work for a 12K. I was thinking of trying to blend his 10K and 15K plans in order to find a happy medium for my training.

I backtracked 8 weeks from my race day on my calendar and am all set to begin on March 7th, a day after turning 30. Not a bad way to start a new decade of my life. Between now and then I will be spending most of my time exercising inside the gym. I enjoy Zumba, as well as a class that has a blend of cardio and strength training with a group of women. Then I will also do one session a week with my personal trainer. I will take advantage of opportunities when the roads seem safe to run outside, but when they are not, I will embrace the treadmill with my iPod. Overall, I will be doing more cross-training than running, but my main goal right now is to exercise consistently. It doesn't seem like a bad idea to build up strength in these chilly, icy winter months.

By March, I look forward to shifting the balance to having more outdoor runs and less time inside the gym on the treadmill. I also can't wait to run with my sister at Bloomsday.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Take It Outside

This morning as I opened the door to take H out to the bus stop, I slammed it shut again when I thought for a fleeting moment that an intruder was trying to shoulder his way in. Rational thought took over and I realized that Old Mr. Wind had decided to visit us today. Other than Wizard of Oz gale forces, I was thinking to myself as we made our way down the street that it was beautiful running weather, much like an early Spring or Late Fall day instead of the dead of winter that it is.

My neighbor, who is running a marathon next month on a whim (and will do really well) because that's just how he rolls, remarked that there's a flood warning today in addition to aforementioned winds 'or else it would be the perfect day for a run.'

As luck would have it, I have four on the schedule for today in anticipation of my first 6 miler since Barber to Boise in October. Now, I have the dilemma of tucking my tail and heading to the dreadmill, or just waiting until J (my husband) gets home so I can enjoy the outdoor run I've been looking forward to since yesterday. Even though the marathon is in June, I'm a big fan of getting used to running in whatever Mother Nature brings so that it's not as big a deal on race day, so I guess I've answered my own question and will be braving the elements.

On Tuesday, J and I took baby Charlie up to the summit to break in our new snow shoes. Turns out old Char isn't a huge fan of winter-time, or of being cold. The parking lot was windy to the nth degree, and my hands felt like ice-pops by the time I got done figuring out the bindings and shoving my hands into the puffy warmth of my new gloves. After a brief episode about fifteen minutes in where I thought bamboo shoots were being rammed under my fingernails causing a sensation of vomitus immediatus, I warmed up, kept moving along and an hour later we were at the truck loading back in. My butt muscles are still feeling the slightly duck-footed stance I adopted, and I only fell on my face twice, so I'm calling it a success. We made it home and within ten minutes I was laced up and out the door for my scheduled run. At the end of the day I was tired with a capital T, but it's so much better than the sloggy feeling of exhaustion that comes from a day of doing a whole lotta nothin'.

Friday's cross-training (after a visit to Helga the Hotwaxer for my waxapalooza) will be taking me to the pool, where I'll revisit Sunday's performance with another laminated workout card from my bag of tricks courtesy of the lovely Ms Pam. Saturday you'll find me on the road, rain or shine, for a glorious six. How are you rounding out your running week?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wednesday Words to Run By

I have always been a quotes person, enjoying the inspiration of words. My senior year of high school a couple of teammates and I put together a quote book for our state cross country meet. I thought it would be fun to post a weekly Words to Run By post to share some inspiring running quotes that I come across, as well as some from the past.

I'll start out my first post in the series with one by Steve Prefontaine - our quote book had many of his thoughts. This one is fitting for my phase in getting back into running:

You have to wonder at times what you're doing out there. Over the years, I've given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement.

Even though it has been over ten years since I have been a regular runner, I never forgot the feeling that comes along with it. Little reminders from time to time nagging at my conscious to make time for it, reminding me of how great I would feel if I would just get back into it consistently. Here's to the joy of running (and support of my sisters) keeping me going, rather than slipping back into years of inactivity!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My Running (and life) Partner

Included in my long list of excuses why I couldn't maintain a running routine in Iowa City was that I had not found a running partner the likes of which I had enjoyed at home in Oregon. Within weeks of moving to Iowa, I adopted a sloth-like lifestyle that comes with sitting in long doctoral seminars, camping out at Starbucks with books and papers while sucking down mochas, and meeting to vent about doctoral studies with other doc students at one of about 100 pubs and restaurants downtown. Never mind that there were a few rock star runners, cyclists, and triathletes in my program--I was consumed by the life of the mind. And cheese fries.

