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Archive for the ‘celebration’ Category

Must Do This Awesome Race

Awesomeness.  Where is this race?  This amazingly cool picture was posted on the Go Mommy! facebook page, courtesy of Iris. Thanks Iris!

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Hurray! 

As of Monday, I’ve officially traversed over 500 miles while training for various races!  I’ve gone from being a complete couch-potato to a Mom-Who-Runs.  And I’m so grateful to the people who have encouraged, guided, coached, prodded, and tricked me into and along this journey! 

NEVER would I have imagined at the beginning of this year that I would have participated in a half marathon, an ultra, several 5Ks, and logged 500 miles while training for them all.  NEVER would I have imagined it on May 1st!  Indeed, I logged my first mile on May 19, 2009. 

I am amazed at how much this adventure has changed me.  I know beyond a doubt that I am one blessed lady and the first 500 have made me even more determined about the next 500! 

2010 has BIG things in store for me, running-wise, assuming all continues to go well.  Thanks for joining me on this adventure and helping me celebrate the 500 milestone!  If I can do it, anybody can do it.  Here’s to all of our success!

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Running Shoes: BEFORE

So here’s the thing. 

I had this whole post planned with the title:  You Don’t Expect Me to Run Up THAT, Do You?  And the post was about the Wild Wild Wilderness Run hosted by the Kennekuk Road (and must.not.forget.the.TRAIL) Runners a couple months ago. 

That trail featured 7.55 miles of pure running torture.  (So terrible that I plan on running it again in the arctic weather we surely can expect during the Sibearn Express on January 2, 2010.)  Seriously, though.  It was terrible.  There was a nearly vertical hill that only mountain goats or really nimble deer should ever be expected to climb, one that hugged an earth wall and where a single step to the left would leave a person pummeling hundreds of yards to their demise in a thornbush-infested ravine.  There were three or four miles of challenging, but bearable terrain that initiated the uninitiated WWW trail runner.  Then (surprise, newbie!) the turn-off to the hill-from-hell.  Only to be followed by three or four miles more  of Really. Hard. Trail Running. 

Now, I love running hills.  But these weren’t people-hills.  They were animal-only hills.  And those super-runners who could just prance up them with ease–well, I’m astounded by those people.  They need a special category of fitness just for them.

As for me, I was so proud of Finishing Without Dying that I floated along on that experience for quite some time.  It mattered very little to me that I was near the Very End of the pack.  I was thrilled beyond words to have finished on my feet instead of a stretcher.

So that was the essence of the post I was going to write.  Because that was the craziest trail I’d run so far.  Until today.

Today I was introduced, quite accidentally, to the Backpack Trail at Forest Glen.  I personally believe they call this the Backpack Trail because most normal humans would need to bring camping supplies (or at least a meal!) in order to traverse the sucker, because it takes SO LONG and is SO HARD to finish this monster of a trail.

Now the introduction to the trail was only partially accidental, I confess.  Because I planned to do the 4.5 mile trail.  You know, the “this-11-mile-trail-intimidates-me-so-I-want-a-shorter-version-of-the-Backpack-Trail” trail.  What I did NOT plan to do was the 11 mile version of the Backpack Trail. 

Had I completed the 4.5 mile version, I’d still have had plenty of material to share with you, believe-you-me.  But the fact that just one teensy-weensy turn to the left rather than the right had us move our bodies over 11 miles of terrain instead of 4.5 miles is just plain wicked.  Indeed, we made the left vs. right decision because some Very Helpful (sadistic) Campers advised us that everyone had headed toward the left.  Thank you campers. 

What followed was an adventure that my two running buddies and I certainly had not anticipated.  We were told that we’d be heading over a creek.  Indeed, we headed over multiple creeks.  “Creek” is a highly subjective term, apparently.  I’m thinking, it’s a little thing you can hop over.  Nope.  It’s several big things that, even if you don’t fall off the slippery rocks that pose as steps across the current, you’re going to be wading in the water at least up to your ankles.  (Before you Florida readers think me a wimp, now, please remember that it was 33 degress when I got in the car to drive to this adventure!). 

And there were hills.  So many hills.  This trail wasn’t playing.  And let’s not forget that it’s been raining for, like, 952 days straight here in Central Illinois, so it was Mud City everywhere we went.  Read that:  No Traction.  Slip-N-Slides are fun when you’re eight and in your front yard with your neighbor buddies.  When you’re 43 years-old and trying to find footing climbing up a Monster Mud Hill, there are few humans that would call the exercise fun. 

Indeed, as we got to the bottom of our 382nd hill (perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but not much) we stopped thinking, “surely this is the last big hill we have to deal with” and started thinking, “surely this stinking trail has to end at some point.” 

Who knew that any trail, anywhere in the known universe could have So Many Gigantic Up’s and Gigantic Downs?  One after the other.  (Of course, happily interspersed with flowing creeks throughout.)

