Monday, November 30, 2015

Give Some Credit Where It's Due

Kids today get a pretty bad rap. They are entitled, indulgent and spoiled. They have never learned to lose, are used to getting their own way and don't respect their elders. Did I miss anything?

Social media is hailed as one of the evils of the modern day. By connecting with the world we have forgotten about privacy, modesty and boundaries. We fail to connect with the people around us because we are too busy connecting with people online. Sounds pretty bad, huh?

Kids *on* social media must then be one of the four horsemen. Right? Right??

Of course they are. Except for when they aren't.

The Saturday before last, a sweet, wonderful, young girl that we know, Ella*, collapsed, whilst at a sporting event due to an aneurysm. She was rushed to the hospital and placed into a medically induced coma, while the doctors worked to find the bleed and stop it, to save her life. This lovely child is the picture of perfect health and the product of healthy, wonderful, loving family. We have known her for years, and have been praying for her, constantly.

I remember, when I was in school, we had a classmate that passed away, unexpected, due to an aneurysm. She had a headache one day, laid down to take a nap and try to sleep it off, and just...never woke up.

It was shocking. It was upsetting. It was scary...

We learned about it quite a few days after it had happened. For the first several days, she was just...absent. It wasn't until the family started releasing details about funeral arrangements that the school took steps to pull us together and inform us. They made support resources available. They provided a structure and a framework for us to process the news and to deal with it. They offered helpful suggestions for how we could do something for the family. In short, the school held our collective hands and controlled the flow of information to us. and told us how to cope.

We learned about this young girl's aneurysm almost immediately. TGC and I had gone for a run. We came back and as she was preparing to post something on her instagram about our run, she noticed that her timeline was flooded with messages about her friend.

She turned those big, green eyes to me and asked "what does it mean, when a blood vessel in someone's brain bursts?"

Of all of the questions that I could ever envision coming out of my 12 year old's lips, that was certainly not one of them.

As she scrolled through her timeline, more information popped up. She looked at me and she said "Mama, it says here that Ella had"


"...during her swim meet. And that she was rushed to the hospital. It says here that she is in surgery..."

I reached out to the grown-ups that I knew, that might have been there...they didn't even seem to know *that* much. Word had not gotten circulated as quickly, through the parental social circles.

"Mom, we are all supposed to wear orange and fluorescent green, to school, on Monday, for Ella."

As the day wore on, more information started to trickle in, from the adults. Detailed information. Frightening information. We, as parents, were all in shock. We didn't know what to say or do. We couldn't answer our children's questions about *why* or *how* this could happen. We were certainly not organizing the communication to our kids or directing them on how to process the information. We weren't telling them, en masse, how to cope. I think we were all just *in shock*.

Later that day, posts started showing up on *my* timelines and feeds...beautiful signs and cards and posters for Ella...all with the hashtag #Ellastrong, all with her family members tagged.

Over the next several days, guardedly optimistic news would come out of the hospital. Ella seems likely to make a full and speedy recovery. As these tidbits have come along, we have passed them down to our kids...but they typically already seem to know. They have their own communication system up and running...and it is humming along way more effectively than ours.

On Monday, the whole school was a sea of orange and green. (Being a maroon and grey town, that is pretty unusual.) There were even teachers wearing their "Ella Colors".

...I mention all of this...these signs of solidarity...this outpouring of highlight an important facet. All of this? Was organized by the kids. While we adults were reeling with the news and trying to fight our way past the "oh my goodness, what if that were *my* child...", the kids were mobilizing and organizing and rallying themselves around one of their own. They came up with the idea to wear the colors. They made the signs. They spread the word.

These kids that we are raising...they live so much of their lives *online*. They get such a bad rap, for being the social media generation...but maybe, just maybe it's not such a bad thing.

Social media is powerful. It's fast, lightening's wide reaching...and that scares us. You can be anyone or anything that you want, online...and to a largely cynical mindframe, that means something bad.

Social media is the ultimate crowd sourcing tool. Need a mob? It's on standby.

...but these kids? The ones who are growing up in it? They are so adept at using it...and so quick to channel everything that they have got into it...we immediately assume and worry that they will use it for bad...

...and then push came to shove. And they harnessed that power into making it do something good.

