Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Happy Early Mother's Day Gift to Me!

Haha....I knew I could angle things to get my way if I wanted.

There's a half marathon in Georgetown, Colorado in June that I really wanted to do. It's called the Slacker Half Marathon, because it's all downhill. This is a bit of a misnomer, though-downhill races will fry your quads, for one thing. Secondly, this race starts at Loveland Ski Area. Elevation....10,600 feet. Yeah, good times. Slacker-my ass.

This race initially appealed to me for the quirk factor, and when I realized it would present a unique challenge that you don't find in most other road races, I started thinking seriously about it. Add in the not-too-big, not-too-small runner field (it looks like there were about 800 runners between the half, and accompanying 4-mile race last year), cheap entry ($35....about half of what most other races this distance typically want these days), and a chance to get the heck out of town for a weekend without all the hassle of a full week's vacation away-this sounded like a dream weekend.

So, Frank typically gets me a nice, thoughtful gift of some sort for Mother's Day-a piece of jewelry, clothing item, or something else. I don't really need any more "stuff," as thoughtful as that is-plus, we're sort of broke until the house sells. I didn't want to miss this race, though. I'll have to run something like it in preparation for the Marine Corps Marathon anyway. It's probably not normally kosher to say, "hey, here's what I want for Mother's Day"-but this seemed to make perfect sense to ask if the race could be my gift. Much to my surprise, he said heck yeah! :) So, I just signed up today, a few days before that $35 entry goes up five bucks. It feels good to have a "big" race on the summer schedule-I have several short, fun runs coming up with the girls, but I don't want to slip totally out of the training mindset.

In theory, we've got a good chance of the old house selling by then, too-that would be spectacular to go into that weekend in two months completely worry-free about finances. Well, NOT completely worry free.....but free of the stress of trying to sell a home. I just want to be "Slacking" with the best of them, and doing the family proud since they're giving me the gift of running the race that weekend.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Just a few more of these meets, and we'll be Olympic stars!

We all went to the city parks and rec fun track meet on Wednesday. This was the first time that Kaia or Carter had done anything like this after begging to do races like Alexis. We figured this was a good starting point because these were all short distance races where they did give placement ribbons, but EVERY child got a participant ribbon/lots of cheering and support from the sidelines.

Carter did the standing long jump (fell in the sand pit, got up and giggled), the 50, and 100.

I can be seen covering my mouth and trying to control my laughter in the shot from Carter's race because his sweat pants were falling down so he was running and holding them up at the same time. The other lady doing the same in the orange sweatshirt and black pants was one of my Team Tiara teammates (when we were fundraising for GOTR)-one of her sons ran this 4-6 year old boys heat too (in the middle).

Kaia was finishing a dance class when the meet started but it was only a few blocks away so I was still able to get her in time to do the 100 and 200. She got a finisher ribbon in the 100, and won her little age group for the 200, which was a neat surprise!

Alexis was scheduled to run the 200, 400, and 800.
Funny story there is that dumb mom got confused and was thinking she was running this one, and holding up the start by being nowhere near when it was time for 7 to 10 girls. They held the start, I flagged her down quickly and she lined up for it.

She was leading most of the way, then about ten meters from the finish looks at us like "but I'm not supposed to be running this one!" and starts letting up/pulling up like they're going to realize this and tackle her or something.
Razzer This is just enough let up for two girls to catch her but she still finishes third. We told her it's no big whoop, this is a fun track meet so she could just sit out the 200 instead since she'd run the 100. There were only two other kids in the 400-the middle two kids of that same TT teammate of mine. They're solid runners too, and the three of them mostly stayed together, her son pulling away and coming in as the first and only boy in the heat in about the last 100 meters. Alexis just edged out her daughter at the finish and it was really a nice effort from both girls. They seemed to keep pushing each other the whole time.

The two girls were the only kids running the 800, and by now the two girls seemed like old buddies and we were laughing at how they kind of socialized and chattered side by side the first 600 like total girls, much to the chagrin of the college cross country runners who were running the meet. The girls finally kicked it into high gear for the finish. Again, it was Alexis by a few yards but a good race in the end from both girls. I should point out that this other little girl has also run several 5K's with her mom, and always does well-so like Alexis she hasn't done a heckuva lot of sprint events. They were both pacing more like a 5K, since that's what they're used to, which is funny, since normally it's the other way around with this age where the kids go to 5K's and go out too fast. Anyone who has ever been to a Girls on the Run race around here is all too familiar with that oft-employed "sprint-stop-sprint-stop" technique you usually see. ;)

So, that was it! A nice chilly evening with pants falling down, banditing in to unscheduled races, and Kaia the wild child getting out there and winning a race. They're already asking when they can do it again.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I LOVE mopping.Not.

