Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Brooks Running Run Happy Hour

Last night marked another foray outside of my comfort zone.

"Live Lager". Heh.
Our local running store, The Appalachian Running Company was hosting a neat event...the Brooks Running Run Happy Happy Hour. Conveniently, the ARC is located right next to a pulling off a happy hour event is sort of a no brainer.

A local(ish) Brooks representative was on hand, handing out Brooks Pint Glasses - super, duper cool - and showing off some of the upcoming models of shoes. He also brought a bunch of sweet Brooks clothes for folks to try on and (of course) buy. Everyone that came got a coupon for a free beer, next door.

The night was to kick off at 5:30, with an easy 3 mile run.

I saw the event on my FB feed and immediately checked off that I was going.

And then I immediately started stressing and coming up with reasons that I probably wouldn't be able to make it.

Both Mr. Man and TBC had indoor soccer training, in the opposite direction, at different locations at about the same time. There was no way I would be able to make it.

Nope. Not a chance.
C'mon just can't *pay*
for that kind of ad space.

But then fate stepped in. On Sunday, TBC was on the receiving end of a really vicious tackle, during the last game of the season...well, of the outdoor season, was one of those tackles that makes the whole sideline *gasp* in shared parental horror. He went airborne, flipped and then came crashing down on his shoulder. The rest of his body crumpled to the ground and then rebounded for a sickening little bounce.

The kid hit the ground hard enough that he had "Adidas" bruised into his upper thigh...not from being stepped on, but from the embroidered logo on his shorts. That's right, ladies and gents, he got bruised by...thread. Stop and think about that, for a minute. Just how hard do you need to hit the ground to get  thread to *bruise* you? Ask TBC. He can now tell you.

So, yeah. Bad tackle.

Not surprisingly, this adventure scored him a trip to Urgent Care for his very first set of X-rays.
The crack is the white line,
right above the joint.

Verdict? Fractured collarbone and separation of the shoulder joint. No soccer (or much of anything else) for 4-6 weeks. This will be the absolute longest that this child has gone without playing soccer since he was 5.

Suddenly, only 1 of my boys had indoor soccer during the event.

No reason not to go now.

I got there exactly on time. I pulled into the parking lot and immediately felt a little queasy, when I realized that there was not a single parking spot available. The lot was overflowing. I'd have to improvise a spot.

I zipped up my light up vest and strapped on my head lamp, took a deep breath and walked across the parking lot towards the group of people that seemed to be pouring out of the store. I did a quick scan of the crowd, to see if anyone looked even vaguely familiar. Nobody did.

Moments later, we all took off on our run.

I found a comfortable spot, nestled behind a group of folks that seemed to know one another pretty well. They chatted amicably and I tried to be unobtrusive and wondered what the heck I would do if any of them actually talked to me.
Not a bad way to spend a
Wednesday evening

It was a simple out and back. Nothing terribly scenic or challenging, but not a bad run. I chuckled to myself about how this group of blinky-flashy fools must look to the drivers in the cars that happened past us. We were in something of an industrial area, so it's not exactly prone to having runners back there, let alone en masse in the dark!

On the way back, I noticed a women a few strides ahead of me had an untied shoe. I pushed a bit, to bring myself even with her and worked on screwing up the nerve to mention her untied shoe to her...when suddenly, she stepped off the course, to tie it. Ah well. Maybe next time.

Anyway, before too long, we were back at the store. I trotted back to my car, so that I could dispose of the light up gear and grab my glasses and wallet. As I got to the car, I briefly considered just getting in my car and heading back home. I'd gone on a "group run", wasn't that enough socializing?

I talked myself out of it and back into the store I went. If nothing else, by golly, I was getting that darned pint glass!

For the next 20 or so minutes, I meandered around the store. I collected my pint glass, tried on a quilted, winter skirt (which I bought for a super cheap $25!!!), talked to one woman, briefly, about a spray to get the stink out of athletic gear and tried not to look like a psycho.

Just as I was getting ready to bolt, a non-running friend of mine, from work popped in to say hi and give me an intro to a friend of his that is part of the running community. We talked for a few minutes and then, finally, I called it a night.

Though I didn't stay, to have a beer with the other runners - though I'm not 100% sure how many of them stuck around, to be honest - I did make an effort and put myself in a social situation where I knew NO ONE.