And the downhills.  I believe they were even worse than the uphills.  I’d always had the strategy of running on the downhills whenever possible.  It’s just that it was Very Rarely possible on this Sadist Trail.  The first bad boy that we faced, I remember clearly thinking that we’d taken a wrong turn.  People aren’t supposed to go straight down hills that steep with NO earth on either side.  Just a little mountain goat path straight down with an occasional tree mercifully situated for holding-on-for-dear-life on the downward descent.  I remember thinking after that first hill that the worst was behind us.  HA HA HA HA HA.  No.

All three of us in our brave little what-in-the-blazes-are-we-doing-out-here-without-a-GPS-or-a-cell-phone party fell nicely on our touckases at least once during the adventure.  We kept a good eye-out for each other and never got too far apart while out there.   We learned the difference between a shriek of  “Woo Hoo!” (“We’re awesome!  Look what we’re doing!”) and a shriek of “Woo Hoo!” (“Heaven help me, I’ve just fallen into the biggest mud pit in a five state region!”).  We learned the difference between this-hurts and this-sucks-but-let’s-keep-going-because-we-still-have-daylight.  And we most certainly learned to love the signs with the little red arrows and how to look for the red splotches on lots of trees. 

Most of all, we learned that there was more within us than any of us bargained for when we set out to Forest Glen for a little run one cold Saturday morning in November.  We learned we could do it.  At least for me, I surprised myself that I could do it.  And any one of us could have gone the 13.1 half marathon distance–so we learned that we were able to do that too!  I had another chance to give one something that had intimidated me a beat-down.  And we were blessed with the commraderie, the friendship, that comes from battling those stinking hills and creeks and elements together. 

Overall, it certainly was a day worth having.  Maybe even a day worth repeating.  A great adventure by some unlikely adventurerers.  And a great achievement by some tough-as-nails women who, though total newbies, were ready and willing to give it our all.  And we did. 

Three other Very Important Points: 

1.  Hats off to the Kennekuk Road (and Trail) Runners who gave every one of us a round of applause as we staggered off the trail.  These Super Runners had been done for well over an hour, but were still glad to cheer on the lost-little-newbies that somehow finished that 11 mile beast without dying! 

2.  My trail shoes are now officially trail shoes.  Here’s the after picture: 

Shoes: AFTER

3.  WW Activity Points mean I can EAT after today.  Yes!

4.  I’m certain I’ve forgot to mention much more than what’s been said here already.  I’m sure you’ll get more tidbits as the days and weeks move on…

For now, here’s proof of the mud: 

Muddy!

And proof of the buds:

We Made It!

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Wow and Woo Hoo! 

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I am so excited and humbled and tickled pink all at the same time!  This little blog has reached a milestone!

In just the first 20 days, there have been more than 1000 views on this blog!  I have no idea what that means in blogland, but I can tell you it’s far exceeded my expectations! 

Who knew that the antics of a woman trying to run, run, run her way out of a midlife crisis (I’m not yet having one, but don’t want to either!) would be of this much interest to anybody (except couple family members I nag and guilt into reading it)?  Well, as long as I’ve got folks coming here to be entertained and encouraged (or whatever you’re coming here for…), I guess I’ll go ahead and keep writing for ya. 

How exactly does one celebrate 1000 views in 20 days?  When I told my children they came up with the brilliant idea of ice cream for breakfast and skipping school to have a party.  (That ain’t gonna happen.)  No, I’ll think I’ll celebrate by…running!  Yep, not original, but germane nonetheless.

Looking ahead, I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve:  The  Big Announcement that’ll be made within the next 24 hours.  (No, there is NO baby on its way.  Will you STOP it already?!)  The reveal of my Top Secret Cross Training Exercise (but you all really need to actually TAKE the poll, for heaven’s sake.  Just pick a button and push.  It’s not brain surgery!)  The winner of  The Contest (a couple more weeks for that~keep those entries coming!).  And something NEW for Facebook users. 

THANKS again for visiting with me as I run along on this adventure!  I couldn’t have asked for better company.  🙂

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In years past, I looked up from my mad racing about pace (not running, just racing around) and noticed that the gorgeous splash of fall color was gone and the trees were bare. 

What happened?  How had I missed it? 

I also missed much of the beauty of the heavy snow covering the tree branches, not to mention the big, huge, sloppy snowflakes that looked like a kindergartener could have painted them with white paint and a big, wide paintbrush.  The magnolia trees lost their pink buds before I could really appreciate them.  Summers flew by. 

This year has been different.  And in the past few weeks, I actually realized that I was seeing what I’d been missing for many years.

A runner sees the splash of sunshine that travels across the red and orange-trimmed trees and bounces of the lake in a sliver on an otherwise cloudy day.  A runner has the chance to run on a blanket of golden leaves and under trees still heavy-laden with their yellow fall bounty, like running through an autumn cloud.  A runner appreciates the difference in the landscape and how far you can actually see through the trees when their summer garments have fallen. 

