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Not like me is okay, too.

3 Oct

I am competitive. Not the kind of competitive that leads to murder plots or anything but make no mistake: I like to win – or at least be better than the next guy in certain things. These things most certainly include Scrabble and Words with Friends, which I play like steel-cage death matches and pretty much anything I do with my hubby.

When you’re a mother, you also have the option of being competitive on behalf of your children. Three years ago, I watched a parent get asked to leave an AYSO soccer game because he was screaming at the referee. What made it particularly memorable was that the players were all 9 and 10 years old. The memory stands out in my mind because while this guy was completely out of control, I could see how he got there. I understand what it’s like to want your kid to want to win – to want to be the best they can. I completely understand how frustrating it can be when they just don’t give a crap. It can make you a little crazy.

Today I went for a run with Kitty, my 12-year-old. She’s running modified cross-country this year, her first in middle school. This has special significance for me because I am a runner, and have been since my high school years, so I’m especially proud to see her follow in my footsteps.

Which of course, sucks for her.

As we headed up the steepest incline of our run I was focused on wanting her to do her best. Same as we all wish for our children. More than that though, I want her to want it – I want her to have the same passion for the sport that I do. If I’m being totally honest, I probably pushed a little too hard – no harder than I push myself, but too hard for a 12-year-old.

Halfway through our run, on the flat stretch at the top of the hill, I realized that running – not unlike most sports or hobbies – is like a love affair that develops over time. Sometimes it lasts, and sometimes it doesn’t. My relationship with running has been sustained and sustaining. Maybe hers will be different. Maybe not.

Then, into the final mile, we slowed down and forgot about the pace or time. As we ran along, from shadow to sun on a beautiful fall afternoon. We talked and laughed. I understood that I need to let her relationship with the sport I love develop on its own and believe, that if it’s meant to, it will. And if it doesn’t, that’s okay too.

I struggle to give my kids the room to find their own way – to acknowledge the ways we differ – particularly when it comes to my competitive streak. If there were such a thing as a parent report card, this is the area where I’d receive a “Needs Improvement”.

I can do better.

I take it as a challenge.

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I Was a Camping Warrior

15 Aug

In case you were wondering: I did not get eaten by a bear, which I am totally happy about.

Image via Warrior Dash

This weekend a few friends, The Husband and I participated in the Warrior Dash. Notice how I didn’t say “ran” The Warrior Dash? That’s because I don’t want to give you the impression that there was too much actual ‘running’ involved. In fact, “dash” is also a load of crap.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it: the Warrior Dash is road race that generally takes place on some kind of ski slope or equally brutal terrain. To make it more formidable than simply running up a steep hill for a couple of miles, they throw in some challenging obstacles every so often. Of course I was in. And then I suckered convinced my bestest pals to join me. In turn, they persuaded me to go camping for the first time ever in my life. I don’t really remember actually consenting to camping, I just know that someone (ahem, Husband) suggested that I wouldn’t. So of course, that meant I had to.

When Is Camping Not Really Camping?

All 13 of us left bright and shiny Saturday morning. We were to head for our campsite first, set up, and the head over to Windham Ski Resort for the race.

As I said, I don’t know too much about camping. But, I’ve seen pictures. In my head, I pictured a nice little stream and trees and logs and stuff. Not this:

Please note the building in the background.

Dude. We were camping on a big football field, next to a bathroom. And a restaurant and bar. A tent was involved.

I think that’s called “sleeping in your yard”, not camping.

The Warrior Dash

We headed out Windham Mountain Ski Resort to pick up our race packets and our fuzzy Viking helmets. We got our numbers on, put the rest of our things – including a change of clothes  – in the cars and we were off.

My Warrior Sistahs

I wish I could say I had pictures from during the race, but it was impossible to bring a camera along – or even my trusty iPhone, which has been in every race and even with me.

Let me try to give you a written description of my personal highlight of the race. I am not kidding when I tell you that the first mile is straight uphill. (Another important factoid: The Husband, who freely admits that he does not run unless someone is chasing him, chose this as his first race ever. He has been following the Couch to 5K program, but that would have had him racing sometime in September. Obviously, he has completely lost his mind.) I stuck with my husband through the first two obstacles, and was feeling pretty smug – jump over walls, crawl under barbed wire? Sure. Run over tires and climb over junked cars? Okay. Balance on planks 5 feet off the ground? Yupper.

Until the fourth obstacle.

A pit filled with chest high water to wade thru. With logs to climb over. The logs were secured on either end to the banks of the pit by ropes that allowed them to roll as you tried to climb over them. At first, the logs are only about waist-high but they get progressively higher so that by the final giant log, 5′ 6″ me could just about reach my arms over.