We're going to call this one a win, and try to ride that victor wave through next Tuesday, to another group run, with the Chambersburg Beer Runners. Who knows, maybe this time I will even stick around for a beer.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Hello From the Other Side....Of the Hill

The year that I turned 29, I decided to throw myself an epic birthday weekend, at Disney World.
At the time, we lived in South Florida and made the 2ish hour trip to Disney, on the regular. We had yearly passes and were regulars at a handful of the hotels on property. We were often joined by an assortment of friends and family and somehow, over the years, it had become my "job" to do all of the scheduling and arranging and reserving of rooms.

TBC was 2 1/2 and TGC was creeping up on her 1st birthday. With 29 approaching, I knew that 30 wasn't far behind, and I just couldn't stomach the idea of no longer being a 20-something. So I decided that 29 would be the last birthday I would acknowledge.

Which, honestly, if you know me is a really sad state of affairs.

I love birthdays. I mean like big-puffy-heart-open-mouth-kiss LOVE birthdays. I love to plan and throw parties. I love to plan surprises. I love to hunt down the perfect gift. I. LOVE. BIRTHDAYS.

So, 29 was going to be *it*. Go out with a BANG. And gosh darn it, I wasn't going to be the one to plan the whole thing for everybody else.

I decided to book a room on the concierge floor of the Yacht Club at Disney, and let everyone else know that that is where *I* would be for the weekend...and the rest of them could figure it out on their own.

I had my plans in place, I was going to my favorite place, and that was that.

And then, mere days before my birthday, Disney called to cancel our reservation, due to the impending Hurricane Frances.

My lovely birthday plans were, quite literally blown away by a massive storm that would go on to spend more than 36 hours tormenting us. We were plunged into darkness and left without power for more than a week.

(In the spirit of her "mini-me-ness", TGC also got a doozy of a storm for her birthday, Hurricane Jeanne.)

And so it was, that 29 came and went without much fanfare or ado. Unless you count rain, tornadoes, flooding and power outages as fanfare. If you do, then it was a *rager*. And we can't be friends any more.

As 30 approached, I was much more focused on throwing a suitable soiree for TGC. We'd gone all out for TBC's 1st and 2nd birthday celebrations and I felt guilty for her getting such short shrift.

Apparently, my preoccupation with her party arrangements was the perfect cover, because Mr. Man pulled off an incredible surprise party for me, and gifted me with beautiful diamond stud earrings that never leave my head.

Earlier this year, I turned 40.

I can remember feeling vaguely ill, just thinking about 40, when I was resisting turning 30. It seemed such an awful, horrible, sagging age. Something you would almost use as an insulting adjective when describing someone..."oh, well, she's 40..."

Interestingly, I spent the year between 39 and 40 getting increasingly excited about my birthday...about my new milestone. Quite honestly, I couldn't wait for September 2nd to roll around.

I'd spent the majority of my 30's, trying to look and feel like I was still in my 20's.

I'd colored my hair to hide the grays.

I'd dressed myself in clothes that were more readily associated with the college crowd than the soccer-mom set.

I fought being a 30-something tooth and nail.

And my 30's fought back. They were not easy years. It was not until my later 30's that I finally started to hit my stride and feel more comfortable in my skin.

At 39 and 2 months, I decided to stop coloring my grays.

At 39 and 4 months, I decided to stop straightening my hair on the regular and just let it be curly.

At 39 and a half, I went through my wardrobe and got rid of anything that made me feel even remotely foolish. Shirts that had snarky sayings...skirts that were too that screamed "Emo teenager".

I replaced these things with clothing that made me feel comfortable both inside and out. And that's not to say "mom jeans"...that means clothes that make me feel like me. A little bit sparkly...a little whimsical...a whole lot of practical...and just girly enough.

The closer it got, the more I solidified my plans, the more giddy I became. Come on 40 and just get here already!!!

It had been years - 10 of them, to be exact - since we had really thrown down and celebrated for one of my birthdays and I decided that it was high time to do something about it! Me being me I could think of no better way to celebrate the occasion than to run a race, so I registered us for the Rock n Roll VA Beach Half Marathon. We rented a beach house and invited friends and family to join us, on Labor Day weekend. (I'm sure I'll post about that at some point...)

As the actual day of my birthday approached, I felt like a kid marking off the days until Santa arrived.  Even though I knew that I wouldn't actually feel or look or really be materially different in anyway, once I was 40, it was something I was looking forward to.

The morning of 40 dawned and my phone started buzzing. I looked at it, expecting to see a birthday text of some kind.

And it was. By merit of the fact that it was a text that I received on my birthday.

