Wednesday, April 30, 2008
It was May 1988. Ronald Reagan was president. INXS had the top song, but Michael Jackson was still a top dog in the music industry. Beetlejuice was playing at the movies. The Seoul Olympics were being anticipated. I was a mom with 4 young children, including an 8 month old baby. For the most part, I loved my life, but I did daydream a lot. I was also a very busy person, but one who made exercise almost a daily priority.
I walked quite often, and oftentimes brought the kids, not only to get them out the door but because I couldn't leave them home alone. We lived out in the country, where the speed limit on our road was unmarked, and while it should have been no faster than 45 mph, the little bit of traffic we had usually had cars speeding by at 60 mph or higher. So I also didn't feel comfortable letting the kids ride their bikes alone. They could ride their bikes when we walked. And it was only a short walk to the subdivision around the lake.
But taking 4 kids for a walk didn't mean power walking. The girls would run or skip ahead; Aaron, the 4 year old wanted to look at everything or sit down on the road and take a break; and of course I pushed Justin in the stroller. It was a fun family outing, but I needed to do more.
It was May 1988. I had this thought one day then that maybe if I ran instead of walked, it would take me less time and I could go by myself.
But the evolution process started before that. As a kid, I was either on the go constantly or reading. None of my brothers and sisters were that active, although as kids back then we only had outdoor play or indoor play to fill our time, but for me it was riding bikes all over the area, jumping rope, playing kickball, swimming, or walking everywhere it seemed. I even did a very crude, modified form of aerobic exercise in high school, along with calisthenics, the only thing we knew. Girls organized sports had yet to come on the scene, and the only thing I was good at was volley ball anyway.
Then sometime in the '70s, I got my good friend at the time to consider doing some form of exercise class through the school system, although neither of us had the money to spend on organized classes. The only gym was the Y, which I hadn't ever heard of yet, and there were no gyms or fitness centers anywhere. But another thought occurred to me. I had been "walking" a new puppy I had gotten around that time, who actually only ran anytime she had a leash on, so I had to run to keep her from strangling herself. So I said to my friend, "We should just run." Where that thought came from, I have no idea. If the running boom had hit our area at the time, I wasn't aware of it. And yet, there it was, the beginning of an era? We ran alright. We didn't jog. We ran. Hard. For about 2 blocks at a time. For about 2 weeks. And then? Shin splints so bad neither of us could hardly walk. That was the end of that plan.
Fast forward into the late '70s. My younger sister who was in high school at the time had taken up running, both cross country and track, and she ran regularly otherwise with a good friend, who went on to win many school titles, and for years after won road races in the area. Something struck a chord within me, or maybe I was feeling some pull of the sisterhood of early running women pioneers, and I just wanted to run too. Again, for about a week, I would get up at 6 am and go out and run around a couple of blocks and call it good. Did I have running shoes? Oh no. In fact, I didn't even wear athletic shoes, just some leather wedgy type shoe that was popular at the time. For one reason or another, that didn't last either, and then I had my second child and took up bowling in the winter and biking in the summer, going about 5 miles each time, and later, with 3 kids, I took up walking.
And then it was May 1988. Spring came early that year. It was hot in fact. My oldest was almost 12, my youngest 8 months. I needed to get out of the house BY MYSELF. So, when my oldest daughter came home from school at 3 pm, and the baby was sleeping, I figured again, if I went out and ran (with the dog of course!), I could be back in 20 minutes. She would be okay for that long, and I would just go down the road and come back.
So off I went, with the dog, the same dog who was a puppy 12 years before, but she was just as eager and frisky as she had been as a pup. And as expected, once the leash was on, she wanted to run. And of course, being in a rural farming community, the thought of anyone running for exercise was absurd. So I felt less self-conscious with the dog too. And my outfit this time? A pink sweatsuit and old aerobic shoes, with holes in the soles.
Once I got going, I decided to go out one mile (I guessed) and back. I don't remember stopping. And I ran as hard as the dog pulled me. When I got back, I was beet red in the face and totally sweating, and I felt exhilirated! I couldn't wait to do it again. So run I did, the next day and the next and the next, and the rest is history. Every day in the mid afternoon heat. In my pink sweatsuit and worn out aerobic shoes.
I couldn't let May 2008 start without commemorating my 20th year of running and remembering back on all the good times that started from that one month in time. I've had my ups and downs, forwards, and backwards, but I hope to celebrate another 20 years in this sport!
Monday, April 28, 2008
This is one of those races I have wanted to do for years, but until you actually know someone there or a group is planning on going, its not something I would have done by myself.
