Thursday, December 27, 2012

Reflections & A Resolution

It's been about two months since I've done any sort of regular physical activity and more than 3 since I've been able to log consistent miles running. While my clothes are starting to feel a bit snug from the handful of pounds that I've added, I'm the first to admit that I needed the break because staying in shape is not only demanding physically - but it takes planning and scheduling and sticking to a routine. And quite honestly there have been plenty of times that I've wanted to say screw it. I like sitting on my ass and eating cookies and enjoying french fries and taking a nap in the afternoon when everyone else is napping instead of heading out the door to squeeze in some miles.

Christmas Goodies
Thankfully, my body has reached a point of revolt and revolution and I find myself craving salads, pears, and carrot sticks more than I do brownies and ice cream. Getting back into the swing of things - swimming and running and yes, spinning - is going to take some doing but I know once I do it will again become habit and I will be well on my way to logging miles and swimming meters and happily riding a spin bike going nowhere fast. I'm grateful that the Sports Santa was generous and brought me a nice collection of new swim gear that included a gear bag, paddles, a pull buoy and a waterproof iPod. Yes, you did read that correctly, the iPod itself is waterproofed)

I surprised myself in 2012 by completing 4 half marathons, one 4 miler, a handful of 5ks and a couple of 1 mile runs for fun (okay, maybe it was running for beer but still). Somewhere along the way I actually began to enjoy running but even better was the fact that The Munchkin began to enjoy running with me. We've logged a couple hundred miles this year, she and I.  I have my moments when I enjoy the peace and solitude when I'm alone with the pavement under my feet and the thoughts in my head - running isn't the same without her anymore. We talk. We sing. She yells at me to run faster or pushes me to keep running when I think that I need to walk. She's only two, soon to be three - but in that tiny body of hers is an intense motivation to keep moving if nothing else so I can spend as much time with her as I can because I know these moments (ones like when she looks at me and says, "I yur runnin' buddy")  will slip by far too fast. 

2012 also caused me to look at my training - how I train and what I train for - and re-prioritize what I want to get out of my running. I used to be driven by a need and a desire to beat a personal best. I thought 2012 was going to be the year I pushed myself closer to a sub 2 hour half marathon and then the injuries started to add up. They weren't always mine - but having friends being put out of commission for months at a time to let an injury heal made me appreciate what it meant to run with the goal of running happy and injury free. Ultimately I've started to accept that what's best for me isn't to push for time - it's to concentrate on finishing but having fun in the process because life is, after all, a journey and not a destination. 

I've registered for my first half marathon of 2013 and on New Year's Day will register for my second and possibly my third. Sometime before the end of February I plan on registering for what I hope will be my first marathon. If there's one thing I want in 2013 it's to train for a marathon with The Munchkin - it's a journey I started with her in 2012 and it won't seem right if I don't complete it without her. I'd like to try trail running - but I'd also like to knock off a sprint tri if I can somehow scrounge enough together for a relatively inexpensive road bike.

Oh, and my resolution?

It's not to lose weight or to get in shape or to run a sub 2 hour half marathon. All I want to do is conquer and master the making of a perfect lemon meringue pie. I'll keep you posted as to my progress :) 


Tuesday, December 18, 2012


On Monday morning, as I’m sure many parents did, I bundled up The Oldest, gave her an extra long hug, a kiss on the forehead and told her I loved her. I watched as she climbed the steps to the school bus while The Munchkin waved and watched and spoke as only a two year old can about the day she will get to ride the bus. Then, as it pulled away from the curb, I held my breath.

I was tempted to follow the bus to school, something that has never crossed my mind before not even on the first day of kindergarten. I know, however, that as a parent if I am to move beyond the senseless tragedy in Newtown I have to let go. I can love her. I can guide her. I can clean the scrapes on her knees and make sure she eats all of her peas at dinner but at some point I have to send her out into the world – a world that to me is much more uncertain and scary than it was last Friday morning. 

As parents we walk a fine line between protecting and being over protective, between reacting and being over reactive; and struggle knowing that a certain amount of fear is healthy, too much can be crippling. So you take a lot of love, add a couple of shakes of compassion, maybe a few (or maybe many) dashes of concern, a liberal amount of manners, a few heaping scoops of boundaries combined with guidance and  and mix well in the hopes that what you get is a confident, intelligent, self-assured kiddo that makes positive contributions to society. 

The words President Barack Obama spoke to the residents of Newtown at the prayer vigil held on Sunday evening resonated with me:

It comes as a shock at a certain point where you realize no matter how much you love these kids, you can’t do it by yourself, that this job of keeping our children safe and teaching them well is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community and the help of a nation.

And in that way we come to realize that we bear responsibility for every child, because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours, that we’re all parents, that they are all our children.

