Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Welcome, Old Man Winter!

I'll admit it. I'm still in recovery. But every day it gets a little bit easier. After more than 10 years of running with a watch on my arm and driving my routes to get the exact mileage of every run, it's not easy to let go. Sure there are times when I need to focus on that stuff, like when I'm training for a marathon or ultra distance, but early winter isn't one of those times.

Watch or no watch, my motivation usually falters a bit this time of year--winter, before the snow falls. The darkness outside invades me. I want to sleep, not run, and I desperately need my running buddy to get me out the door. Last week she came over for two evening runs after our kids were in bed. It got me through those first snowless winter runs.

But I've turned a corner. Last night we went for a wonderful late night run in several inches of newly fallen snow. No watch. No GPS. Nothing. Not even a log book entry when I got home. The city was silent as few cars ventured out onto the streets. The running trails were not yet plowed, so we hit the streets where the snow, ironically, felt like sand beneath our feet. The run was a celebration of the changing season.

There are times when I think we should pack up and move to Colorado, Utah, or another state with slightly milder temps. Nights like last night, runs like last night's, remind me to be thankful I'm here. Thankful for the snow, thankful for the cold, and thankful for my running buddy. A fellow fit mama. My sister on the run.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Just Like Daddy

This morning, our first grade daughter decided she wanted to bike to school. Normally, we'd be psyched by her initiative. Not today. The outside thermometer read 18 degrees; 10 degrees with the windchill. My husband knew about the cold weather firsthand--he was out the door for a trail run at 6 a.m. So, when Cady asked to ride her bike to school he was certain his sarcastic response would be disregarded: "Check outside. If it's not too cold you can wear a face mask." A few minutes later she came into my room asking me to find her face mask. The image of her riding into school with her backpack, food donation and a birthday present kept me laughing all day. I didn't like the meltdown that followed my telling her she was actually not allowed to bike to school, but I like the way she's thinking. In ten years I'll encourage her to head out. Just like Daddy.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Just Another Reason I Hate Treadmills...

I've never been a huge fan of treadmills. Even in the dark, cold months of winter... I'd much rather be running outside accumulating ice on my eyelashes and frost between my buns than running those endless miles to nowhere.

And yet we have a treadmill in our basement. We didn't buy it and we rarely use it--guess that was Grandpa's reason for giving it to us a couple of years ago. It has, however, come in handy on a few occasions so we keep it.

With two young girls in the house, we always keep the key to the treadmill on top of our refrigerator. Without the key, the treadmill will not work. Period. Unless... Unless you forget.

This post is about what happens when you do forget. It's my reminder to you to NEVER forget to put the treadmill key out of reach of your children. Last weekend, my oldest daughter decided it was a good idea to try running a 6-minute mile. What followed were burns on the tops of her feet that kept her up the entire night. (Imagine a superman pose, hands on the front rail and feet dragging behind on the belt.) Not pretty. Here's a shot of her feet close to one week later.

When I think of how painful a small "kitchen burn" is, I cringe to think of how bad these must have felt. At the very least, I thought, there would be a good lesson learned. But when I asked her, I got this: "Yes, I learned not to put the treadmill on 10 MPH." Huh? How about, "I learned not to mess with the treadmill." You can be sure we had a refresher course on why we don't play on the treadmill at all...

Anyway, the wounds on my girl's feet are just another reason for me to hate the treadmill. And to never, ever, forgot to keep the key in hiding.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I Have a Llama

She spits. Maggie, my youngest daughter who will turn three in December, has recently developed her own expression of anger. When "provoked," she will walk around the house leaving trails of bubbly saliva on anything in sight. This (and every other seemingly dysfunctional habits my kids have) has left me wondering what I did to cause the behavior. I don't spit at people when I'm mad, or drizzle a string of goober along the floor in front of them. In general, I keep my anger clean.