A huge shoutout of thanks to Suzanne and her husband Steven and their wonderful kids for hosting me this past weekend. Without them, I know the weekend would not have been as much fun. And with my own personal tour guide, it gave me a more up-close-and-personal look at Lou-a-ville.
I arrived Friday early afternoon, and actually found my way through the city and to Suzanne's front door by myself! That was huge in and of itself. And once again, had I relied on Mapquest to get me there, I would have found myself on a circuitous route around the city. Like I said, it helps to know someone there.
By the time I arrived in Louisville, the temperature was already in the 80s. I actually turned on my air conditioning about the last 50 miles because it was so warm and I was starting to feel a little sick from the sun beating in on me. As I crossed the Ohio River from Indiana to Louisville, I was reminded of IMKY from last summer, seeing the Great Lawn below.
The area where they live reminded me quite a bit of an area close to where I live and run through on occasion, only on a bigger scale. And it was nice finally getting to put faces with the names, meeting Suzanne's husband and kids.
We went to packet pickup which was downtown at the convention center, same place where the IM takes place. Saw Gault House down the street, and the building that overlooks the Great Lawn, so all that was familiar from my last trip.
I wasn't sure how many people were going to be in this race, but my number was 12061. We browsed, got my packet, bought some things, and just as we were leaving, I heard a voice that was familiar, looked over, and said to this woman, "Hey, what's your name?" It was Mary, from Northville, MI, whom I hadn't seen in about 5 years. What a coincidence! So we chatted a minute and went on our way. I knew she would run faster than me the next day, there was no doubt.
Then it was back to Suzanne's to meet the kids, who were now home from school, Henry, who is (almost) 12, Annabelle, who is 8(?), and Claudia, 6. These were the sweetest kids you could hope to meet. The girls were just precious, and Claudia had made me a welcome card.
Then it was on to the kids' cyclocross. Annabelle had just started the week before. There were probably 20 kids of all ages and levels of experience, and Belle did very well. She is very coordinated for her age, and I'm sure her ballet training helps. Henry actually learned to ride a bike that day as well, and Claudia got her training wheels off that weekend. So now they were truly a biker family!
After this, we went back to their house to make dinner and relax. It was still quite warm, with the temperature having reached 86 by mid afternoon, but by early evening, you could feel the humidity lifting, fortunately for all the runners the next day. I tried not to think of the possibility that it would be a bakefest the next day, knowing that would be my biggest problem.
Over the past 2 months, my training leading up to this race had not gone well, what with one thing or another, starting with our craptacular weather that lasted until the end of March, and my ITB problem, that also lasted until the end of March. So I was going into this with only one good run behind me. I have run the half marathon distance many times, have run farther in fact many times over the years, but I still would have preferred having a couple of more weeks to train. So it was going to have to be what it was. I had no real goal at that moment but to just finish.
We had a nice dinner, did some chatting, had a little wine, and then it was time to get to bed. I went to sleep fairly easily and was glad for that. Sometime in the night though, the wind started blowing hard, and then it started raining hard also. The air coming in the window had cooled off considerably, so I wasn't going to have to worry about hot weather for the race. In fact, I fell back to sleep and dreamed that it snowed overnight, probably about 5 inches, but it was still 90 degrees. Weird!
Morning came and it was cooler yet. Then I started worrying I would be too cold. I debated over what to wear and finally decided to go with just the sleeveless shirt and hope for the best. I had to laugh to myself, because had I been home and doing a training run, I would have ended up wearing a jacket and probably gloves and an earband! So it really was a big chance I was taking with my choice of clothes. As it turned out, it worked fine for me.
We picked up a couple of Suzanne's friends, Marcia and Michael, who were also running the mini. Suzanne, as it turned out, was not running that day but was available as our personal chauffer instead. Lucky for us! Michael had just run Boston on Monday of that week but was going to run with his wife, Marcia. They started talking about pacing and finishing times, and I knew then I would not be running with or even near them! My goal then popped out of my mouth and it was there, out in the open: 2:45. My last half back in October was 2:46, so I had to believe I could do better than that. I didn't know this course, but you go with what is and do with the course what you can. There never is any other way.
Suzanne left us about a 1/2 mile before the race site, because most streets were now closed off. We walked past a park, which later we would run through, and used the bathroom facilities there, which as it turned out was quite a good thing. The lines were only about 10 deep, and when we got to the race site, about 1/4 mile away, there were thousands of people in line and from what I could tell, people were quite grossed out by the condition of the porta-potties. Eww. Glad I got to miss that. As it was, that smell stayed in my nose almost the whole race, it was that bad.