We're going to have a handful of friends over for Carter's fourth birthday party tomorrow afternoon, as well as an open house taking place at our old house....which MUST sell quickly. Otherwise, I may have to sell a kidney or two.

Since that doesn't sound too appealing, Frank and I did "divide and conquer" today. He took Alexis over to finish last minute cleaning details at the other place. I stayed behind with the other three, and MAN-vacuuming and mopping this place is a workout in and of itself. I can't wait until all the kids are old enough to be little worker bees, and do that stuff for me. ;)

It's done, though! Woohoo! That means I should be able to get in a run in a few more hours, just before the sun goes down. The weather has been crummy this week, but Saturday brought mostly clear skies and sunshine, so I am looking forward to getting out there. I've ALMOST shaken the nasty cold I've had for nearly two weeks-hopefully I can completely beat it out of my system later. Eight to ten miles would be fabulous. We'll see how much time I have, though, once I am out there.

Alexis will also go for a run with Frank-not sure if they will go just before or just after my run. She's got her season-ending Girls on the Run 5K in about three weeks, and she's an intense little runner at the ripe old age of almost nine. Her goal is a 27:00 5K, which would be a bit of a jump from her previous PR of 28:45. She is surprising each and every time she gets out there to run now, though, and seems to love racing, so I know not to count her out for anything, or discourage her from going for it.

We've talked Frank into doing the local Red Dress 5K Run the following weekend, which was started in jest as a response to the girls/women only 5K the weekend before. This event is billed as a men-only event (okay, they don't tackle or shoot women who line up for it, but you get the idea), costumes optional but encouraged, with awards for things like best dress and best legs.

He tried to talk himself out of it a day or two ago....but we're having none of that, and looking forward to cheering him on, and seeing how fast Dad can run when he's not pacing our child (and, um, wearing a dress.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Saying Good-Bye, And New Beginnings

What a month it's been.

In early March, our family was crammed into a house that was wonderfully spacious when my husband and I moved into it in 1998. It was just the two of us, and our furbabies-our chocolate lab, Wilson, and our dalmatian, Dots. The space was huge compared to our postage stamp sized house up in Carbondale, and we didn't know what to do with ourselves. Four children and ten years later, though, and you had a different story.

I was also getting ready for my second half marathon at Canyonlands in Utah. My oldest daughter was also making her "long" race debut in the 5-mile sister race. My winter consisted of many late-night treadmill runs at the gym down the street-not something I particularly enjoyed. I'd rather be running outdoors any day, but between short daylight hours and family activities, I did what I had to do.

Fast forward ahead about a month. Here we are in our new house, which is almost twice the square footage as the home from which we moved. Moving was an adventure, to say the least. Anything that could go wrong did seem to go wrong, but most of these problems were worked out in time. Internet was hooked up, satellite was finally installed correctly after four botched attempts. The kids, who hated sharing rooms at the old house, suddenly thought it was neat to have sleepovers in one sibling or another's room, and begged for group shower parties in our new master shower. It was strange to see these children, who thought they just wanted to be alone, going out of their way for togetherness time.

Our dogs came over to the new digs, as well, and it was exciting to offer them a place with a dog run on the side of the house, separate from the yard, and a nice, temperature controlled garage where they could eat meals and then sneak out the side door to said dog run. It was great to give them space if they wanted it, where they wouldn't have to be hounded by the kids if they just wanted somewhere to retreat to.

That warm fuzzy feeling didn't last long, though. Dots had dealt with a serious infection a few months back, but after a second opinion from a local veterinarian, we were able to get him on medication that allowed him to get somewhat better. Shortly after arrival in the new house, though, we watched our previously spunky and mischievous dog go into a rapid deterioration, losing weight, stopping eating, and eventually being unable to move. Just months before, he'd been about as active and healthy as you'd expect an older dog to be, but on our son's fourth birthday we were forced to put down our much loved dalmatian, who was literally wasting away in front of us.

I know it was the right thing to do, but the fact that this forced good-bye came upon us so quickly made it exceptionally tough to take. He was supposed to ride out his years here in our dream family house and going for walks on the trail right across the street. Instead, I've been having to explain to the kids that Dots got very sick and died, and that we couldn't even wait for them to be home from school to say good bye because it would have been cruel to force him to suffer another minute. We're just trying to find solace in the fact that he's now somewhere living out a pain-free existence, not sick or hurting.