There are some bad eggs out there, sure. There always have been and there always *will* be, I am afraid. Nobody's parenting is *perfect*...but I can't believe, even for a second, that it's all *bad*. Are we all just mucking it up, all of the time? Really? Every parent that I know gives a shit. Every parent that I know wants not only the best for their child, but for their child to be a good person.

 If that is what we all want...if that is what we are all working towards...why do we automatically assume that we are falling down on that job? Have a little faith in the job we are doing. Give a little credit where it's due.

And give our kids a chance, to show us how much they have learned. They might just teach us a thing or two.

*Name changed for the privacy of the family.

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.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Since (I've) Been Gooooooone....

I kind of promised myself that I wasn't going to do this kind of a post...the whole "let me apologize for neglecting my blog and provide an explanation from for my absence, then make promises about how I will be better this time" schtick...because, I mean, at the end of the day, this is *my* blog. I owe nothing to anyone but myself...and I already *know* the reasons and seasons that have kept me from writing. ...but then, sat down and went to write. I read the last entry. And the entry before that. And it seemed somehow...rude to just barge in and start talking as if nothing had happened. And, while I may be a great many, less than perfect things, I am not rude. My mother raised me better than that. So, hi. I'm back. At least...I think I am? I dunno. We'll see.

 Life has been...well, it's been life. It's been good and bad and then good again. It's been, above all, busy. I've run - a lot. I've traveled - a good bit. I've raced - more than ever before, but less than I eventually hope to. I've sort of found my groove...or at least my current groove. It could turn out to be more of a rut than a groove, but I'm not going to waste the time to analyze it. I'm just going to go with it.

My focus is a lot different...and a lot the same. My kids are now enormous. 7th and 8th grade. Both over 5 feet and quickly bearing down on me in that category. Both enjoy healthy, busy, hectic schedules, filled with their favorite activities and friends.

He's so looong now.
For TBC, that includes soccer and soccer and soccer. And cross country. And video games. And video games of soccer.

For TGC, that means soccer and band and chorus and musical and color guard and sleepovers and Doctor Who and Marvel and becoming a teenage girl. Gah.
Cymbal girl

Mr. Man continues to be amazing. And fallible. And I continue to love him for being both of those things. He's playing more soccer these days...and forging a more grownup flavor of relationship with TBC. Sometimes they are just father-son. Other times they are thick as thieves. I wonder how closely this echoes the relationship he had with my FIL as a young man. I'd venture to say pretty close, as it is remarkably similar to the relationship that he has with him now.

My parents moved to the sunshine state. As did my in-laws. Which often makes me wonder if we just should have stayed put, nearly 10 years ago. But then I look around, at the life we have carved out for ourselves, and I know that Florida isn't our home any more.

I still work for the same company. Although it is evolving into something different. In a good way. I love the shifts that I am seeing and I love being right in the thick of the action.

Our fur babies are still providing a steady stream of entertainment, aggravation and love for us.

We had to say goodbye to Skorja, our eldest, over the summer, as she had sunken into a world of silent darkness. Our hearts broke and still ache from the void she left.

Duchess's first run
Duchess, now the matriarch of the pack, is still as loyal and protective and loving and silly and smelly as ever. I'm teaching her to run with me...though, at nearly 8 years old, I'm not sure whether she'll ever get much past the 1-2 mile mark...but we'll see. She *wants* to come with me, so I'm not counting her out yet. Besides, her mom was 15 when we said our goodbyes this she's got a lot of living left to do.

Sunbathing weenies
The weenies are needy, cuddly, lovable, stubborn little assholes. So, basically, the same as they ever were. Jasper knows, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he belongs in my lap, at all times. Hera knows, with absolute conviction, that she is going to steal that pizza off of the table.

And then there is the immortal cat. Shalom is still kicking around. He'll be 18 this year. He still drools when you pet him. He still has zero fucks given when it comes to the dogs. He still enjoys following me around and criticizing my every fart, turn and twist.

Running is still my passion. I went through a phase where I was bound and determined to try and become *fast*. To prove to myself that I could be a different kind of a runner. Or something. Mr. Man made the comment, at one point, that I wasn't a "serious runner"...I think that got in my head and I felt the need to prove him wrong. Which, for reasons that mystify me now, I interpreted as serious=FAST.