So, where did she learn to spit? Having spent a fair amount of time in the jogger, the only way I can place some blame on myself (which of course I absolutely MUST do) is to assume she sees the spit flying on the run. Yep, I'm one of those girls. I spit innumerable times during my runs, have mastered the farmer blow and have been known to use my shirt as a kleenex in a pinch. Not too much girl-girl in me, I guess. At least not when I'm running.

Looks like it's time for me watch myself when I'm running with Maggie in the jogger these days. The front end and tail end of two are very different--on the cusp of three years kids pick up so many behaviors. Which means I have to give up my other favorite "skill" for a while or my daughter will never get potty trained. A good friend once taught me to pee standing up (just pull the running shorts to the side, girls!); I'm sure it would totally confuse her little mind. I can only imagine what she's thinking... "Mommy goes potty when she needs to, too. I don't really need a bathroom if she doesn't!" Lucky for me it's an art form that can't be done with tights on, so I guess pretty soon I'll be forced to stop anyway. For now, when I duck into the bushes, I'll turn the jogger the other way so she's none the wiser.

Back to my llama girl... I know it could be worse. The dogs help me out by licking up any spit they find that might contain a food crumb. And my girl is expressing her feelings, right? While part of me prefers the thought of a teenage girl spitting over a teenage girl screaming and crying, I know it's not going to happen. She'll get through this phase and soon find a new way to express her little emotions. Let's just hope she doesn't pull her diaper to the side and leave her mark in other ways!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Touched by Feet

About a month ago, I started working very part time at a local running store. As if I didn't have enough on my plate already (caring for our two young girls, editing a local sports magazine, co-authoring a book, teaching group cycling classes, personal training, volunteering at my church and running), I decided to use the free time afforded by preschool punching the time clock at my favorite local running store, TC Running Company.

I haven't worked retail in close to 15 years, but the idea of hanging out with other runners and spreading good running karma really appealed to me. And of course it's nice to get a great discount on gear (although I've yet to make any purchases!). Not in a million years did I think it would be challenging or life changing in any way. Until today.

You see, it's not uncommon for me to see butts (and I'm talking butt-holes here, not just cute pudgy buns) in my line of work as a mom, to wipe those butts and noses and change poopie diapers. I check to see if clothes are dirty or not with the smell test (NOT a good idea with undies, mind you!) and oftentimes forgo a shower so that my kids can get here and there on time. Yep, I do a lot of stuff I wouldn't have imagined doing in my younger years, but I don't think twice about it. And I certainly don't think of it as service. 

Today I came to realize I need to adjust my thinking a bit. An older woman came into the store looking for a pair of shoes to walk in. She'd been walking in shoes with no support and was suffering the consequences. I watched her walk, looked at her shoes and brought out a few pairs for her to try on. Having recently turned 81, she typically uses a shoe horn to help get her shoes on and off.  Since I couldn't find one (I didn't look very hard), I sat down on the floor to help her put on and take off several pairs of shoes. I usually shy away from touching other people's feet, but there was something wonderful about helping her try on shoes. Holding her feet and tying her shoes was truly a religious experience for me. I gently tightened the laces and adjusted the tongue on each pair and I felt like for the first time in a long time I was truly serving another person. I genuinely cared about this woman, she could have been my mom. I wanted to make sure she found a shoe that fit.  Perfectly. 

When she left the store I realized that we have opportunities to be extra kind and extra gentle every day. We just have to look for them. And this applies, perhaps most importantly, to how we treat our kids. We can wipe poop off butt cheeks gently and with humility. We can clean faces, comb hair and brush teeth the same. 

Tomorrow morning, when the whining starts (and I know it will!), I will struggle to remember this...  Remind me if you see me!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

My Phone, the Marathon and the Sweaty Sisterhood

I've been looking for the phone for a few minutes. We don't have a big house, so really this should be a simple task.  I didn't go downstairs; have only been in three rooms, but that phone is G.O.N.E. gone. I'll admit I even looked in the refrigerator cause I did get lemonade (and I've left the phone in there before).  Oh well, I guess I'll find it the next time someone calls and consider it a blessing...  Now I'll have time to post a quick update on the marathon.