Now would be a good time to tell you that I don’t like cold water. I don’t like murky water. And I kind of suck at swimming.

I tried to throw my leg over that log. No joy. I tried to hoist myself over that log. Nope. My husband dove over it, face-first into the water.

No. Frigging. Way.

I moved slightly to the left and ducked under the rope.

And then the Universe got me back: I tripped over what was either a submerged rock or less-fortunate competitor. I went flailing forward, grasping at anything within reach that would keep my face from slamming into the wooden ‘ladder’ we were to use to climb out of the pit. That ‘anything’ turned out to be the midsection of a kindly gentleman in front of me. Or it might have been his ass. I really didn’t care. He was nice enough to grab me by the arm and yank me out of my personal hell. Thank you, sir, wherever you are.

(There was someone on the course with a camera – you can check out his blog post here.)

The remaining obstacles culminated in a leap over fire and crawling – Marine style – under barbed wire.

I was so proud of my husband for finishing, and frankly, of myself as well. We made it through relatively unscathed while our friends suffered bruises, scrapes and a sprained ankle. I heard that another friend of ours actually fractured her ankle at some point during the race – finished – and then required surgery, two screws and a metal plate to put her back together. That, my friends, is a Warrior.

I only required a bottle of water and a really delicious pulled pork sandwich.

If you want, you can donate your sneakers after the race for charity.

I Slept in a Tent. Does That Count?

We all headed back to our campsite a.k.a. large open field to clean up and enjoy the rest of the night. I want to tell you that I stayed up all night, partying with my friends but that would be lying. I took the time to confirm that I do, in fact, still suck at Quarters and then I went to sleep. In a tent. Outside. Next to my car, adjacent to restrooms and a laundromat, but still. That counts.

Right?

How to Run Injury-Free

27 Jul

Whether you’re a new runner or a seasoned marathoner, the quickest road to being a spectator rather than a participant is getting injured.

Some background: I’ve run pretty consistently since I ran track in high school. In all that time (and trust me, it’s a looong time) I’ve never really been injured. Two years ago, I had a foot issue (plantar fasciitis) – but a pair of orthotics and a temporary decrease in my mileage, and I was all set. But that was B.F. – Before Forty – and this is A.F. – After Forty. It’s not that I think my best years are behind me. I don’t. On the contrary, I know they’re ahead of me. It just takes a little more effort and persistence than it did before.

Today was the first time I nearly didn’t finish a run because of pain that was the result of an injury. I call that “bad pain.” “Good pain” is the pain you endure in order to improve or get stronger. “Bad pain” is a pain that signifies something is wrong.

This is my actual knee - not a stunt knee - after the skiing accident that started it all. Have I mentioned I hate skiing?

I hope none of you find yourself in that position – because it sucks. A lot. Now that I’m a little bit older my body doesn’t bounce back quite the way it once did and it also doesn’t put up with the neglect I once subjected it to. I couldn’t have avoided my skiing incident (unless, of course, I didn’t suck at skiing) but there are some things you can do to keep injury at bay.

The Internet is full of sometimes-contradictory advice on avoiding injury as a runner. Some of it might work for you and some of it won’t. I’d like to share some fundamental steps you can take to stay injury-free. These are things I do – or have learned to do, the hard way.

5 Tips to Help you Stay Injury Free

  1. Buy running shoes that accommodate your size and feet and stride.
    I’ll be honest, when I was younger, I bought the sneakers I thought were pretty. Big mistake. Your feet hit the ground almost 1,000 times for every mile that you run. Too much or too little cushioning can lead to disaster. I’m a distance runner who overpronates. I wear shoes that help support my feet. Go to your local running store – they’ll help you find the shoe that will work for you. (And as I recently learned, the shoe that’s worked for you for years may not anymore.)
  2. Stretch. 
    I know that there are plenty of runners who never stretch before they run and have never had a problem. Good for you. Really. I was one of you, once. Not anymore. Flexibility is one of those things that you lose as you get older unless you work to maintain it. There was a time that I could put my leg over my head – true story, I was super popular – now, I’d need surgery if I tried that. As much as I am loath to use any of my “running time” to stretch – I do it. You should too.
  3. Strength train.
    Strengthen your core. Blah blah blah, you hear it all the time, right? It’s true. The stronger you are, the less prone to injury you’ll be. Let me give you my story as illustration: I fell while skiing and tore a minor ligament in my right knee in December. After 8 weeks of recovery, I started running again. All of the sudden, my left knee started to have problems. It turns out that my left leg wasn’t strong enough – particularly my hamstrings and glutes – to withstand the slight shift that was taking place in my stride. It was like dominoes; my left knee affected my hips affected my back. Now I’m doing physical therapy to – guess what – strengthen my hamstrings and glutes. Save yourself the trouble and do it before you get hurt.
  4. Increase your mileage gradually.
    The rule of thumb is 10% per week. I’ve seen folks try to go from 10-12 miles per week to 25. You might be able to do it, but why take the risk? At some point, the law of diminishing returns will kick in and your body will start to tell you it’s running far enough. That’s where suggestion 5 comes in:
  5. Don’t be afraid to rest.
    Listen to your body. The world will keep spinning on its axis if you take a day or two – or even a week – off from running. I try to remind myself that my body and I are on the same side – my body is not my enemy. If she tells me she needs rest – I rest. If I’m really tired or very sore, or my run the day before was miserable, I interpret these as signs that I need time to recover a bit more or that I need to back down the number of miles I’m running.
I can’t guarantee that you won’t hit a speed bump on your way to whatever your running goals are – but these tips should keep you up and running.
What’s the worst running injury you’ve ever had? What did you do that made it worse or better?