This is our first task, caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.

And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we’re meeting our obligations?

Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm?

Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know they are loved and teaching them to love in return?

Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?

I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer’s no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change.

Like many others, I too had my moments of reflection in the hours and days that followed. Some happened through thoughtful discussion while others were in peaceful solitude and I had arrived at many of the same conclusions on my own before President Obama spoke to Newtown and by extension, the people of the United States. No. We are not meeting our obligations. We are not doing enough to keep them safe from harm. We cannot claim as a nation we are doing enough. And we will have to change. I fear without that change that while I am doing what I can to raise two beautiful girls who will have much to offer the world, that the society I live in - that we live in - is going to fail them. 

Violent crime in any form is terrible, but violent crime involving children is particularly abhorrent and senseless. The fact that what happened in Newtown happened in an elementary school - a place that is sacred and should inherently be considered safe - makes this event even more difficult to comprehend. Say what you will but our children deserve to be able to go to school - to learn, to be nurtured and loved and educated - without having to walk past an armed guard or have a continual police presence. 

Society is failing my girls and failing our children and families in more than one way, and it's time WE THE PEOPLE, our community leaders and our lawmakers engage in discussion as to how we right the wrongs. I don't claim to have the answers but while I believe gun control alone isn't the answer, I also believe that there are steps that can be taken (that have not been) to help reduce risks. I don't know as mental illness should be the lone focal point of these types of incidents but hope that there's discussion about the failures of our communities to help families who need assistance. Perhaps most of all I hope that we honor the children whose lives were cut tragically short by continuing to dialogue about how we can best make sure that these horrific events become a thing of the past.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday Dinner

I have wonderful memories of sitting down to Sunday afternoon dinners with my family. Sometimes it was only my mom, dad, sister and me - but others we were visiting my Nana in Connecticut or my Grandma and Grandpa in New Hampshire. I especially loved it when my mom would cook because the house would fill with the most wonderful smells

Roasted Pork
There's lots of research out there that points eating meals at home as a family being really beneficial to children.  Eating well (or at least better) is one of the biggest, but a family meal seated around a table can really help set the stage and lay a solid foundation for many other things in a child's life. Despite this, and for a variety of reasons, many families are struggling to to share meals together. 

I'm the first to admit that this was us, especially after The Munchkin joined our family of three and made it it a family of four. After a long day of work and shuttling kids out the door to school or to daycare coming home to cook was the last thing on my mind. We happen to live in an area where per-capita individuals eat out more than any area in the country (please don't ask me for a hard reference - see note below if you want to know where I pulled that one from) and because of that there is a plethora of restaurants making it very easy to eat out or pick up a to-go order. Hindsight being 20/20, I cringe to think about how much of our family budget was being allocated to eating meals every week. 

So what changed? 

Late last year The Oldest became very upset as we were getting ready to head out to eat. Sat down on the floor and began to cry kind of upset. When I finally got her calmed down enough that she could explain between sobs what was going on, she told me all she wanted to do was eat at home as a family. 

That was all the motivation I needed to make a change. 

It's not easy getting my family to sit down to a meal as many times per week as we can. I need to plan ahead, sometimes adjust MY schedule to make it work and I've had to get creative. We've started eating breakfast together on Saturday morning and Sunday - because I value my time in the evening to get ready for the week - I've returned to, you guessed it, a Sunday afternoon dinner.

It wasn't too hard to make the change because I love to cook. Years ago I was --> THIS <-- close to plunking down a deposit to become a student at the New England Culinary Institute. It's something that comes naturally to me - just something I know how to do. But I know that for others cooking can be a challenge. So, in my attempt to become more regular at blogging and wanting to give anyone who is reading a "gift" for the season, I'm going to do my best to log on on Sunday mornings, share with you what thoughts I've had about meals for the week, and share a recipe (or maybe two) with you in the hopes that maybe it will make it a little easier for you to have a meal with your family. 

I have a recipe that I'll share with you for the week, but first some "food" for thought (sorry, couldn't resist):

1. Prepacked Foods: I try to avoid them whenever possible but sometimes they are a necessary evil and will still be cheaper and many times more healthy for my family than going out. I always read labels when I do making note of the portion/serving size and the nutritional information. 20% of daily fat intake might not be too bad UNLESS one package of pulled pork is less than 1 pound and contains 8-10 servings. I like Laura's Lean, particularly the Beef Pot Roast. It's a bit more expensive at around $7 - $9 for the package, but when I consider I can serve it with steamed broccoli and a baked potato and come out to a grand total of about $4 per serving, it's still cheaper (and again, healthier) than eating out.

2. Start Small: Even though I love to cook, it still took me time to get into the HABIT of making meals during the week and when I began making the change my goal was to get two meals on the table each week. 