Woe is me, right? Wrong! Because, literally right beside me, was someone who was eager to get healthy too. My 6'5" husband also suffers from inertia brought on by marital bliss, parenthood, and the stress eating that happens after life events like when his fantasy football and favorite team's quarterback, Tony Romo, breaks his collarbone and shatters his dreams (my husband's, mind you, though I'm sure Tony was bummed as well) of winning his office pool for the second year in a row. He and I are also of the age where we know it would be a good idea to be fit for health's sake, not simply so we can look good in da club. So, we talk about getting healthy. We make statements like, "Babe, I feel fat." We have even gone so far as to join a gym, follow Weight Watchers, complete Jillian Michael's circuit training, and watch infomercials about P90X. And then we don't sustain it. And the reasons range from getting knocked up (me) to working nights (him) to just being lulled to complacency by our low cholesterol and blood pressure tests (both).

2010 brought some events that really made us want to change: He turned 40, I got cancer, to name a few. So, with the New Year came a new resolve to really do something about it this time. We were going to make the time to work out and when My Sole Sister was born, I suggested that we run together. After all, he had a running history as well. He spent 12 years on active duty in the Army, where he ran most every day, keeping fit, and even serving as a drill sergeant where he learned inspiring commands like, "LET'S GO, PRIVATE TACO BELLLLLL!" So he was all for it. In theory.  Enter last Sunday's assignment from Sole Sister #3 and me getting off the phone with my running assignment in hand:

Kyle (walking up the stairs toward the kitchen for a coffee warm-up): "Hey honey, what's the plan for today?"
Me: "I think we should start running. Right now."
Kyle (with incredulous look on his face and pointing outside): "Today? Are you crazy? It's 4 f*%^$#!ing degrees outside!"
Me: "Well, we live in Iowa, so we'll bundle up. Anyways, I'm going. I'm going to run 1 mile before noon, around our neighborhood and you're invited."

Now he's like an animal, walking toward the bait in a live trap. He wants it, I can tell, but he's also afraid. He begins to pace, flinging defenses left and right. He is grasping for control, but he can smell the tasty bait of longevity that awaits him in the trap. I continue digging through my dresser for my gear while he dodges the trap as best he can:

Kyle: "You realize I'm not going to be able to run the whole mile, right?"
Me: "Yeah, I figure we might have to walk some, and that's ok."
Kyle: "And my sweatshirt weighs a good six pounds!"
Me: "Really? I would have guessed around four."
Kyle: "And you do realize that when it's 4 f*&^%$!ing degrees outside, the sweat freezes to your skin and leaves you shivering?"
Me: "Well, don't forget to put a Dri-fit layer on under that super-heavy sweatshirt."

And then, he uttered the last stand of a not-so-fit guy: "Just so you know, I will never, ever wear running tights or other snug-fitting running gear. I'm just not going to be that guy." To which I replied, "And that's one of the reasons I love you. Now let's go."

And we were off. And the thing is, it was fine. We ran 3/4 of a mile and then walked the last couple blocks, no big deal, talking the whole way. And we made a date for Tuesday to do it again. And Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. No gym membership, no circuit training, no points-counting for now. Just a couple of happily-marrieds hitting the road.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

No Excuses - Just Do It!

I had been planning on going to the gym this morning. Yet, last night as I was reading through my students' imaginative writing essays and thinking about the tests and comments I wanted to complete today to get ready for report cards, I convinced myself that four days for the week was enough. After all my goal is to work out three to five days a week, preferably five, but knowing that even three would be an improvement over the lack of consistency I have had since joining a gym a little over a year ago.

Little did I know, something was brewing to counter that "good enough" attitude. Not long after I got home from Mass I got a call from Sole Sister #3.