My ex-stepfather, the man who had been present for the bulk of my childhood, had passed away from a short but awful battle with cancer. At 5:43am on my 40th birthday.

Later in the day, I would be taking to the PIC and telling him this and he shared that a member of his extended family had also passed that morning.

As lunch time approached I would hear from my next door neighbor that her beloved father had passed away.

It seemed that the light of my birthday was doing its darnedest to be dimmed by the sadness and grief of others.

I braced myself for a swirling emotional let down. I prepared to switch gears and give up on the glee as I attempted to process what all had happened...

...but, something deep inside of me still felt warm and glowing. I was still happy. (quick aside...autocorrect just tried to change "still happy" to "slithery"...I was half tempted to leave goal for the day, find out what it means to "feel slithery") If anything, I felt peaceful.

..for which, I immediately felt guilty. I mean, how could I feel peaceful when so much badness had just crashed my party. People around me were suffering, and I still had a smile in my heart. What kind of person did that make me??

It is now 2 months, 1 week and 2 days since I turned 40. I've thought a lot about the events of my birthday and my surprising lack of an emotional response. I've always fancied myself an empathetic person, but my lack of reaction has had me questioning that. Am I less caring than I want to believe? Am I cold?

...until last night, as I was drifting off to sleep. I had a last waking thought that has eased mind...Perhaps my lack of sadness over these passings is not about me at all. Perhaps it is more about them and the relief that passing must have been for their souls...especially my late stepfather's. I think that my peace may be their final gift to me. Rather than having my birthday be another day of suffering and pain for them, they went home. Their suffering is over. Rather than seeing my birthday as their death day, perhaps I should be looking at it as the day of their homecoming, the day that their souls made their way heaven.

Now tell me, what could be more joyful and peaceful than that?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Who You Callin' a Turkey, Turkey?

As has become habit, over the years, I will be running on Thanksgiving Day...

...over the last several years, the time after the Twin Cities Marathon but before Thanksgiving has become a different kind of training cycle for me. One in which I train to run faster, in the hopes of finishing our local 5K Turkey Trot faster than I did the year before.

The past couple of years have brought great success...

This year, we will be in Massachusetts, visiting my sister in law, her husband and their two kids. My mother and father in law will also be there. It will be a full and festive house.

So, our local Turkey Trot is squarely *off* the table.

Running a race, however, is not.

This year, I will not be training for speed. In fact, if I'm completely honest, *I* am not training myself at all.

After researching local Thanksgiving Day offerings, I honed in on the Wild Turkey Road Race, in Salem, Massachusetts. It's a reasonable drive from my SIL's house and, I mean, c'mon, it's SALEM!!
What could be more fun than running past the statue of Samantha, from Bewitched? ;)

Just a little freezing 
There is a wrinkle though...this is not a 5k, it's a 5 MILER. No big deal for Mr. Man or I, perhaps...not an absolute deal breaker for TBC...but for TGC? Well...this could be a challenge...I really wasn't sure what she would general, she *tolerates* the occasional family run, but she typically doesn't LOVE it. In fact, the weekend of the TCM, there is a 5K. The last two years, we have signed the kids up to do it. When we reminded her of this fact, in the weeks leading up to the race, she looked us squarely in the face and said "I don't remember agreeing to this."

Tongues out for a good race!
About a week before the race, I asked her if she would like to wear a sparkly skirt and dress, more or less in a costume for the run. She liked that idea, and we pulled together an Iron Man  inspired outfit for her...and she was deliciously adorable.

The morning of the race dawned, cold and bright. We got the kids dressed and ready and headed down to the start.We had them bundled up in toasty outer layers, to keep them reasonably warm.

When the time came to drop them off in their corrals, we took those outer layers, so that they could snuggle up in them, post-race and then went and staked out a good vantage point from which to snap eleventy million pictures of the start...which we did.

Smile big!
Once they were out of sight, we meandered over to the finish shoot, and watched the first of the elites start to trickle in.

And we prepared to wait.

TBC had a pretty aggressive time goal set for himself.
Home stretch

Last year, he ran this race in a respectable 24:27.

This year, he was hoping to break 22:00.

While he missed that goal, he did crush his last PR for this distance and run it in 23:35.

We were pretty darned proud of the boy.

After that, we settled in to wait for TGC and the PIC's kids. (for a refresher in who the PIC - Partner In Crime -  is, visit here)

Post-race, last year
Now, last year, TGC had crossed the finish line at 40:30.

The PIC's youngest finished at her side and his eldest crossed at 36:07.