3. When I buy pork and chicken at the grocery and don't have plans to use them until later in the week I'll place them in a zip top bag, add a little orange juice, seal it and freeze. When I take it out to thaw it marinates in the oj, becomes tender and flavorful. Throw on a George Foreman or in the oven, cook and then baste with BBQ sauce and VOILA! 

4. If I'm making something like pasta with spaghetti sauce I'll buy two containers of sauce and extra of whatever I'm cooking up to put in it (ground beef, ground sausage) and make it up in one big batch. I'll use half of it for that meal and then freeze the rest for a later date. 

5. Remember, when introducing new foods and flavors to kids it takes them trying it 8 to 10 times before they can really tell whether or not they like it. If they don't like the taste of a vegetable steamed, try roasting it with a little bit of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. To make clean up easier put cut veggies into a zip top bag, drizzle with oil and salt, close and shake. It's a bit wasteful and the tree-hugging environmentalist in me cringes but if it makes getting a meal on the table easier, it's worth it.

6. Don't forget that meals can be simple and do not have to be involved. Whole grain blueberry pancakes with turkey sausage and apple sauce is easy to whip up, easy to involve kids, and easy to clean up from too.


My recipe for Sunday is one that I made yesterday: Ina Garten's Perfect Roast Chicken. I'm not sure why it took me so long to try and conquer the Roasted Chicken - maybe because there's something that's intimidating about roasting a whole bird. Of course, my only experience with roasting poultry up to that point had been turkeys and those can intimidate almost anyone. I wanted a simple recipe both in flavor and preparation and this fit the bill. 

When I make this I usually roast extra veggies in the roasting pan in addition to the fennel and onion. Parsnips, carrots, celery, extra onions, rutabaga and potatoes have been used in the past. Last night, as a change, I also added two full heads of garlic sliced off at the top and at the end had two perfectly heads of rich, buttery, roasted garlic. I don't use the roasting rack - I lay all the veggies in the pan and then place the chicken directly on top. Word of advice, do tie the chicken's legs together otherwise you're likely to lose half of a lemon or the garlic not to mention I think that the bird stays juicier that way. Kitchen twine or string is your best bet and can be found at most specialty cooking stores (or if you're really nice to the person at the meat counter they might cut you off a small length) but any 100% natural cotton string (not bleached, no synthetic fibers) could work too. The recipe says it serves 3, but with added veggies and salad it's fed 3 adults and 2 kiddos. 

I serve with a salad so my family gets their greens. The first time I made this it was an instant hit and I was told it was a definite "do-over". Hopefully you will find the same.

Perfect Roast Chicken - Ina Garten
Preheat Oven to 425
Prep Time: Varies 30 to 60 minutes
Cook Time: 1.5 hours

1 (5 to 6 pound) roasting chicken
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme
1 lemon, halved
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
1 bulb of fennel, tops removed, and cut into wedges
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. 

Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pinfeathers and pat the outside dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of lemon, and all the garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Place the onions, carrots, and fennel in a roasting pan. Toss with salt, pepper, thyme, and olive oil. Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top.
Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes. Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve it with the vegetables. 

And about how this area per capita eats out more than any other place in the United States? In a former professional life I coordinated special event fundraisers for a children's hospital. In 2003 a chain restaurant opened their very first location here and as part of their grand opening held a private fundraiser. When I asked the general manager at that time why here he said it was for a handful of reasons but one of the biggest was because it was a market where people eat out more than other places in the United States. I know there have been other restaurant groups that utilize this as a test market for concepts and menus so it makes sense to me. So again, I can't provide hard data, but given this man's position within the restaurant that opened I have to believe there is some truth behind his words.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

It's Home

Let me tell you a little bit about New England.

No, it is not a state that you have not heard of.

Yes, it does include Connecticut even though there are areas - like down around New Haven - that many New Englanders consider to be an extension of New York. This is particularly true of baseball and football fans, and occasionally those who follow basketball and hockey.  And no, New York is not a part of New England.

New England isn't just a place to live. It's a way of life. It's a landscape. It's large, diverse cities and small, quaint towns with a white church that sit quietly at the head of a "common". It's where old timers gather on the porch of the country store during the summer or at the local breakfast dive during the winter and over a cup of coffee talk about all the goings on and gossip. People say we talk fast, are always in a hurry, and keep to ourselves - but once we warm to you what you know you have got is genuine and the real deal.

In many ways, a visit to New England is like being able to visit France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Austria all in one day. Accents are different. Cultures are different. It might take you a little while to realize that "Down East" Maine is actually more north.  The people in the city of Burlington located in the Green Mountain State sometimes joke that the great thing about their locations is that it's so close to the rest of Vermont. Lobstahs, as they should appropriately be called, are purple crustaceans and chowdah should never, ever be red. That Manhattan stuff? It's soup.