"Are you on your computer?" she asked.

"No, do you need me to get on to see something?"

"Yes, I sent you and Sherri an assignment."

As I was booting up my computer I said, "By the way, I wanted to ask you about the blog because a lot of my training will be indoors at the gym for a while..."

Before I could continue, she broke in with, "Just read your email!"

I clicked into my inbox to see that my job for the day was to run a mile by noon and then blog about it.

"Is M at work?" she asked

"Yes, he just left, so there is no one to watch the girls."

"Can't you get your neighbor to watch them for a little bit or something?"

"No, oh wait. In about an hour I will be taking the girls to Sunday school. I could go in my running clothes and go for a run, rather than read while waiting for them. The only thing is I have to make sure to be back by 11:50."

As soon as I said it, it dawned on me, unless I was going to be running a 50 minute mile, I would have more than enough time to do my assignment, which was exactly Sara's point. It does not even take that much time out of the day to get the job done.

And so, we mapped out a mile and after dropping off the girls with their teachers, I wrapped one of the girls' scarfs around the top of my head and around my ears, a last minute fix since I had not thought of anything to keep my ears warm, and set off for my run. I was tentative at first; the sidewalks still had bits of ice and snow in spots. I had forgone my iPod for the morning, wanting to just embrace and enjoy being back outdoors running.

My nose was starting to run and my eyes were watering. I realized that I needed to pull my hands up into my sleeves since I had also neglected to bring gloves. As I reached the half mile mark the sun was shining on that patch of the road.

Turning back I could feel my body getting warmer. My eyes were no longer watering. The only reminders were the spots on my glasses. I was able to slip my hands out of my sleeves and enjoy the gentle downward slope leading back to my car.

As I was running I thought, out here in the chilly winter weather with my nose running, eyes watering, and my lungs receiving the cool air, I finally feel like I am back on track to becoming a runner again. Running outside has always had such a different feel than running on the treadmill. And to think, if it had not been for Sara's assignment I was planning on waiting for warmer weather before starting my outdoor runs.

 I spent the remaining time waiting for the girls by reading Run Like a Mother on my Kindle and thinking about how that one mile was so easy. I could have gone farther. Next week I will!

The Sister Throwdown

This week, tucked away in my cozy midwestern home, guarded from the sub-zero freeze, I embarked on a vision quest to find Sherri the Runner. This quest included reading inspirational books and more books on running (both gifts from my sole sisters, thank you!), getting dressed in running gear, and even stepping outside my door in said gear. But I had yet to take one step on the pavement. Each day, I would run through some version of the same script in my head:  "I just need to find a partner/buy new shoes/watch the weather report/build an awesome play list for my iPod/hydrate properly/make a smoothie/find the time." And, like watching James Cameron's Titanic, I already knew how the story would end. Each day since my first blog post, I have allowed my decades-old fear of failure stop me from taking the first step. Literally. What if too fat, too slow, fall down, make a fool of myself when I can't keep running and I've started this blog about that very thing on the world wide web with seven followers?

Fortunately, my sole sister could feel this paralyzing fear from 2,000 miles away. How does she know this? The same way she knew that dating that car salesman back home would lead to nothing but embarrassment down the road when I needed to get my car repaired at the only Ford dealership in town. She just does. Case in point: This morning I was enjoying a perfect Sunday. A chilly 4 degrees outside, and no plans but to refill my coffee cup.  And then the phone rang. It was sole sister calling, telling me to read my E-mail:

Hey Sole Sisters!
I'm not going to be the only one with blog fodder for My Sole Sisters. Therefore, you have an assignment. It will take less than twenty minutes from start to finish, including getting dressed. I can guarantee that. Get some comfy clothes on, lace up your sneaks, and run one mile. Today. Then blog about it. Run by noon your time and it'll be done for the day. 

Looking forward to seeing how just 20 minutes can change your day!
Sole Sister

Gulp. And then:
Me: "But I'm scared!"
Sole Sister: "I know! That's why I'm giving you an assignment."
Me: "But, It's already 10:45 and your assignment has to be finished by noon!"
Sole Sister: "So put down your coffee, drink a glass of water, and get dressed."