So, we prepared to wait.

We cheered on the runners.

We chatted with the other spectators.

We stalked TGC via "Find My Phone".

...When we looked, we were a little surprised at TGC's location...somehow, we thought she would have been much further up the course by the time that we checked.

We reminded ourselves that she had't really wanted  to do this race, let alone trained for it. She would probably come in pretty close to her time from last year. Regardless, we would be proud of her.
You GO girl!

So, here's the thing: it's an out and back's not that she was still on her way  there, she was tearing it up, on her way back.

Our jaws dropped as we realized that we could see the glint of her skirt in the distance...she finished in 31:16.

She dropped nearly 10 minutes from her time the year before.

Better than that though, was the smile on her face. She was grinning, from ear to ear, as she ran down that shoot. In her face, I saw the joy that I feel when I run, shining back at me. She was elated. She had had fun!!
I mean, c'mon!!! Look at that smile!

When we talked about it, she revealed that, all along the course, spectators had complimented her on her outfit...and she loved every second of it. She looked me square in the eye and said, "If I can dress up for it, I'll run all of the races."
My babies!!!

I felt like I'd died and gone to heaven.

Which brings us back to Thanksgiving, and the Wild Turkey run...

So, I timidly brought up the notion of doing a 5 mile race.

TBC said "Sure! Let's do it!" to the surprise of precisely no one.

Mr. Man shrugged and said "I go where you tell me to."

TGC said "Can we dress as witches?"

I bit my tongue as hard as I could, to stop the gleeful "OF COURSE WE CAN!!! HOW COULD WE NOT?!??! IT'S SALEM FOR PETE'S SAKE!!!" from escaping and put on my "responsible mom voice."

"Now, it is 5 haven't run that far before, without walking. If you want to run this, you're going to have to train for it, you know?"

She turned those green-gold eyes up at me and said "Will you help me train, mama?"

...and so it is, that I find myself waking my mini-me, at 5AM on a school day, 3-4 times a week, to strap on a headlamp, and join me on the roads.

This kid. She's kind of a bad ass.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

On Finding My Life Pace Group

When I first started running again, back in 2011, I did it, in part, to have something that was *mine*. Something I was in control of. Something that I could call every shot in.

I had just gone back to work, after spending 3+ years at home, with my kids and I wasn't entirely pleased about it. I had loved being at home. It wasn't my *choice* initially, as I was laid off, but I loved it, all the same.

It wasn't entirely my *choice* to go back to work either. Mr. Man had been laid off and we were both scrambling to find employment. Which we both did. Within mere weeks of one another.

Making matters worse, I wasn't exactly warmly received by my coworkers and I felt awkward and unwanted...but I needed that job, whether I liked it or not.

When I was home, I had my kids and the PTO and all of the different organizations I had gotten involved in. I identified them as my "tribe".  I never had to sit alone at the table...anywhere I went, I had a spot.

At the office, I had no such spot. Everything was grey and lonely. People were sniping at one another and I got the sideways eyeball at least 4 or 5 times a day. And because I was now at the office during the day, the rest of my 'tribe" moved on, without me. They were still in the same circles, but I had become an outsider, peering in through the glass.

Not one to just sit back and wallow in a situation that I don't like, I set out to find something to fill the void that I was feeling. I tried doing the group fitness, yoga thing...but it didn't really come to me very naturally. I never really felt *relaxed*. The classes were at times that just didn't suit and I'd have to move mountains to make it work. Mostly, I just felt guilty.  

Guilty for leaving work a little early to get there.
Guilty for getting to the class almost late.
Guilty for not being home with my kids after so many hours away from home.
Guilty for not at least trying to hang around and socialize and make friends afterwards.

So I stopped going. Clearly the "zen crowd" wasn't my new tribe.

After a few months, I decided to get back into running. It was pretty simple really...I could go whenever  and wherever I wanted to. My kids had soccer practice several nights a week, and it was something I could do while I was there. I set whatever pace felt comfortable and was just pleased with myself for *doing* it. And *bonus*, I had a friend who was slogging through a C25K program with we were a tribe...of 2.

That first 5K came and went, and my interest in running didn't wane. A gulf in ability had started to develop between my friend and I though, and we stopped running together much.

I stepped out on my own, and running became my own thing.

It started to fill that void...I started running early in the morning...when no one else was up. The pre-dawn roads of my small town became my own private playground.

And for a while, this was good.