New Englanders can add the word "wicked" to almost anything. Wicked cool. Wicked awesome. Wicked bad. In some parts of New England they seem to forget what the letter "r" sounds like but in others the letter "r" gets randomly added to words. They understand there's truth to the phrase, "You can't get there from here," and often measure distance not in miles but in the number of hours it takes to get from Point A to Point B. They sometimes experience the season of spring, maybe a few weeks of summer, a beautiful fall, a cold winter and then the season of mud. Driving in the winter is great because snow will fill potholes but sometimes you have to contend with frost heaves. Even then, one of the worst seasons anyone could ever experience is Black Fly.

New Englanders are resourceful and resilient and have been since the early days of our country.Communities banded together then, and they will come together again because inevitably everyone knows someone who knows someone.

I still haven't figured out why I want to tell you about New England. Maybe it's because despite living in the mid-west for the last 10 years New England is still home. But maybe it's because I know a handful of someones directly affected by Newtown. And yes, I may be in the land of soybeans and corn but they are all still close to my heart and my heart aches for "my" New England.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Catching Up

At the end of June the family got packed up and we headed out on a road trip - kind of what the early pioneers did when they headed west - only we were headed east and instead of a Conestoga wagon it was a behemoth of a Chevrolet Tahoe (at least in comparison to my little Honda Civic Hybrid). We left early in the morning with the kiddos still in their jammies, in the hopes that we'd make it to the New England town that I grew up in by early evening. It was a long drive, but the girls were excellent traveling companions and on their best behavior, and as the landscape faded from flat fields of corn and soybeans to rolling hills covered by a blanket of green I felt every muscle in my body begin to relax. My heart was nearing home.

The girls, my husband and I enjoyed almost two weeks with my family - my mom, my dad, my sister and her husband. I ran hills. Ran with The Munchkin by the ocean. Ran a race for the first time with my sister. Ate far too much deep fried seafood and had a few too many ice cream cones. On the 4th of July The Oldest and I, along with my dad, headed to a lighthouse where we watched fireworks celebrations light up like twinkle lights along the coast. Laughed a lot and enjoyed time together because, while my girls grow older so do my parents, the fact of which is not lost upon me.

It was a much needed vacation - but it also threw me off writing, so here I sit trying to catch up. In a nutshell....

Returned from vacation.

Returned to work and a blue million email messages.

Played catch up.

Ran some and worked some and ran some more.

Worked far too much, but don't we all?

Drove The Oldest to summer day camp and The Munchkin to kiddo care and then headed to work. Wash. Rinse. Repeat as necessary. It was necessary.

And here I sit, September peeking at me around the corner. The Munchkin and I have logged more than 300 miles running together since last summer. My time is staying pretty consistent and she's getting heavier so that must mean I'm getting stronger - either that or she's rolling faster down hills and that's a possibility too. By the end of September my long run will increase to 3:30:00. I figure if I can get to that milestone WITH The Munchkin I'll be good to go for 26.2.  That doesn't mean I'm not inwardly freaking out, because I am.

So that's really it. I don't have much of an excuse for not writing except that life got in the way. I need to make more time for writing because I know I'll only ever have one first marathon experience and I really do want to document this for my girls - and maybe a little for me so years from now I can look back and say, "Yup, I did it!"

Monday, July 2, 2012

Easy Midweek Meal

Stumbled upon this recipe a while back and it's become an easy, midweek go-to with plenty of leftovers for our family of four. I'm mostly posting it here because I can never seem to find it when I want to, but I'm always on the lookout for simple, fairly healthy recipes. I do modify the original recipe by the following:

  • Sprinkle each chicken breast with seasoned salt and garlic granules
  • Slice 2 green bell peppers and 1/2 onion - add to the top of the chicken
  • Pour 1 can of chicken broth over the breasts and peppers/onions prior to cooking
When the chicken is done cooking, and before adding the sauce, I drain and shred and then follow the rest of the instructions. I usually use Sweet Baby Rays Honey BBQ sauce and Newman's Own Light Italian dressing and in reading the reviews it seems like you'll want to spend a little extra on good bottled BBQ sauce.

We usually serve the chicken on whole wheat rolls, but when I take this to work for leftovers I just bring a raw potato to cook in the microwave, then heat the chicken and put it over the top.

Where The Heart Is

They say home is where the heart is. I may have spent the last 10 years in the relative flat of Central Indiana and while I have come to accept it as my place of residence, I'm not sure it will ever be home.

And so it is that last week I found myself driving, across Indiana, through Ohio, skipping by Pennsylvania, traversing New York (there's a point on the New York State Throughway that every single time I reach every muscle in my body seems to relax a little more because the rolling landscape, views of the mountains in the distance, and the continuous green blanket of trees is what I know), over Vermont (literally over) and into New Hampshire.