I hadn’t even noticed what I’d been missing. 

It’s only been in the past few weeks, when my runs have finally become more than avoiding collapsing, that I’ve been able to relax enough to take in the beauty of the world around me.  I find myself each day looking forward to seeing, hearing and even smelling the adventures in store for me that day. 

And I’ve found myself grateful, so grateful, for the privilege of putting one foot in front of the other, in a body that can move itself forward, with a mind and will that can choose to continue to get out there each day, and with a spirit that can offer up a prayer of faith and appreciation and celebration for the blessings that God has given me, with a whispered, “Wow.  Look at God.”

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If you’re not from around these parts, you’re probably wondering, “What in the world is a Kennekuk?”  Excellent question.  Here is my answer.  “Kennekuk” is several different, very awesome things. 

Most widely understood, it’s one of our local county parks that is absolutely amazing.  If you’re a nature person or a trail person or a enjoy-the-peace-and-serenity-of-the-prairie person, then this park is for you and you owe it to yourself to visit there.  A lot.  If you’re not from the area, it’s worth the drive to visit.  A lot. 

Kennekuk can also refer to the Native American Kickapoo leader for whom (I believe) the park was named.  If you’re a history person, this will interest you.   A lot.

Most germane to this blog, Kennekuk refers to the Greatest Running Club in the Universe.   If you’re a runner, this group will inspire, entertain, challenge, support, amuse, encourage, and amaze you.  A lot.

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I first became involved with the Kennekuk Road Runners when I ran in the Memorial Day 5K that my friend Chris suckered me into running.  This was such a well run race and people were so nice and encouraging, it was a very easy step to try the next race.  Since it was members-only, I bit the bullet and joined the group with its Most-Affordable-Family-Membership-Fee-Ever

The first member race which followed shortly was the Clear Pond Trail Run.  The organization raised money for local animal shelters during this event, which was a see-how-far-you-can-run-in-five-hours-you-crazy-person event.  I’ll give you my observations and experiences on the Clear Pond Trail Run in a separate post, I promise.

This group of people is highly organized and professional.  They work very hard.  And they have a great time at everything they do.  People from around the nation have joined this organization for these and other awesome reasons. 

Personally, the thing I found to be amazing was that in this brief time running near the very back of the pack with these amazing runners, they were amazing enough people that they took the time to be incredibly welcoming and encouraging, not just about their club, but also about the sport of running. 

They’re the first ones to tell someone, “Good job!  Keep it up!” when you know that your lumbering, staggering pace is not a “good job” in anyone’s wildest imagination.  Yet, somehow, while you’re out there running, these people’s positive opinions and encouragement actually matters to you and urge you forward, with the great anticipation of finishing the race on your feet. 

And the fact is, each one of these people started somewhere.  Some were awesome athletes all their lives, I suppose.  And then there are my kindred spirits: a group of them who decided to pull their acts together at some point in their lives and do the Hard Work of getting back in shape after years of neglect.  They know that getting started is a “good job” and your first run is a “good job” and any personal record is a “good job” and that there are days when just plain not quitting is a “good job.” 

The bottom line is, they’ve been there.  And they haven’t forgotten the journey to where they are now.  And they’re happy to be a voice of encouragement to someone else starting down that path.   Hearing their voices sure helped me to remember that my own “good job” had a great deal more to do with showing up and trying than with finishing in any particular place or time.  And for me, that support was something I desperately needed to stick with the sport in the beginning stages. 

These superstars give time and encouragement and, yes, respect for anyone willing to lace up their shoes and come out and run, no matter what that newbie’s fitness level or experience.  They are ready to celebrate your “good job” with you, whatever that looks like, and without comparing it to the next guy (that one who lapped you four times, yeah, him). 

As a mama, I’m used to being the expert in lots of things.  I’m used to being the one doing the encouraging.  So it was an extra bonus to hear that atta-girl coming my way as I hauled myself over those courses and on those trails. 

Thanks Kennekuk Road Runners.  Yeah, I definitely wanna be like them when I grow up.  🙂

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Yay Ami! 

My friend Ami got a PR in the Monumental Half Marathon this weekend!  What makes this special (besides the fact that it’s not really normal for human beings to force their bodies to run for 13.1 miles unless something is chasing them)? 

It’s special because AMI is special.  She’s special (in addition to many other reasons) because she’s an ordinary mama like me and like lots of you.  She’s special because every time she trains for and enters and runs and finishes a race, she reminds us all that we can do it too, if we want to!   The fact that she rocked the course with a PR (personal record~don’t I just sound like a Real Runner who knows all the lingo?) is over-the-top Awesome! 

So today I’m celebrating Ami’s success.  And the efforts of all the mamas out there who lace up their shoes and hit the pavement, the trail, or the track, day after day, for their own reasons.   Including you.

[Note:  If Ami gives me permission/information, I’ll post her time and pics here.  Otherwise, give the girl some privacy and save your requests for autographs for when she’s recovered!]

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