Boilermaker 15K…and I haven’t stopped running since!

16 Jul

Last Sunday, I ran the Boilermaker 15K – which was my first race since I tore my MCL in December. (Have I mentioned I hate skiing?) The heat was unbelievable and I ran slower than I would have liked, but I did it without pain – so I’ll take it. The real test will be the Rochester Marathon in September. I’d love to show you pictures from the race…but no one in my family brought a camera. I know, right? (I did manage to replace my dog-eaten sneakers at the last minute!)

Only picture of me I could find. We'll ignore how scary I look. Yes - we will.

I feel like it’s been non-stop since then. I finished the race on Sunday, caught up with my family, had an obligatory sip of Saranac beer and then raced home so we could bring Beans to camp. She’s been there a week and I have to admit, I really miss her. Not the drama and hysteria, but certainly her wicked sense of humor. Her “cabin” by the way, is gorgeous – clearly recently built, lovely tiled bathroom, big fan in the vaulted ceiling. Seriously, that’s my kind of camping. Growing up in Brooklyn, there wasn’t much in the way of camping for me – we did get to run around in the fire hydrant sometimes, though. Somehow, I don’t think that’s quite the same.

Did I mention that on her camp application they asked “What skills would you like your child to learn while at camp?” Uh. Umm. Cooking. Cleaning. How to mix a perfect Cosmopolitan. Deep-tissue massage…oh, not that kind of camp? Oh. Then I guess archery would be fine. Whatever.

"Are you going to leave ever? Huh? GO!!"

Since then, we’ve been in rush mode trying to get the bedroom re-do’s done and ready to go. I wish I could show-off the completed rooms, but, uh, they’re not quite done. I did get to use power tools though! I promise to post pictures as soon as they’re finished.

And then today, we got up at 3 am and drove out to get Kitty from the camp she’s been at since school got out 3 weeks ago. There is something really…nice…about seeing your kid get all weepy when she spots you in the parking lot. It makes me think maybe I don’t suck at parenting as much as I often think I do.

Is it possible that she grew while she was away? We watched her compete in the end-of-camp show and then headed home. And here we are.

I think I’ll be going to bed now.

The post in which I tell my most embarrassing story.

6 Jul

I read a fantastic blog post on Single Dad Laughing the other day about his days as a Boy Scout and what I’ll call a poop-tastrophe. (It’s a really funny story, I highly recommend clicking over there and taking a moment to read it.) He then asked if anyone had a similarly embarrassing story to share. Which of course got me thinking…

If we’re honest with ourselves, we all have at least one of those cringe-inducing embarrassing moments. Upon reflection, I’ve realized that more of those seem to have happened in my younger years. I’m not sure if that’s a result of my being more easily humiliated back then, or me just not giving a rat’s arse as I have gotten older.

It turns out that the majority of these events involve either a) my kids or b) running. For example – the time the president of a board I serve on (who is a serious kind of person) called the house and my daughter politely explained after answering that mom couldn’t come to the phone because “she’s pooping.” The gentleman and I went on to pretend that never happened.

Not the run in question. Boilermaker 2010

Then there was my own poop-tastrophe. (Yes. I’m writing about this.) Anyone who runs with any seriousness for any more than a couple of miles can tell you two things: where the bathrooms are along their route, and which houses have big dogs that run loose (generally, we’ll change a route after discovering the latter.) I was a high school sophomore out for a long run. I was probably 45 minutes out when that dreaded feeling started in my belly. (This was also the day I learned not to drink Yoo Hoo as an energy drink before heading out for some exercise.) There is no one on this planet that has not had that feeling – which is only made worse by being anywhere but home. Preferably in sweatpants. When you’re running and you have that feeling of impending doom, you’re faced with an impossible choice: you know running makes it worse, but it may be your only of getting to a restroom in time.