The second half of my grade school years were spent in southwestern New Hampshire but I haven't been back for almost 6 years - or since my parents retired to the coast of Maine. It was strange to run in a town that's at the same time familiar and what I remember as a kid, but also different. The college has grown exponentially, big box stores and some national chain restaurants have moved in (this is a place that didn't have a Burger King until I was a senior in high school in the early 90's) so the town isn't as small as it once was but the main street is still lined with mom and pop establishments and maintains the small feel.

I had been sitting the better part of 18 hours in a large SUV and I was certain I wanted to run and stretch my legs - but I was also pretty sure that my body would protest the run. My HR shot up and never really evened out, and my legs felt heavy but as I wrote on Daily Mile, there's something to be said about running in a place where the heart and soul can exhale and relax. I ran through the downtown area and onto the campus of the local college - eventually making one large loop back to our hotel. My only regret for this run is that I didn't have more time as I would have liked to have spent an hour or two exploring by my own two feet.

After meeting my sister for lunch we packed up The Oldest and The Munchkin and continued east to where my parents are in Maine, and that's where I've been for the last few days. My time here is always far too short so I've been taking advantage of the rolling hills and the forested paths, or the ponds and ocean, while I can. The trails at home give me an opportunity to decompress but it's not the same. The scents. The sounds. The peace and calm. Me, the road, and nothing more but the sound of my breathing and the wind rustling the leaves in the trees.

The northeast is where, in my heart, I know I belong and it breaks a little to hear The Oldest remark about how beautiful the landscape is or how amazing the mountains are. I try to remain grateful that she is able to have the experiences that she has - that I am able to visit family that lives in one of the most beautiful areas of the country - but I wish that she could experience this every day. At the same time, I didn't truly understand what I had until I moved away and maybe these visits will help foster a greater sense of appreciation. I watch her with my parents - her grandparents - and try to commit special moments like her making cookies with her grammy or boogie boarding in the ocean with her poppa to memory. And I sit in the relatively bug-free enclosure of the screened in porch, take in a deep breath, and hope that I'll be able to take some of this serenity with me when I go.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thinking About Going Vegan?

NYT Well - Phys Ed: Can Athletes Perform Well on a Vegan Diet?

Bottom line? Seems there's not enough research (personal experiences aside) to know but I found this quote from D. Enette Larson-Meyer to speak volumes.
"I like to tell people that if we got most Americans to eat one less serving of meat every day, there would be far greater impact from that, in terms of improving overall public health and the health of the planet, than convincing a tiny group of endurance athletes to go full vegan."

"I don't own my child's body."

A friend on Facebook recently posted a link to a thought provoking CNN article by Katia Hetterer. You can read it here, but the general message the author conveys is that occasionally, her 4 year old daughter goes on a hugging and kissing strike (which happens, as most parents of young children can attest to).
Her parents could get a hug or a kiss, but many people who know her cannot, at least right now. And I won't make her... I will not override my own child's currently strong instincts to back off from touching someone who she chooses not to touch.
 Not friends. Not extended family. Not own family.

How many times have I, as a mother, told The Munchkin to give someone a hug or a kiss? Many. As I read through the piece I reflected back on the many times that when The Munchkin shook her head no, said no and ran in the other direction, or just flat out refused on the spot,  and I said something to her that could have caused her to relent. For a child who has such a strong will (and a strong will she does have) this is one time when she will do as I wish or ask and not what she wants to do.

In short, I began to realize that I need to change my modus operandi. A long time ago I decided I wouldn't allow anyone to guilt The Oldest into feeling like she had to do something or had to go somewhere. She's an old soul and has more empathy in her pinky finger than many adults will be able to muster up over the course of a lifetime and because she's a people pleaser she's easily persuaded, guilted (is that even a word?), or made to feel like she should do something because it will make someone else happy. I never connected that telling her she needs to give someone a kiss or a hug could put her in equally a difficult position.

I work hard to nurture my two girls in the hopes they will become caring, strong willed, independent and intelligent women with both book smarts and people smarts. I want them to be resolute in what they believe and feel as though they can stand up or speak out when they feel they have been wronged. But mostly, I want them to trust their instincts - to believe in that gut feeling, to be able to know that they are doing the right thing without second guessing should they find themselves in a situation that makes them uncomfortable and to do that - it starts with my saying exactly what the author has: I won't make them.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Salt Lick

Yuppers. This is about how I felt after my run this afternoon. Temps at run time? In the low 90s. Humidity? High. Me? Sweating like a mofo.

Ask most people who know me and I'm blessed to be the kind of person who sweats, but doesn't smell. I've been out for 2+ hour runs to return home, clothes soaking wet but no stink on me at all. Hooray for small miracles, right?