Then I just had to find a place to get into the corral where we started on Southern Parkway (?), which is a very long, tree-lined street. I didn't know the number of runners, but I got in somewhere around the middle of the crowd and I couldn't see to either end. At least it was warmer standing in the crowd. And of course, in that kind of weather, people are dressed every which way, from shirtless (men of course) and shorts to full jackets, long pants/tights, gloves, hats, etc.
When we started, and I'm not sure there was a gun start or not, no one moved for at least a minute or more, then there was a slow shuffle forward and stop, shuffle forward, stop, and on and on this went. I decided then there was no point trying to run, but would walk to the start, since it was a chip start anyway. Once I hit the mat, I hit my watch and started running.
It was very, very crowded. Its really annoying with walkers who walk 3 or 4 across and don't seem to realize people cannot get around them that easily when there are that many people, so you find yourself darting in and out around them. So I was quite surprised when my first mile was 11:15. I don't see how, but I went by watch time, not clock time, so it had to be right. Mile 2 was pretty much the same thing. I didn't feel like I was running too fast, but I did consciously decide to slow down, and once we hit the hills shortly after 2 miles, that was decided even more for me by the course.
We ran through Iriquois Park, very nice, but very hilly. I had just heard about the hills the day before, and decided to do what I could with them. I was happy I didn't have to walk up any of them, like a lot of people were doing. The little bit of hill training I had done helped apparently. Not to make me faster, but at least to keep me moving.
Leaving the park, it was on huge downhill, about 5 miles into the race. All I could think of here again was anyone with knee problems would get beat up by this part of the course. The downhills were actually worse than the ups. At this point, there was an OLD woman and maybe her young grandson (or great) running with her. I'd guess she was in her 80s at least, and I can't help but admit my twisted pleasure on passing her! Then it was back to the street where we started, and here I finally ran through the corral area. I was really hoping we weren't doing that hill loop again!
I was planning on hitting the 10k mark and then stopping to take a gel and water, but somehow forgot and did it at 6, so when I hit the 10k mat, my time was probably a couple of minutes slower than it otherwise would have been. I had the worst time getting the strip off the gel packet, probably because my hands, like usual, were so sweaty, and I had nothing to wipe them on that wasn't sweaty. So I struggled with that also longer than necessary, and then was mad at myself when I realized I goofed on the 10k calculation. Oh well, on to the next mile. I did have a serious foot cramp about mile 7 and figured it was from the downhill pounding, but it went away after a minute or so and never returned.
I am easily amused by all the things going on in races, but I can focus on only one mile at a time. And up to this point, the only walking I did was through the water stops. And what's up with that anyway? This was the oddest thing. They handed out at every stop a small bottle of water. Warm. Caps on. Weird. That was a huge mess. I usually carry my partially frozen water bottle, so I would add part of the bottled water to that, drink it when it got cold, and go on to the next. The stops were every 2 miles from what I remember.
Shortly after 8 miles, we came up to this area where I could see people running through a gated area. I was wondering what that was, where were they leading us, until I looked up as I passed under the gate and noticed it was Churchill Downs. Oh cool, I forgot all about that.
They had a speaker system set up with Derby race commentary on horses, placement, etc., and there were also jockeys exercising and practicing with their horses, so that was a nice little distraction. Here though was the first real walk break other than getting water. When you enter the park, to get out onto the track area, there is a tunnel you run through with a steep downslope/upslope on each end. It was short but steep, and I could feel it in my Achilles, so decided to walk down, run through, and walk up. I actually passed people who were running the entire thing, so no time lost there. When we got through the second tunnel, on the way out of the park, we hit 9 miles, and then it was back into the street again.
One other thing that keeps me going in new races is not knowing the course. Since you don't know what lies ahead, you have no preconceived ideas of how you will feel, good or bad. So again, it is easy to just focus on each mile.
At 10 miles, we went through another tunnel under a bridge, but the down and up was not as steep and it wasn't time for any walk break, so I just kept going. Just before 10 miles I hit the 2 hour mark, and it was here that I decided to take official walk breaks each mile, mainly to keep myself on an even keel. In races, two issues I tend to have are breathing and stomach, neither of which bother me if I keep my pace slow enough. And now with the walk breaks, I was also finding, as usual, that my pace was not slowing between miles. I would pass people when I started running again who passed me while I was walking.