Over time though, I started yearning to "find my people". I wanted people to talk to. People to bounce ideas and thoughts off of. People to get advice and understanding from. I started looking online, and discovered some great runners. I interacted with them...cheered them from afar...admired their accomplishments and sheepishly shared my own. The longer I "knew" them, the more about their real lives I got to know. Many of them had running friends. Running groups. Running clubs.

I was jealous.

I wanted someone to run with.

I started paying closer attention to the folks that lived near me, and discovered that there were some local-ish running clubs. And as it turned out, I knew some of the folks that were members! I started reading their newsletters and websites...and the more I did, the more I noticed that these weren't just runners...these were Runners. Real Runners. Fast Runners.

I was slow. And just starting out. I couldn't possibly ask them to deign to run with me, could I?

Self consciousness prevailed, and for a long time, I didn't ask. I'd nod appreciatively at their accomplishments...dismissively answer their questions about my own runs...and secretly wish that they would offer to run with me...they didn't. In retrospect, I realize that the ambivalence I was trying to pull off in regards to my running made me seem disinterested and cold...but that was then.

Fast forward a few years...(yes, I said years.) and I was still running. Mostly


With multiple marathons and half marathons under my belt, there was really no denying the fact that I was now a Runner. A Real Runner. I started meeting other folks who were just starting out. Folks that would tell me that they were inspired and intimidated by me. And I would remember being them, and would offer to run with them.

The answer was typically the same, every time..."I'm not ready to run with you..." or "I'd slow you down..." or "I can't run as far as you can..."

I'd always say "That's ok, we can run your pace, your distance..." All I really wanted was to cobble together my own little tribe...but it didn't typically work.

And so I kept running. By myself.

After a while, I focused more attention on coercing my husband and or children to run with me. It was always nice while it least for me. They weren't nearly so...enthusiastic...about the experience.

About a year ago, my internet trail crossed with an old acquaintance who had also become a runner. A Runner. An avid Runner.

This ushered in a new age for me, as I finally had someone to talk to and share the obsession with. And because we were far apart, the differences in our abilities didn't matter. We cheered one another on from across the interwebs. We started having virtual running dates. We'd encourage one another when one of us wasn't feeling it and give one another a kick in the ass when it was needed..which was great. Sometimes, it is nice to someone other than yourself to hold you accountable to your goals. For me, it was a refreshing change of pace, from time to time.

Eventually, this gave me an idea...and so, The O'Dark Thirty Virtual Run Club was born, on Facebook. I started out just inviting everyone that I knew was a runner to any degree, on Facebook. And people actually accepted the invite! I was delighted at how many folks accepted the invite, and started posting on the regular. And then, some of them started sharing the group with some of their friends...and before I knew it, we had a fledgling running community.

This makes me happy. Very happy. Some of them live nearby one another. Sometimes they post runs together. I love this.

And I envy this.

Several of us have actually made plans now, solid, real, money backed plans to complete a Ragnar Relay together...people from the tribe we are building. This delights me...and has given me the gumption to start taking more risks about trying to interact with other runners.

Last night, I met up with a new (to me) group of runners, for a post-work 4 miler. A work friend of mine and I planned to meet up there and run together. Which, ultimately, is exactly what happened.

Just not right away.

When I first got there, there were about 20 runners milling about, decked out in blinky-flashy-glowing safety hats, vests and knuckle lights. Not a single familiar face in the crowd. I stood off to one end, silently surveying the scene...and considered bolting. Small groups were huddled in friendly conversation...I couldn't envision an "in".

Just as I was about to back away, my friend, The Flash, appeared. I'm fairly certain that he has never, in his whole life, met a stranger. He has an open and friendly nature and immediately strikes up conversation with anyone around.

No leaving now...

We continued to wait, as he talked to a few folks he already knew. While we were waiting, a 10 year old girl came over and commented on my bracelets. We had a brief conversation and then I turned to what I assume was her mother and introduced myself. Which, for me, was a really big step.

Before long, we took off, lighting up the night and the back streets of central PA. The Flash and I chatted idly for most of the time, so I didn't really interact much with anyone else...but I was *there*. I was *present*.

As we finished up the 4 miles, the group made ready to pour inside of the restaurant that we had used as our starting an stopping point. (It is a "Beer Runners" group...) I didn't stay...but someday, maybe just maybe, I will.

Slowly, timidly, cautiously I am finding that, while I may not have a tribe to call my own right now, what I do have...what I can build for myself is a life "pace group". We may not connect on many things...but when we are running, we are a community. It's terrifying and wonderful.