I do, however, seem to become quite the human salt flat once said sweat evaporates. Last summer I'd get the fine, telltale, white squiggly outlines on my skin that indicated salt crystals. I think the only thing worse was realizing my then 13 month old Munchkin would actually lick my shoulder after a run because of it.

I ran with a friend, Kara, today. I used to be a pretty solitary runner, but after running two half marathons with friends, and then a one mile "fun run" with Kara I've come to find I really enjoy having the company, conversation and companionship. Admittedly, when I pulled into the parking lot I couldn't help but wonder to myself whose brilliant idea it was to run 4 miles in this kind of heat (read: mine) and what the heck I was thinking. It's days like these that send me back to my initial months of running when my inner monologues were robust and I often wondered what possessed me to think I could ever become a runner. But then something happened. I actually began to enjoy running. I looked forward to it. I would run because I wanted to, not because I had to (which is another story for another time). And as much as I may have whined and complained a little throughout the four miles - I really did enjoy this workout.

Our miles were slow. 4 miles in 41:55 for an overall pace of 10:28/mi, that's about what I had been running in the spring on my long training runs pushing The Munchkin, but they were solid. I felt somewhat wimpy when I ended up downing the two bottles of water on my hydration belt but in these types of conditions is much better to be smart than to be stubborn.

I have speedwork on the schedule for tomorrow and I haven't decided whether or not I'm going to take it outside early in the morning, or if I'm going to go indoors in the afternoon and then get in a quick swim for active recovery. Week 1 of Marathon Training is almost over... already looking forward to Week 2.


Yesterday, a friend that I work with happened to be in our break room at the same time I was heating up my lunch. I've known her for years - and she's known both of my girls, "My Princesses" as she calls them, since they were infants. Earlier this year she was diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer - through her initial doctor appointments and testing she remained positive and happy, but outwardly she also projected an inner peace that only served to reinforce her grace and dignity. Being in the medical field she knew what lay ahead of her, and she was determined to tackle it head on.  She only returned to work one month ago.

As I sat down and waited for my food to finish in the microwave she took a deep breath and said very casually, "So I don't know if you've heard or not, but I'm going to have to go on at least short term disability but it looks like I may have to go on long term disability as well." I paused for a moment before speaking and automatically assumed that there had been some complication with her breast cancer follow-up that would require her to take some time off. Before I had the opportunity to open my mouth and try to say something that wouldn't seem trite or patronizing I felt like I was being hit by the full force of a right hook to my jaw. "I have liver cancer, Joy, and it's big enough that it's inoperable. My only option would have been for a resection and that's not an option because the cancer has spread too far, or a transplant and I'm not a candidate to be on the transplant list because it's too soon after my breast cancer."

What do you say to that?  I'm sorry? I'm sorry is bullshit and empty. I'm beyond sorry, I'm pissed. I didn't have words. I couldn't find words. There aren't enough words to convey what I was thinking at that exact moment. So instead, I walked over to where she was eating, gave her a hug, and cried. She said, "I have to believe there is a plan in all of this, you know?"

She has an amazing support network that includes family, friends, and coworkers. Her attitude, at least outwardly, is positive and in looking at her I couldn't help but feel a sense of awe and amazement at how collected she seemed to be. She's determined, but at the same time, knowing her for as long as I have, there was also a hint of concession in her voice - as if she intuitively knows what her future is going to hold.

So all of this, in combination with the news the other day that a runner - a wife, a mother of three that was newly pregnant - was murdered, has had me thinking about my own mortality more than usual. Thankfully not to the point that my anxiety runs rampant and I find myself spiraling down into a panic that only Xanax can stop - but thinking about nonetheless. As I lay in bed the other morning debating as to whether or not I ran ultimately what got me out of bed was knowing I could postpone my run, but there was nothing to say that with the extra time and thus getting out of the house earlier to head to work that I wouldn't be flattened by a garbage truck. I know there are no guarantees but this kind of news just serves to reinforce that and the need to make sure that I hug my girls a little tighter, I let all who surround me know how very much they are appreciated and loved, and that I live my life so that my memory, my legacy, is how I want others to remember me.

I'll be pissed off at the world for a few days as I process through the news and my anger. Then, as I always have, I will pick myself up - dust myself off - and figure out how to make lemon meringue pie out of a whole crap ton of lemons.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Mind Full

I've been trying to formulate thoughts into words - and piece those words into coherent sentences. This morning when I stepped through my garage door and into the humid morning air my mind was full of heavy thoughts. Tightening my grip around my pepper spray did nothing to calm the chatter, neither did pressing the start button on my Garmin as I began to run down the street.