My next plan on taking in food was at 11 miles. Like I said with the stomach thing, it was going okay, but I was afraid if I took in another gel too soon it would upset things. And I also forgot that Hammel Gel does not work for me at all, which is what the second gel I brought was. I really like the chocolate ones, but they inevitably cause stomach problems. Somewhere between 10 and 11, they were handing out sport beans, so I decided to grab a pack and tried them at 11 miles. I figured they probably really wouldn't kick in until 12, but that was okay. I actually ate them a couple of times between 10.5 and 12 miles and after that I ditched the rest. My walk breaks were initially run 8 min. 30 seconds, walk 1 min. 30 seconds, and that worked well until close to 12, and then it got to be 6 min. 30 seconds, 1 min. 30 seconds. I could tell my breathing was a little harder and I needed to keep things calm. There was one bright spot here though. The White Castle people were out with ice cold CUPS of water, so even though my water I carried was still cold, it wasn't ice cold, which I really prefer. That was like being in a an oasis in the desert, getting a nice cold drink. I really think this kept me going to the end without needing another break too.
There was a split somewhere after this I think for the half marathon and the full. They had it color coded, and since I couldn't read the signs from a ways back, I started wondering what color my bib was. I couldn't remember! And if you went the wrong way, you would immediately know, which makes me wonder why a woman in my age group who apparently did the half ended up with a time of 6:51. Whoa! Makes me wonder if she actually did the full without intending to.
By the time we got to where the clock was placed for 26 miles, I was looking for the 13 mile marker. I really wanted to take a break but thought if I was that close I should really keep going. So then I did the math and figured if I was at 26 miles, that meant it was only .2 to go for the half, and sure enough, right around the corner was the finish. I picked it up here (I suppose you could call it that) because I really just wanted to be done. I hadn't looked at my watch since about 6 miles, so didn't even realize what my time was.
When I crossed the finish line, I stopped my watch and it said 2:45:04. Eh, good enough I thought. I only found out later that my official time was actually 2:44:58. So I made my goal after all.
After the race, they gave us mylar blankets, and I was very grateful for this because even though the sun had come out toward the end, it was extremely windy being by all the tall buildings, like a wind tunnel effect, and cold. I began immediately looking for Suzanne, realizing then we hadn't discussed any plan for where we would meet and I hadn't brought my cell phone, and now couldn't even remember her phone number. I continued walking through the corraled area where they had chip retrieval, medals, food, drinks, and the beer tent. Might as well use my beer ticket I thought while there wasn't a line. I walked around looking at everyone who passed by outside the fence, trying to be sure I didn't miss Suzanne. I stood still for periods of time too trying to focus on people walking by, but no luck. I then went in the convention center and was grateful for the warmth here, but soon realized there was no way she would find me in there probably. So I went back outside and walked down the street toward the finish line again and right then we both just about ran into each other!
I know she was as glad to find me as I was her. I really didn't spend too much time worrying what I would do if I hadn't found her. I was just glad I had.Here's my finish picture.
We had a nice warm afternoon again that day, a nice evening, and then Sunday morning it was time to leave to head north and home again. I really liked Louisville, and hope I can get back there sometime in the future.
As for how I felt after, not too bad really. Some hip stiffness, getting down steps, etc. All I can say for today though is I hope we don't have a fire in my office!
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Monday, April 21, 2008
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Over the past few years, I have been very adept at finding money while out on my runs. Early morning runs yield the biggest jackpots. Today was no exception.
It was only 2 dimes today, just 20 cents, but I added it to my stash of found coins on the run. I have about $5 now in spare change, just from picking it up on runs.
I have found $5, $10, several $1 bills, even half of a $20 once. One morning, I found 75 cents (3 quarters) just laying in the street, and then a little further on more money: another quarter, a couple of dimes, and several pennies, almost like someone had flung a handful of money into the street. Their loss is my gain.
What amazes me is not only how frequently this happens, but the fact that I can actually spot a dime at 100 feet in the light from streetlights, or a crumpled bill on the grass in the semi-light of morning, yet I can't find something in the cupboard at home (coffee as a reminder was my last goofup). One advantage of running just as its getting light out means getting out there before anyone else does.
And most of the money I find is in the street, making me think people are dropping it or losing it in the dark as they pull out or put away their keys.
I've found a lot of other stuff out there over the years, but spare change seems to be the easiest and most frequent find. It pays to look where you're running!
Postscript: I went for a walk at lunch time around the river. There was a guy walking along asking people for? Spare change! LOL! Try running, buddy, instead of begging!
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Four years ago today, my life and that of my family was shattered by the suicide of my son-in-law, David.