I looked around, coffee cup in hand, trying to place the hidden camera that her "people" must have installed last week to track my inertia.

And then, something happened. I hung up the phone, looked over at baby A. and said, in between guzzles of water, "Mommy's going for a run!" I went to the bedroom, dug way in the back of my dresser and found my sports bra, laced up my shoes and headed out the door for my one mile run that Sole Sister had mapped for me from her headquarters via google maps. This short route took me past the Dairy Queen (her evil knows no bounds), around the neighborhood, and back home in less than 20 minutes, as promised.

And I took my new running partner aka, my husband, with me:
But I'll save that story for the next post, 'cause it's a good one.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Run For The Bling Of It

I entered the Run For the Bling Of It challenge, because I wanted to keep myself motivated, not only in training for my first full marathon (gulp), but after it as well. I have a creeping feeling that I'll cross that finish line and not ever want to take a running step again. I'm hoping that having some smaller races lined up, including a fun local Duathlon called The Aquaman (run, swim, run), will help me lace those sneaks back up in a reasonable time after Newport on June 4th.

If you know of a great fun run in the Oregon/Idaho/Washington area (ideally east of the Cascades) let me know! Here's my schedule so far:

3/26: Badger Mountain Challenge (15k)-Tri-Cities, WA
5/1: Bloomsday (12k)-Spokane, WA
5/14: Windermere Marathon (half)-Spokane, WA
6/4: Newport, Marathon (FULL!!!)-Newport, OR
6/18: See Jane Run (5k)-Boise, ID
8/19: Aquaman Duathlon (2mi, .5 mi., 3mi)-Richland, WA
9/11: P-Town Swim for Life (1.5 mi)...not a run, but still on my schedule
TBA: Nike Women's Half (lottery and unknown date so far)

After each even, I'll be writing a race report, which will be posted here and linked on the Run For The Bling of IT. I'm excited about this challenge, not just because it will keep me motivated, but because it will be so awesome to see all the reports from women all over the country, and possibly open me up to new races in fun, new places.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Less Reading, More Running

When I saw my sister's Facebook post announcing this new blogging venture, I could not resist asking if sister #4 could please join in. My story is similar to my sisters'. I also ran cross country in high school, and lessons from the "Big One" have been some of the most valuable lessons in life - endurance, perseverance, stamina... Whether helping me backpack through Spain one spring break for Spanish Club, to get through the agony of one more contraction in labor, or just sticking with something that is important, images from cross country frequently pop into mind accompanied by my coach's voice.
However, much like my cycles in high school of being a runner during the season and then slowly slipping back into irregularity after the season, I have not ran (or exercised) consistently since my senior year of high school. That year my running days were even shorter than the previous three, as I did not even go out for track to run the 3,000 since there was not a cross country season to get ready for. I had never felt as connected to running the laps around the track and to the larger team versus the close-knit cross country group with frequent changes of scenery. 

Not so surprising is the fact that my life also mirrors their cycle of getting married, becoming a mom, gaining weight, and not losing it. Though I frequently thought about weight growing up, I would not say that I was overly obsessive about it. As an adult I have not allowed the extra pounds to destroy my self esteem, yet I care about my long term health. The lack of exercise combined with only sticking to nutritious eating in spurts and working countless hours often leaves me drained. All I feel like doing at the end of the day is curling up with a good book.

In the last year, more than I can remember since high school, I have been making a conscious effort to finally committing to making long-term lifestyle changes to eat healthy and exercising on a regular basis. I joined a gym last year and switched to a new one in the summer. Even though I haven't fully "gotten it" yet when it comes to my health goals, rather than throwing in the towel I keep on refocusing and trying to see how I can make it work.

And one of the biggest reasons to keep on trying, rather than saying that I can't possibly fit in the time it takes to plan ahead for healthy food and carve out time to exercise while being a mom, wife, student, and teacher? The support of my sisters, especially with Sally HP becoming a runner again. She inspired me to sign up for a 12K race that she had signed up for the 1st of May. Now I have a goal in mind that provides even more encouragement to stay on track.