Earlier this year a woman was kidnapped and murdered while out for a morning run. Her body was finally found three months later and two individuals have been charged in her death. Because her death came at a time when I was running primarily mid-day or in the afternoons, it shocked me but it didn't cause me to think twice about when I run, how I run, and where I run. Then, last night, a post appeared on Daily Mile - reminding us all, but women in particular, to be safe and prepared. It seems another woman - a wife, and a pregnant mother of three - was murdered while out for a morning run.

I find, as do most people I would hope, violence against women to be heinous. As I was running this morning I kept revisiting that collectively as women, sadly crap like this links us - across borders, across continents, across religion and ethnicity and culture- and it is deplorable to be victimized or terrorized because of our gender.

I do what I can to be smart when I'm running no matter what time of day.
  • I always tell someone where I am going, what route I am taking, how long I expect to be out and when I anticipate I will be back. 
  • I vary my routes as well make sure that I don't run at the exact same time every day. 
  • I have a Road ID that lists my name, important medical information and emergency contacts.
  • I've started running with my phone and use an app that emails my husband every 10 minutes with my route and location.
  • I use headphones for music but I keep the volume low enough that I can remain observant of my surroundings. 
  • I watch shadows, listen for sounds, watch the faces of the people coming toward me - I make eye contact and acknowledge that I see them. I square off my shoulders and run a little more confidently.
  • I stay where I know there will be people - or people nearby
  • And this morning, I began running with pepper spray.
There's no promise that any of this will protect me - but the way I figure it because of personal history and the fact that I am a mom to two very impressionable little girls I cannot let fear dictate my life. But for a half second this morning, as I lay in bed after my alarm clock went off, I allowed that fear to creep in and I debated putting off my run until this afternoon. And then I got angry that I'd even be questioning whether or not I should run as the sun comes up and I hauled my behind out from beneath the covers.

At 5:30 in the morning, here on the western edge of the eastern time zone, it's starting to get light. Muted lavenders and blues, along with the occasional streak of peach or pink crossed the sky and a few cars drove past me on the main north/south route that I have to cross to get to where I run at this hour. It's less than a half mile from my front door a mega subdivision with paved trails running between and behind rows of houses - but I've never been more aware of my surroundings than I was this morning but I refused to let them rule my run.

I ran 3 miles this morning, each mile was progressively faster with unintended negative splits. I will continue to be smart about my runs and I have no doubts, at least for the near future, that I'll have to fight the insecurities and fears about running on my own - but if I cave, those who continue to commit acts of violence against women will win and that's just not an option.

Monday, June 18, 2012

To Plan or Not to Plan, That is The Question

June 18, 2012

Marathon plan called for Sunday off and 20-30 minutes cross training today. Usually on Monday's I both run and swim - and I did so during my half training without much trouble but I also know that a marathon is an entirely different beast. In the interest of being smart, at least for now, I cut out the run and stuck with the swim.

I'm still not entirely sure of how I'm going to proceed over the next few weeks while my running mileage remains lower than what I've been putting in. Before I decided to make the leap into 26.2 I spoke with Charlie at my trusted running store, Blue Mile and found that my average mileage of about 20 to 25 per week is my "base". I had spent some time building up to that over the course of my last half marathon, but continued to run longer every other weekend after in an attempt to keep up my fitness. Admittedly, after all the work that I've done to lose weight and get fit, there's also something intensely gratifying to know that I can call on my body to run 13.1 at any given point in time.

Charlie did advise that between my half and starting up marathon training it'd be okay to cut back on mileage some - part for the mental break of sticking to a training plan day in and day out, but also to give my body the opportunity to recoup and recover.  I still consider myself to be a novice runner, but what he was saying made sense to me so over the last couple of weeks I reduced my mileage pretty considerably (or what seemed to sot me).  Of course now... now I've got nervous twitches that somehow I'm not going to be able to build back up or that I'm going to struggle doing so. In my HEAD I know this is nonsense. The Type-A, overachiever in me debates that.

What I may do is throw in lower mileage, truly easy run one day a week (like Monday) and keep that up until my midweek mileage catches up. Of course, I think the best advice I got on Daily Mile came from Olu when he said:

I would follow the plan as closely as possible at least for the 1st one. There's nothing remotely intuitive of marathon training until you've done it before.

I'm realizing that everything I know how about running - fueling, hydration, recovery - is about to get shaken up, but that's okay.

So in keeping with my plan I stuck with cross training only and made my way to the gym where I spent close to 45 minutes in the cool, calm, waters of the lap pool. If there's one thing about swimming indoors during the summer it's that most people have made tracks to be outdoors, so there's less lane comedy or chaos. There's something amazing when it's only me - the water is smooth and my swim is more like gliding through the water than trying to power through it.

