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Archive for October, 2009

Webkinz gray arabian

Answer:  If that mother is a runner, the stupid song is the Webkinz Gray Arabian song. 

I’ve included the link to the song for the very curious, but I’m warning you, DON’T CLICK THE LINK.  Here it is:  Link.  Don’t click it.  If you do, you’ll be singing the song for the next four or five months, too.  Don’t do it.  Seriously. 

On the other hand, at least the beat helps me keep a good pace.  Sigh.  Motherhood.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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running-up-hill[1]

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When I walk out my door, I come face-to-face with a huge hill.  Literally. 

So any “little run” is also a hill run for me, which may have been the reason that most of my runs began as walks early in my running journey.

I had a strategy, which was to run when I could and walk when I had to.  Due to the steepness and quantity of the hills and my general lack of conditioning, that meant walking most of the time and running down the hills. 

I remember counting the seconds, then the minutes that I could run on the flat spaces of ground, after the downhill sprints and before the uphill challenges.  Then I remember being able to run a few yards, then a few more yards, on some of the easier inclines.  Each time I could run a few seconds longer or a few yards further, I scored one in the win column, as far as I was concerned.  Wasn’t it Vince Lombardi that said success is measured in inches?  Then there was the day, when I whipped the hill in front of my house.  Woo Hoo!  But the worst hill was yet to come.

If you’re from my community, you know the hill I’m talking about.  Going back into town across the bridge, that nasty, deceptive incline pretends to be one length and then gently curves around to reveal you’re only half way up!  The hill itself is a half mile long and steep.  It took tremendous effort to even walk up that beast the first couple months of my training.

I never quit.  I never turned around and just went home.  Even if I had to stop and walk, I finished that thing with every ounce of energy I had in me.

At last, early on Saturday, July 11th, during the beginning of a nine-mile run, I made it all the way up that stinking hill without stopping to walk!  Oh yeah, baby!  No matter what else happened, this was going to be a GREAT day! 

rocky-victory[1]

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And, yes, I most certainly DID have the Rocky music playing in the soundtrack of my mind.  I had finally conquered that beast of a hill and I was going to enjoy that victory for all it was worth.  

If I could do it, anybody can do it.  I’m still running that hill several times a week.  Still hearing the Rocky music playing in my mind.  And still thanking God for the strength and tenacity to beat that beast each time I encounter it.  Yes! 

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“Body Glide.   You’ll also need Body Glide.” 

Shelly was speaking a foreign language.  What on earth was she talking about? 

Well, evidently most of us “endurance athletes” (I still chuckle at myself when I think of myself in those terms) experience pain over the long haul where our sweaty skin rubs against, well, anything else on those long runs. 

I hadn’t even thought about this, much less conceived that there might be a product to deal with the issue.  But since I was fast approaching the day for my 5-hour run and the weather was expected to be in the 80’s with a heat index in the 90’s, I figured I’d best listen to whatever wisdom Shelly was willing to impart. 

The running community even had its own nickname for the outcome of this unfortunate experience:  Chub Rub.  Now being an ample person, I had plenty of opportunity for said chub rub, I’m sad to admit, so I was glad to hear there was a remedy! BodyGlide

Since that conversation, I’ve been astounded to witness during the preparation phases of many races the many creative places where runners have used Body Glide (and other similar products) to prevent the chub rub.  Some exceedingly un-chubby people have been spotted slathering it everywhere.  One friend of mine even has it in a mini-size to keep it with her when she runs long races!

And it works.  This is not a product endorsement, because I haven’t been paid to endorse them, but I can tell you that the stuff works.  And it’s one of the wierd little quirks of this running culture I’m glad to have picked up along the way, before having to face the dreaded chub rub personally.

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When starting something new, I tend to be kind of quiet about it, waiting to make Grand Announcements about my conquests until there seems like there might be some kind of potential for success.  Chris, on the the other hand, is a different kind of gal.  While I would have preferred to start my running program under cover of darkness, hiding my outta-shape self from the perceived criticisms of others, my buddy Chris was one bold cookie.  She posted and chatted and talked about our adventures until now, quite unexpectedly, I was publicly committed to this journey as well.  Back doors were quickly being closed, boats were being burned behind me.  Quitting was quickly becoming a non-option.  So we set out on a course for success.