My gym is also starting a 12-week fitness challenge next week, and I just had a consultation with a trainer tonight to talk about my goals. It feels like this time it could really be it. With the support of my sisters and programs at my gym, I can finally pull myself away from the books enough to balance out my priorities in order to consistently eat well and exercise.

You Bring Feeling To My Life...

Since I started running again last February, I've had no less than ten people from vastly different areas of my life tell me I'm 'an inspiration' or 'inspirational'. It's hard for me to accept that compliment with a straight face because, while I know they mean it with the very best of intentions, my sarcastic side can't help but think that what they're not saying is 'If that chubby girl can move her ample booty, I should be able to get my significantly smaller one going as well.' Yes. Yes, you should.

One thing that my friend Pam and I ruminated on during our training for the first half-marathon in the glamorous 'Paris of the 80's' Worcester, Mass, was that we slower runners had to have quite the mind game going. While the faster set could bust out their ten milers in well under an hour and a half, we were out there for over two. That's a long time to chat yourself up and convince yourself to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Running in the Woo on Saturday mornings taught me to love my little fan base.

Even if it's clear they were still out from the night before...and shoeless in 20 degree weather...and not quite sure they knew what they were seeing.

To that end, and armed with my very long, and very awesome, playlist, I vow to keep on loading my legs into their synthetic casing of compression tights and chugging along the streets of my new hometown so I can inspire a whole new set. 'Cause I can rock this shrinking booty. I think Mr. Cetera was speaking to me when he wrote those lyrics.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Owning It

Being the third of four daughters, I kind of had my work cut out for me. There's a gap of eight years between the 'Big Girls' and the 'Little Girls' (terms by which we're still defined today), so really by the time my sister and I came along, my older sisters had already done all the effing up that made my parents learn what they needed to worry about and what they could chill about. (Although it wouldn't be years until my mom finally went on Zoloft...but that's a whole other story.) One thing that they maintained, however, was that we needed to be involved in extra-curricular activities. They did not expect us to be stellar athletes, but they did absolutely expect that we would be good team-mates, and good sports. Sometimes I think I learned more about myself and the big, bad world by being not so great, than I would have had I been flawless.

My sophomore year in high school, all awkward 70 inches of me figured I'd be a shoe-in for volleyball. Apparently I couldn't bump, set, spike it just they way the liked it, because I didn't make the team and was left to lick my wounds (or groan about my sore quads) in the remainder of my summer job at the health-food Mexican Restaurant where my older sisters worked. I had the super-glam job of prep-cook and Taco Bar filler-upper. But then school started, and I found what my parents already knew; I am not good with having a lot of free time. Since most of my friends were clearly better bumpers than I, it would be a long, lonely season if I didn't find something else to do. Enter Cross-Country.

The Cross-Country coach at our school was a bit of a legend, the toughest English teacher I've ever had (including college) and he was nothing if not a straight shooter. He embraced my Athena bod and welcomed me aboard. I had the insane good fortune to get to be part of a State Championship team for three years. Points that I contributed to that feat during meets? Zero. Percentage that that fact made me less a part of the team? Zero.

Basketball season started just a week after cross-country ended and I found that the sprints and line drills were suddenly easier than they'd been the year before. Huh.

Throughout college, I dabbled in running, and then started an uber-stressful career in Child Welfare, got married, moved away from home for the first time, continued stressful career, enjoyed waaaay too many lunches out, had a baby, got fat, moved cross-country, had another baby, got fatter.

After coming to the realization that every mirror, window and camera lens that I passed probably was incapable of adding the number of pounds it would take to make me look so terribly puffy and distorted, I resolved that I'd had enough. When the boobs are almost eclipsed by the gut in profile, it's a sad state of affairs.

Through a crazy turn of events I joined dailymile and a mom with a similar goal (to finish a 10k by the summer) who was also a knitter told me about a running group that was starting at the Y where we lived in Massachusetts. The rest is history. I joined the group, had a ridiculously supportive and positive coach, made amazing friends and in just three short months, I'd finished my first half-marathon and lost thirty pounds. Just in time to pack it all up and move back to the West Coast...and do a second half-marathon in Oregon the next month.