This came at the end of spring break week, where my sister and I took the kids (including my grandson) to New York City for a week-long tour. We had a great time, seeing all the sights, all of which were new to my sister and her kids. We did the usual touristy things: visit the Statue of Liberty; go to the Empire State Building; visit Wall Street; go on a walking tour of the city that included Central Park; visit NBC Studios for a tour; shop the Hershey store; go to Toys 'R Us to ride the ferris wheel; and one of our most fun spots was a visit to the Wax Museum.
When we got back home, we learned the news. It had happened that day. I can't convey the shock and grief that came over me and my family, something that hung on for quite a long time in fact.
Without going into detail of those years, I couldn't help but think today, as I was out running in the cool morning air, of the runs I had gone on with David. David who was fleet of feet in a way I never was, even at my best, who had so much potential. David who had so much joie d'vivre. David who also fell to the depths of depression, farther than we ever knew.
I couldn't help but think too about all the years of depression I had gone through over this and other life events previously, and yet here I was, as sane and whole as someone could be under the circumstances. But yet, for some reason he lost something or got lost along the way. One of those things we will never know and never understand.
What made me different from David? What helped me cope and survive and never once think of ending it like he did? Many reasons, I'm sure, but I have to give credit to my belief and faith in God, and the gift I was given 20 years ago: the gift of running and later triathlon.
Because that's how I view my athletic self. And I do know it is what finally got me back on track.
So David, I'm sorry for the way things turned out for you. I wish I could have helped or done something. But I had to move on with my life, and so today, this run's for you.
Friday, April 04, 2008
That could be the name of a song. It certainly made me feel like singing, being in the sunshine every day.
The night we went shopping with the "girls," that included Shelley, Cindy Jo, and me in one car and Sherri (the coach) and a couple of others in another car. It was good getting a chance to just hang out with the girls, doing something noncompetitive as well. We were going to Leesburg, about 25 miles from Clermont, to a store that Sherri was recommending. As it turned out, it was just a so-so shopping experience. We drove there in heavy rain and a thunderstorm, making the highway very dark. Coming back, we narrowly missed an accident when a woman pulled out in front of moving traffic. She claimed her brakes went out, and that may have been the case, but we weren't sure if she was high or drunk the way she was acting. Fortunately, we weren't involved, and the cars that collided only had minor damage and it didn't appear anyone was hurt. We decided we weren't needed, and since we weren't from the area and weren't involved, we left and continued back to the villa.
When we got there finally, it was late, and the guys were actually starting to wind down for the night. They had saved us just enough food to take off the hunger edge at least!
The next day they had another ride planned, and that was to be my last full day in the area, so I went to Lake Louisa State Park to get in a run. Much as I had enjoyed exploring the neighborhood where I was staying, I was getting a little bored running in circles and figured the park would be another enjoyable experience. I had heard from one of the guys in the group that there were trails to run on but that they were mainly sand, and deep sand in some areas. But with the heavy rain from the night before, most of the sand was packed down, and only some of the more protected areas had any real sandy areas. A lot of the trail was pine needles and well groomed. But it was so hot in there, with no breeze that day, that it felt like running in a sauna. I found it hard to breathe and finally had to resort to a run/walk. Once I got out on the road, it was much easier to breathe, but not as enjoyable, so I headed back to the trails for another 40 some minute run. I only saw a couple of other people out there, and at one point I thought I was going the wrong way and started worrying about getting lost, like I have been known to do. But I checked the foot prints that I saw going the opposite way, saw that they matched mine, and knew I had my bearings correct. One thing about trail running, as I'm sure many of you know, you have to constantly be watching where you are going and pay attention to where you have been or you could easily run in circles or get lost.
When I got back to the villa, I decided to spend what little time I had left there lounging around the pool. I knew it was going to be hard to leave. My plan was to head back to the Orlando area later in the afternoon, find a hotel, return the rental car, and stay there until my flight the next morning.
The triathletes returned from their morning ride, we had some lunch, and before you knew it, I had to pack up to leave. They were planning on shopping and swimming again that afternoon, but I didn't really have time to go along.
With much regret then, I said my goodbyes to the group, all of whom I enjoyed meeting and spending time with. And I was extremely grateful for them sharing the use of the place for a few days as well.
So now I'm back home again, in the rainy and cold Michigan weather. Don and I went for a walk last evening before dark, and I found it very hard to not contrast the lack of greenery and sunshine that is normal for where I live. I know things will green up soon, and that our weather will improve, but I can't help but be impatient about that.
I think the older I get, the more intolerant of the Michigan weather I get. I can certainly see why so many people head south in retirement. I'm wishing I could go now!
And I know that no place you go is perfect, but if that's what you call my few days of sunshine, I'll take it!