Now, whether Chris actually knew at the time that by virtue of being her wonderful self, she was shutting down my every excuse to bail out of our running gig, I really don’t know.  But I’m really glad that she is who she is, because I wouldn’t have made it through the early stages of runningville without her.

It was through Chris that I was (re)connected with my friend Shelly and connected with my new friend Jamie.  Shelly had run a half marathon earlier in the year and was training to run a full marathon later in the year.  She was a Serious Athlete who was training for her marathon with Team in Training.  And she saved my bacon many times, with her timely advice and words of wisdom.

Without someone who already knows what they’re doing, how do you know what equipment is important and what is a waste?  How do you know which training programs work and which ones are worthless?  Shelly is one example, but I’m amazed how people in the running world share their information and their tricks of the trade so liberally, how encouraging everyone is.  (Of course, I’m no threat to anybody’s records and I have a looonnnggg way to go, so I may just be really easy to encourage, too!)

So it was that when Shelly suggested we all run a half marathon together in 2010, I said, Sure, without really thinking about it.  We are now the Capital City Half Marathon Babes and will be burning up the course on May 1, 2010! 

Since I’d barely been able to crawl 7.3 miles, I knew I’d need a training program.  Enter Dotty, another new friend and adult-onset endurance athlete.  She was full of great advice regarding midlife training and coaching.  She recommended the book that helped me figure this whole running thing out  (at least so far).  And she talked about a very cool half-marathon in Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach?  Hmmm.  My brother had just moved to Virginia.   Thoughts of visiting with him and trying my first half marathon swarmed through my delusional head.  I mentioned to my brother that I was “just thinking” about coming out and running the race and he surprised me with his response: “as long as you’re just thinking about it, why don’t we run it together?” 

That’s all it took.  The matter was settled.  I was going to see my brother and run in my first Big Race with him.  Never mind that he was already an endurance athlete.  Never mind that his legs are so long that his inseam reaches up to my armpits.  Never mind that I was still hobbling from my first 5K walking and 7.3 mile trail experience.  Never mind that the race was the first Sunday in September, less than four months away.  Never mind that it was absolutely impossible. 

Somehow, after more than a decade of neglect, within weeks of getting my feet back into my running shoes, having never in my life moved my body more than ten miles in a given effort, I had committed myself to TWO half-marathons.

It was official.  I had lost it for real.  And my craziness was evidence that I was truly on my way to becoming an actual Runner.

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The afternoon after my first 5K, I took a ride with my mom and daughter, N, to one of our local parks to check out a trail on which an upcoming run was scheduled.  Never mind that my knees technically weren’t working and it had taken me more than 50 minutes to walk 3.1 miles.  Never mind that the trail was 7.3 miles and had to be completed in 2 hours.  Never mind that the race was scheduled the day of my 25th high school reunion.  Just because it was technically and completely impossible didn’t mean I shouldn’t do my homework about the thing.  C’mon!

My mother and daughter were happy to enable me in my delusion and we walked a bit of the trail together.  Didn’t seem too rugged to me.  The date was set for N and I to run walk the trail and see if we could complete it in the requisite 2 hours. 

After rescheduling several times due to pain and rain, N and I finally set out on the trail.  My brother (who several years ago had walked this trail while training to walk the Appalachian Trail~which he conquered, successfully, solo and in record time, by the way) had assured me that the trail was not rugged by A.T. standards, but had warned me about the ticks in the area.

TICKS?!  Ack.  My head was itching just thinking of it. 

We set off with our heads covered, and weighed down with snacks and water provided by my wonderful mom, who had agreed to hang out with Yay-Mommy-Princess while we were on our hike. 

Less than a mile into the trail we discovered suddenly an animal skeleton hanging in a tree, which set quite the tone for our adventure.  (My mother later told me that the park staff knew about the lovely carcass, and laughingly asked if we’d seen it.  Ranger humor.  Nice.) 

We also discovered that the definition of “rugged” meant vertical hills, with slippery steps carved into mud walls, and truly meant for mountain goats or wolves, but definitely not humans.  Note to self:  watch for “rugged” in description of future running courses.