It doesn't matter that I'm still a fatty, because I own the size I am now, knowing that I'm working and making changes in my daily life to make it better. And, I'm less fat than I was before. I've registered for my first full-marathon and the first official day of training was yesterday. On June 4th, I fully expect to have put in the time and miles to allow me to cross the finish line, with a smile (maybe a grimace?), of the most daunting physical feat of my entire life. Yes. Including birthing nine plus pounds of child.

From Running From to Runnning To

I am sister #2 in a family of four girls. Just as each of us are not immediately recognizable as sisters until we smile and you clearly see that we all come from the same orthodontist, we have different histories when it comes to physical fitness. One thing that strikes me is that we all, at some point in our high school athletic careers, earned a "Most Improved" or "Most Inspirational" award. What this tells me is that we have a common thread of solid work ethic, perseverance (there's that word, Sara!) and the ability to project a positive attitude to those around us even while doing crappy things like running sprint rotations along the local graveyard foot path.

My journey with physical fitness began in junior high and developed at my high school's gravel track. Yes gravel track. I was 5'4" and not exactlly built for any sort of athletics. Too short for basketball, too timid for volleyball, and too uncoordinated for field events in track. But my parents expected me to be involved in something and it was either being stuck in the stinky band room where the conductor turned a blind eye to the trombone section letting their spit roll onto the carpet (Ewwwww!), I realized I had to get outside and run. I had some low points, the most traumatizing of which was getting depantsed by Kenny Mitchell in 7th grade while running the all-team warm-up mile in track. Kenny was a crude, loud-mouthed, shot-put and discus guy who came from one of those mysterious single-mom homes and often resorted to what I know now is called negative attention. But, I managed to pull my pants and self-esteem off of the asphalt and realized that the best way to avoid the pranksters was to run away from them to the head of the pack.

By the time 9th grade rolled around I landed with my people: a group of quirky cross country kids who bonded while running along creekbeds and mountain trails. I learned about proper foot-fall, finding your stride, elbowing out the competition on a slim trail corridor, and mental stamina when the road literally got rough. I also began to run as a way to escape the things my adolescent self couldn't face. I ran from the pain of my first break-up, the disappointment of not being invited to the cool house parties, and from the way-over-my-head emotional fall-out of dating a guy who drank too much. In college, I ran to escape the shame of failing freshman year. In my 20s, I would wake in the pre-dawn hours and run away from facing that I had married the wrong guy. And then, post-divorce and in my late-20s and early-30s, running--with girlfriends, in 5K and 12K races, or the famous Hood to Coast relay--was my only healthy choice in an otherwise hearty diet of working too much, tequila shots, one-night-stands, and a string of relationships with guys that made Kenny Mitchell look like a real catch.

By my late-30s, I was ready for a change. I moved away from my hometown and to a major university to pursue my PhD. I also met and married the anti-Kenny Mitchell and did grown-up things like buying our first home and starting a family. I felt happy and confident. Loved and respected. Good in my own skin. But I stopped running. I had finally outrun everything I had been trying to escape. Instead of waking early to get out of an unhappy house, I wanted to hit snooze and hunker down with the man I loved. No longer focusing on being skinny enough to score some lovin' at a bar, I traded running for lounging on the couch and drinking coffee on Sunday mornings and enjoying long dinners at our favorite local restaurants. And then baby came and all bets were off for the growing belly fat.

Which brings me to the present: I am quintessentially "fat and happy". A blissful 192 pounds, to be exact. I can't remember the last time I ran a mile. I still remember how to achieve a proper stride and footfall. More important, I remember that euphoria that comes from having finished a run. But I don't know how to flip the script and run toward my own good health and longevity.

Enter my "sole sister" who also happens to be my biological sister #3. She is a runner too, and in true "most inspirational" fashion is inspiring me to get off the couch and on the road again. Tune in for her story and then we'll take you along, separated by miles but connected at the laces, as we make a run for good health.