Ran the Twin Cities Marathon this morning. It's my hometown marathon and my favorite to run so far. I didn't set a PR (personal record), but it was probably one of my best marathons yet.  Felt great the whole time despite pouring rain, chilly temps and soggy shoes. Saw all those great faces along the course, including my husband and two daughters. They were a great cheering squad--even brought me dry socks, mittens and a jacket to the finish. Delicious!

The rain made the run eventful and my sister-in-sweat Cindy was a great partner for the duration. Really didn't think I'd like running with anyone during the race, but it was great to help each other along during our individual struggles. We'd done almost all of our training runs together so crossing the finishing line hand in hand was a perfect way to celebrate. We stopped to kiss our kids along the way and passed the time as we usually do on our runs...  chatty. (Though the chatter wasn't quite as juicy as usual!)  Finished together with a chip time of 3:24:18 and actually feeling GREAT!  Thanks, Cindy, for a great run today!

Now, on to find that phone so I can check in with all my girlfriends who ran today...  I'll let you know where I find it! 

p.s.  Edited to let you know that the phone was on the hook. Who'da thunk it?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Marathon Goodness

This Sunday is the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon and I'll be toeing the line with thousands of other runners, making my way from the Dome in downtown Minneapolis to the Capitol building in St. Paul. I know the course well and feel at home on the route. I'll see lots of familiar faces along the way, including friends and family. I love their support and have come to expect it in some ways. After 30 or so marathons, though, I still get teary-eyed at the crowd of people who line the streets to cheer for not just family and friends, but strangers too. I love watching my kids support people they don't know, being part of pure goodness. Watch for me out there. I'll be wearing a white singlet, black shorts and a big smile.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I'm a Walrus

If you've seen the movie The Breakfast Club, you probably remember the scene when Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall) is thinking about how he'll answer the essay question that's been posed to the crew at Saturday detention (something along the lines of, "Who are you?"). He's got his pen stuck between his mouth and his nose. With one end of his pen kinda picking his nose a bit, Brian mutters to himself, "Who am I? Who am I? I'm a walrus."

Whenever I'm feeling a little lost in life, when I feel my own version of what William Young calls "The Great Sadness" in his novel The Shack, I think to myself... "I'm a walrus." To me, the "walri" of the world just never seem completely at ease. Perhaps it's the fact that they have no arms and always appear to be tipping over or something. I dunno. The walrus is just one of those creatures that seems to not quite "fit" for some reason or another.

So, this week, I am a walrus. I'm "sort of." Sort of a stay-at-home mom. Sort of a writer/editor. Sort of a spiritual person. Sort of a runner. Sort of a friend. Sort of a daughter. Sort of a wife. I'm toe-deep in more than a few pools of water right now--but sometimes I feel like I'm drowning in them.  My shrink thinks it's good to have so many things in my life. So many things to love. I guess she's right. So many wonderful things to pick from... Guess it's time to just be happy with that. I am where I am. Lots to do, lots to be thankful for.  I don't have to be just one thing. I don't have to do it all. And I don't have to be perfect at any one thing.   

So, who am?  I think the members of the "breakfast club" put it well:

Dear Mr. Vernon:
We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But, we think you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us: in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But, what we found out is that each one of us is: a brain... and an athlete... and a basket case... a princess... and a criminal... Does that answer your question?
Sincerely yours,
The Breakfast Club

Enough said.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Simultaneous Meltdown

This is how I felt at the end of my long run yesterday. I've been just plain exhausted lately as I anxiously anticipate the taper for my October 5 marathon. I can't tell you how many miles I've been running during the week--not quite sure what my long runs have been, either, but I'm pretty certain I've neared (even surpassed) the marathon distance more than a few times.