My choice of music changes when I'm swimming - I tend to favor Coldplay, Enya, maybe Enigma but by far what I listen to the most is Maroon 5. Thinking about Adam Levine waiting for me at the end of my lane doesn't hurt - but the music, particularly from the Hands All Over album, seems to be perfectly paced and sets just the right "mood" for me to find my Zen in the pool.

Being in the water is where I feel most at peace. Whenever I've found myself feeling particularly challenged, emotionally vulnerable or just having a difficult time in general I've turned to water - the shower, the tub, the pool, a lake, the rain, the snow. Water cleanses, rinses and renews. It flows along gentle and easy or churns and roars with power and might or freezes into crystalline beauty that floats from the heavens and covers the earth. Much like the road and the path have become an old friend that welcomes me back whenever I lace up my shoes - so too is the water, but it envelopes and surrounds and comforts.

Had hoped for 2000m but it wasn't in the cards but that's okay. Was more important to hop out, collect The Oldest from kid care and spend some time pool side with her. She's growing and changing every day - I want to capture memories and moments and time spent with her while I still can because I know that it's going to seem like only a nanosecond and she'll be all grown up with kids of her own.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Early to Rise

Both of my girls tend to be early risers, but The Munchkin is more like me where she wakes up with the sun. With the light of day creeping into earlier hours, it's time for me to bite the bullet and find some blackout curtains. It wasn't even 5:15 when I heard my name being called over the baby monitor. If I weren't such a light sleeper I might not have even noticed, The Munchkin may have put her head back down and I might not be sucking down coffee like a crazy woman - but I am.

When I walked in to The Munchkin's room she was standing by the edge of her crib, flashed me a smile and said, "I run?"  The weather looks clear, but in checking the Weather Channel's app on my iPhone it said there was a 60% chance of thunderstorms around 7a and the map was showing a small blob of red and yellow off to our west. If it were me, out on my own, I would have chanced it - but the last thing I want to do is get stuck out in thunder boomers (though I suppose she is riding on rubber tires so maybe that would help ground her?) with her.

I love that she wants to run with me. Yesterday morning when I made my way upstairs to get her up she was still sleeping. I picked her up out of her crib and sat down in the glider - and as she usually does she tucked her legs up beneath her, pulled her arms in and curled up against my shoulder. After a few minutes of rocking she lifted her head, rubbed her eyes and said, "We run?"

The Munchkin & Murray

My training run yesterday was rough. It was in the mid-70's at our 7a run time and really humid. As I wrote on Daily Mile, it felt more like I was running in mid-July rather than mid-June. I know it's just a matter of time and acclimation to running in summer - I did it last year and I'll do it again this year - but the 4 miles really wiped me out. I'm certain that my being a little dehydrated in combination with having cut back on miles over the last couple of weeks didn't help and, as my husband pointed out, hopping into a car and driving for over an hour to a wedding we were attending only served to insult my legs and hips more. Even still, I kept telling myself that I can power me and a small human, by the strength of my legs alone, over four miles - heck, I can do it for more than 13.1 - and that helped me keep it all in perspective. 

Eventually I need to figure out my cross-training schedule. I'd like to add in some strength work, but I think my focus is going to be on swimming and possibly some time in on my bike as I start to work toward making a run at a 70.3 before I turn 40 a reality. But being early in my training and that today is Father's Day - today is a day of rest.

Happy Father's Day out there to all who are fathers or fathers in spirit.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Marathon Training Starts NOW

Day 1: June 16

My alarm clock went off at 5:30 and my sleepy mind complained that it was too early for a Saturday. Not for a Tuesday or a Thursday when I've been trying to squeeze in early morning, before work miles - but most definitely for a Saturday. I hit snooze, lifted my head ever so slightly to peer out the blinds and thanked the powers that are that at least it was starting to get light.

Today is Day 1 of marathon training. It all starts here. I was hit with a couple of random thoughts as I was making the 15th trip up the stairs to get a random item that I left in the bedroom - the first of which is that I really must do better about laying out gear the night before because it's obvious that while I can get up and get moving, I'm pretty useless at trying to remember everything. I wondered what shoes I should wear and I eventually passed up on the Brooks Pure and settled on my NB 890 v2 Boston Edition (seemed only fitting). I ended up never finding my Body Glide and wondered what a non-runner would think if they overheard me say to another runner: "I got up at 5:30 this morning and I swear I thought I knew where I left my BodyGlide but for the life of me I couldn't find it!" And of course, there was that temporary moment of panic (the first of many, I'm sure) where I wondered what the hell I was thinking when I registered for 26.2.

I did manage to get all of The Munchkin's gear together last night. I have her sippy cup, grapes, cheerios and a bottle of water all ready to go. All that's left for me to do is tip-toe into her room and when she lifts her sleepy noggin ask her if she's ready to run. And run we will.

This is OUR journey to 26.2

Time to get The Munchkin.