Half-way through the walk/run/hike N decided that she needed to stop and rest.  Sadly, I knew that the one thing I could NOT do was stop, since my knees were already showing signs of locking up.  After trying to explain in my nicest mom voice that if mom stopped to rest, they would be needing to bring a little cart to pick us up and haul mom’s pitiful, aching body off the trail, we continued on walking, whining, whimpering and wallowing–sometimes in self-pity and sometimes in the mud. 

We somehow made it through without dying in 2 hours and 2 minutes.  It was an amazing bonding time with my daughter N.  M was at our “finish line” jumping up and down and shouting her trademark, “Yay, Mommy!  Go Mommy!”  We only found one stubborn tick that insisted on coming home with us.  And we had pushed ourselves further than what either one of us had known was possible. 

I had been exercising for about two weeks at that point.  I was leaving the domain of the “Normal Person” and was becoming a “Runner.” I was filthy and exhausted, but had discovered the exhilaration of the trail run, the thrill of meeting that goal and the knowledge that though I was far, far, far from where I wanted to be, I was 7.3 miles closer than I was the day before.

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Who’s to blame for this running thing ?  I can think of lots of people, lots of circumstances.  (Me?  I might be to blame for it?  Nah, what fun would that be?!)  Many seemingly unrelated events and coincidences spiraled together to push me over the edge into this adventure, but I’ll have to blame give the credit to my friend, Chris. 

See, Chris found me on Facebook and we decided we’d be workout partners.  Frankly, it was a pretty weak agreement on my part because at the time I was talking about working out without any intention of actually moving anywhere but to the refrigerator. 

This was in early May.

A few days later, Chris suggests, “Let’s run in the Mahomet 5k together in August.”  Sure, I think.  August is far enough away for my superior procrastination skills to be well-utlilized.  No problem.  Registered for wish-race.  Check.  (Still no movement, however.)

A few days later, Chris suggests, “I know it’s only 11 days away, but let’s do the Memorial Day 5k together.  We can walk it.”  At this point, I know that walking it is the ONLY way I’m getting across the finish line in 11 days, since I haven’t run a step in about a decade.  (Nearly falling off the elliptical machine does not count.)  So I commit to running walking the race in 11 days.  (Still no movement, but trepidation has begun to set in.)

I decide to see if my body can even move for 3.1 miles at any pace on its own power without the need for medical attention.  About one hour and one gallon of sweat later, I discover that I have lived to tell the tale, but am confident only in the fact that I have my work cut out for me. 

We survive the 5k walk (daughter, N, has run it and finished LONG before me, and daughter, M, is still waiting at the finish line, jumping up and down and holding a pink parasol, shouting, YAY MOMMY, very cute, but leaving me nowhere to hide) and I discover that my muscles and bones have a unique way of protesting this new thing called exercise:  they stop working.  Knees locked up, I hobbled to the bathroom after crossing the finish line.  How in the world had I let myself get in this terrible shape?!

Hobbling back to the crowd and watching the svelte lionesses get their lightning speed awards, I notice that Crazy Chris now has flyers for MORE RACES in her hand.  The next one is a FIVE HOUR see-how-far-you-can-go race put on by our local running club.  Yes, heaven help me, I’ll do it with you, Chris. 

Knowing at this point, it’s train or die racing, the movement begins.  Slowly.  But it begins. 

And over 400 miles later, I’m still running.  (Thanks Chris.)

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This blog was named after my daughter M’s cheer.  I hear it at almost every finish line, at some starting lines, and as I’m headed up the hill out my front door on lots of my workout runs.  Sometimes I even hear it in my mind, when I’m having to push through or finish something hard. 

I never would have started running again had it not been for my daughters.  And a few great friends.  And a supportive husband.  And my brother’s encouragement.  And my mom’s help.  And an awesome running club.  And the grace of God. 

And running, after God Himself, has been the thing that has helped me maintain my sanity as I navigate this thing called midlife.  (Why did nobody ever tell us it would be like this, people?!) 

Why write about it?  Because that’s what I do. 

Maybe you’ll be encouraged or entertained or edified as you visit here.  For me, it’s a way of memorializing this unlikely journey so I can enjoy each footstep, in spite of my Type-A, goal-driven nature.   It’s a way of sharing the trip with my friends, family and (ha!) fans.  It’s a way of keeping my perspective and remembering what’s really important.  And a way of keeping it real.

 Enjoy!  I know I will.

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