As far as happier good-bye's go.....I have said sayonara to the treadmill for the season. Hamster wheels don't exactly inspire me nor do they provide breathtaking backdrops to keep one's self going during a difficult run. I do have to say that because I hated the treadmill so, I often pushed myself harder so that I could be done faster.

All that winter treadmill work paid off the day I ran my second half marathon in Moab on March 8th. I ran my first half marathon last fall at a pace that was too conservative for the first half, and then decided to go for it, running the second half at a pace that I was surprised to be able to maintain. This time, my strategy was better (not that I even had a strategy the first time). Go out hard, maintain the pace as long as possible, and aim to finish sub-1:50. That would be a huge chunk off of my first half, but I knew the faster course lended itself toward my goal if I could have a good race.

This time, I was flying solo, unlike in October when I participated as a Team Tiara member, fundraising and running for our local Girls on the Run council. Various health issues, schedule conflicts and life in general meant that none of my regular training partners were doing the race, so I rode the bus solo to the start, shivered and waited to get moving on that frigid, overcast day.
I also thought about my oldest daughter, who was a lucky lottery winner (they draw participants for Canyonlands), and starting half an hour ahead of me, down the road, in the 5-miler. She's young, but seems to love getting out there to race as much as I do. I hoped that this would be an enjoyable experience for her. She was running with a good friend of ours from the running club, a 74-year-old cancer survivor who is in damn good shape for anyone of any age, and seems to consistently pace within a few seconds of her at local races.

I put myself into a whole new world of hurt at this race. Maybe it was the cold that sent me off to an exceptionally fast start, maybe it was the downhill course. Who knows. It felt good, though-and I decided to stick with it as long as I could, figuring that if I couldn't stick with it, I'd still have a positive net gain time-wise.

Miles 1-10.5 were great. Not easy, not comfortable at all, but I was doing it and holding pace. The last 2.5 miles are a different story, though. I fought and struggled to keep going, and dropped off the pace somewhat. I was loudly talking to myself during the last tenth of a mile. The time clock was visible and my time goal was within reach but I didn't know if I was going to be able to sneak in. I must have looked like a nut but it's what I needed to do to keep going. When I crossed the finish line with a gun time of 1:49:XX and a chip time of 1:47:XX, I was DONE. I couldn't have gone another ten feet. I did it, though! Ten minutes off my PR. Within minutes, I felt great-the pain of finishing was a distant memory already, and I'd completed this training cycle with my goal achieved.

I'm looking ahead now in this time of transition. Most of my running friends and some of my regular friends know that I will soon register for the 2008 Marine Corps Marathon. Years ago, my goal might have been to "just finish" the event. There is certainly NOTHING wrong with that goal, and I believe that the huge boom in running and marathoning in this country is a GOOD thing when we're the fattest nation on the planet. It's a major accomplishment, no matter the time, and something that each marathoner should take pride in completing.

MY goal, however, is not to "just finish." I'm not spending early mornings or late nights away from my family and friends, nor are we all going to travel across the country by airplane for me to just finish. My goal is to earn a trip to the 2009 Boston Marathon in a little over a year by finishing my first marathon in 3:45:59 or less, the maximum allowable Boston qualifying time for a 35-39 year old female. I add the :59 grace seconds because I need ALL the help I can get-extra seconds, the descent from Colorado to sea level-heck, wind to my back would be greatly appreciated on top of what is going to be a very demanding training plan that I have chosen.

A Boston qualifying marathon time sounds like a crazy goal for a woman who in late 2006 was sporting an extra 50 pounds, and exhausted after jogging 30 seconds. Somewhere along the way, though, I started believing in myself, and thinking this was something I COULD achieve if I applied myself, trained hard and stayed focused on my goal. I NEVER in a million years thought I could be one of "those runners" and there's no guarantee that I'll ever qualify for Boston-but it's invigorating and satisfying to know that I said good bye to that girl who lacked confidence and used to say what she couldn't do. Now I look ahead saying "I'll try my best and work my hardest to achieve that goal."

That's all one can really do in life, anyway....while I might not achieve that goal, I'm looking forward to beginning marathon training, and the journey ahead, with stops in Washington, D.C., and hopefully the starting line in Hopkinton MA. And while I am sad and feeling empty inside without Dots here, I also feel so lucky that he was with our family for ten years. He was there when my kids began their life's journeys, and while we're beginning a new chapter of our lives without him, it still enriched our lives to have him in our family as long as we could.