Yesterday, I met my friend Cindy (a person and friendship I absolutely cherish) at 5:41 a.m. We've calibrated our watches and leave our respective houses at exactly 5:30 a.m. Every weekend. Almost every long run. Running towards each other we meet at the lake in just under 12 minutes. Clockwork. Literally.

In a crazy fit of obsessive behavior, we circled the 3-mile perimeter of the lake four times. Seemed the only way I could keep myself going. "Just once around the lake," I'd tell myself (lie) as I pushed for that next lap, about ready to cry at any moment. I wasn't sore. I wasn't hurt. I'm not out of shape. I'm exhausted. I've run over 30 marathons so you'd think I'd know the fatigue is coming. Always does.

In the same way, you'd think I'd anticipate when my kids are nearing exhaustion, too. The equation is simple:


Now that Cady can tell time, we contemplated turning all the clocks ahead one hour. Evil, yes, but would hopefully spare us another meltdown that would most certainly be contagious (little sister assumes most of big sisters emotions and attitudes!). Alas, the meltdown happened anyway and both kids were in bed by 7:30 p.m.


This week, they've got the same lineup. Hopefully a little extra rest again tonight and they'll be good as new. Me too. I just need to make it through two more long runs and it's taper time. Bring it on!

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Taste of Independence

This is what independence looks like when you're in first grade. It's a beautiful sight to me, actually, because it means my husband and I got to spend an extra half hour in bed this morning. Yep, our oldest daughter, Cady, decided that since she's in first grade, it's time to get up and start her day instead of being coaxed back into bed by sleepy parents. And while I admit it's a little sad that she doesn't want that half hour of cuddle time, it's nice to know my little girl is learning what it means to "do her own thing," so to speak. No matter that she destroyed the Oat Squares box... it actually takes up less room in the cupboard when the bag is removed from the box. Perhaps she knew. After all, she is a "grader" now.
Cady thinks having her own desk at school is pretty cool. It's a big step up from the shared tables in kindergarten. She likes having a place of her very own. Like mother like daughter, I guess. That's not to say I have any privacy anymore--motherhood snatched that away long ago. The kids have found their way into my dresser drawers and tried on my bras, they've jumped into bed at the most inopportune times, they've even disrupted that cherished "alone time" we all deserve in the bathroom everyday.

Nope, I don't feel independent because of anything I have. My sense of independence is gained from the only thing I can really call my own... my time spent getting sweaty on runs, bike rides, and other fitness endeavors. I've come to realize that sweat is the one thing I have that is mine. All mine. Mine alone. And when I'm working up that sweat it's just me. No doubt I carry my family and friends along with me, but during the time I spend working out I'm free.

Cady has only been in school for one week now, but I really think she gets it a little better now. Gets me better. Running is to me like that desk is to her... it gives me a sense of independence. And someday when she joins me on my runs, it won't take any of that away. Somehow, it will just add to it.

Here's to my independent little first grader. Way to go, Cady!

Monday, August 25, 2008

No Sweat Today!

It's fitting that my first post on this blog gets written on a day that my kids will not see mom sweat. Nope, looks like today will be a day off for this mama. I'm okay with that because so far it's been a great day, mostly made possible by the fact that I didn't squeeze in my workout.

We're back from a week long trip out west and everyone is still catching up on sleep, so that extra hour of snuggle time made me a much more patient mom than I might have otherwise been. My youngest daughter (2 years old) had a friend over early this morning, then we hit the park until lunchtime. Now my older daughter (6 years old) has a friend over and I'm kickin' ass on the day's chores. Could have called Super Grandpa (a.k.a. the on-call babysitter) for a quick workout, but today is best served with me here, making this house our home again (laundry, dishes, purging of toys).

Might seem odd that I'm praising my choice to not workout on this blog. After all, this is a fit mom blog, right? It's not that crazy... Part of being a fit mom is knowing when to wear running shoes and when to wear sandals. Today is a sandal day. Tomorrow, I will get out there.