I spent the last months of last year and the first months of this year, working on my speed. For the first time in my life, I set actual, challenging time goals around races. I met both of those was a push, but I did it.

Funny thing though, I didn't enjoy those successes near as much as I would have hoped. I also didn't really enjoy training that way...or racing that way. Focusing on a PR means (for me) that I am focused on my watch. On my pace. On pushing a bit harder for a bit longer. It means I am focused on what the quickest way around this next little clump of runners is, rather than on what their shirts say. It means blowing past the water station and the volunteers, because "ain't nobody got time for that." It means consulate doing runner's math..."how fast do I need to run the next 5 miles to break 1:50?" and "if I am running at 'X' pace, and I have 'Y' miles left, what is my projected finish time?" Bleh.

Beginning of the rain soaked experience
A funny thing happened though. After the second PR, I got sick. (I intend to go not more detail about that in another post, as I intent to recap the races I've run over the last 24 months...but that may or may not ever happen. There, I said it.) It wasn't a *surprise* that I got sick...I'd been out on the rain and the cold and whatnot for way too long. And I had been doing a run streak for a very long time. My body was pooped. So, I got sick. I couldn't breath. I coughed and I hacked. There was no way that I could run, because I couldn't breathe deeply enough to support it. So I didn't run, for 2 weeks.

Can you believe how beautiful this is?
My next race, which I had set a time goal for, months earlier, was looming fast and hard on the horizon. And I was wheezing in bed.

It was the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, in DC. Which is one of my favorites. It's a pretty course - especially at peak bloom...which the race fell smack dab in the midst of. You run past so many monuments, that it's practically a tour of who's who in American Presidential history. It's a relatively *easy* course. My bestie (the PIC) would be there. And I had an awesome Cherry Blossom themed outfit all ready. Priorities, man.

As I gingerly laced up for the first time, post plague, to log a few miles, I could feel that I just didn't have 10 miles at my goal pace in me.

I shed a tear and then made peace with it. And let it go.

I decided that I was going to run this race, and every race after it, for the sheer joy of running it. I was going to just run the mile I was in. Smile, talk to people, take pictures, read shirts and just be present in the moment. Screw the PR. Screw my pace. I needed to take back my race.

 And that is exactly what I did.

Over the next several months, I started running with other people.

I stopped worrying about whether they were faster or slower than I am.

I started instead focusing on just enjoying the shared experience.

I embraced my whimsy and quirks and brought them to the road.

I found (and am still finding) my *life pace group*.

Runners run. It's what we do.

When we can share that experience with other runners, we swell with joy.

My faster friends are easily able to keep my pace and are happy to do it, for the sake of running together. We run when we want to, just for the fun of it. f they need to run race pace for training...well, then they do that, and we run another time.

I can run my slower friends' pace. And I am willing and ready and able to do just that. Sometimes I can help push them along to greater distances and greater speeds than they knew they had in them. Others we just chat.

And this is the beauty of the running community. Running is a solo act, but can be a shared experience.
A morning "run" on the AT
I've also started to dabble a bit in trail running. And running groups. Both of these things are completely outside of my comfort zone.
There is a real story here...

The trails because, hi, I'm clumsy on a flat surface. Remind me to tell you about the time that I tried to dent the pavement with my face.

The running groups because groups of people, especially those I do not know well, are terrifying. I can handle a large meeting, because I have an agenda and a persona to hide behind. In a social situation?
Cue anxiety...

Me: "who will I talk to? What will I say? Can't I just watch them? What if no one talks to me? What if someone talks to me? Ugh. Maybe I'll just stay home and run on my own. It'll be at the same time as they are running, so that's sort of the same thing, right?"

Other Me: "No. No, it's not. Pull on your big girl panties, lace up your shoes and just get out there, already. They're runners. We all have salt in our sweat."

 And so, I do it. And it's always hard. And it's always scary. And it's always infinitely better than I thought it would be.

Ever since I have embraced these changes in philosophy, I've been happier. I've expanded my social circle. Both IRL and online. I've taken some risks, put myself out there, asked to "join in"...and I have yet to be turned away.

I am modeling the behavior that I want my kids to internalize. It's ok to be afraid, but you have to keep moving.

Be present, in this moment, and run the mile you're in.