I was far enough out on my run that I knew I would never make it to the nearest bathroom. My route went along some woods – I had no choice – the woods it would have to be. Except the woods ran along this sort of busy road and I didn’t want anyone to see me ducking in because then they would know. I should point out that this was Staten Island, New York. I was raised in Brooklyn. I did not poop outside. Ever. City girl. I kept running, waiting for a lull in the traffic, but also making the situation more urgent and then finally, my chance!

Did I mention these woods were along a pond?  My undercarriage got mosquito bites in places NO ONE should ever get mosquito bites. No one. The whole time, I’m simultaneously trying to keep my precious running shoes clean, listen out for nearing people and praying that no car would slow down enough to see what was going on a few feet from the road.  I did what I could do to clean up – sacrificing the only item of clothing I could. (Guess.) I considered running over to the pond to wash up a bit more but these woods were frequented by other members of my track team who I was sure were just steps away from my discovery. I was left with no choice but to jog over to the local pizzeria, t-shirt tied around my waist, to call my Mom collect from the payphone to come pick me up. (Why did they not invent cell phones sooner?) I still distinctly remember asking her to bring a towel – she was always fastidious about the car’s upholstery – and her asking “why”? I was all like “JUST BRING IT MOM!!” I also clearly remember her eyes widening in understanding when she finally did arrive.

The moral of the story – when you have to make an emergency poop stop while you’re running and then you keep going – you are a runner. And when your kid tells a relative stranger about your bowel movements – you are a mom. And when something utterly mortifying happens to you – you are human, and you live to tell blog about it!

I think that’s what they mean when they say “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” Or maybe “shit happens.”

So come on – share your embarrassing story. It will only make you stronger!

5 Things Every New Runner Should Do

2 Jun

                                                                          Image from Pinterest.

I’ve been a runner since high school, and have been a runner for more than 20 years (I’m not telling you how many). I wish I could say a love of the sport is what initially led me to running, but the truth is, I had a huge unrequited crush on the coach’s son. That handsome boy (and his rocking mullet) led me to the sport that would become central to my life. Running is my therapy. It’s how I work through life’s big problems, keep in shape and spend time with friends. Running is the most honest sport out there, in my opinion. You learn a lot about yourself and your limits when you’re pushing yourself up a hill in the wee hours of the morning. It’s just you, your breath and the sound of sneakers on pavement.

Since those days in high school, I’ve run countless races ranging from a 5K (3.1 miles)to 15K (9.3 miles) to my very first marathon two years ago.

When I started running, I had the benefit of an experienced and talented coach. He told us what to run, and not matter how much we knew it would challenge us, we did it. (Okay, some of us may have occasionally stopped at a pizza place during a longer run…sorry, Mr. Whitehouse.) If you’d like to take your first steps toward a life long love affair with running, or maybe just flirt with it a little, let me share some words of wisdom with you.

1. Get yourself a good pair of sneakers. Sneakers are the only real piece of equipment you need for running. Your feet strike the ground thousands of times every mile and a pair that it not appropriate for your size and weight or your foot shape and stride can lead you very quickly to injury. Find your local running store. Those folks will be passionate about running and knowledgeable about what running shoe will be best for you. Remember, i’s not about buying the most expensive sneaker, it’s about buying one that is right for you. Ladies, you’ll also need to invest in a good athletic bra, particularly if you’re big busted. I’ve purchased mine from athletic stores and places like Target. 

2. When you first start out, do not worry about mileage. Focus on time. Start out by trying to run without stopping for 2 minutes, then walk, and then run again. Eventually you’ll want to build up to 30 minutes of running without walking or stopping. And don’t feel self-conscious about walking. Walking can be a legitimate strategy – even in races like the marathon. Be sure to hydrate before and after each training session.

3. Set a goal. Personally, I find it much easier to stay committed to something when I have a clear objective. Find a short, flat race as your first race. 5K is a great starting distance. Be certain to pick a race that is around 2 months away if you’re just starting out. You want enough of a sense of urgency that you get out the door every morning, but not so much that you panic and not so little that you start to sleep in everyday!

4. Find a buddy. Having someone to train with can be a great. A partner can help keep you motivated – it helps you get out of bed in the morning knowing someone is waiting for you. Your local running shop or gym can be a great place to find someone. I found my best friend when a mutual friend talked us both into training for a marathon! Don’t be shy – just ask!

5. Know that you can do it! I’ve been passed by people of every size, shape and age in the races I’ve run over the years. They all have one thing in common: they kept going. Running gives back what you put in. Be consistent with your training and keep putting one foot in front of the other. In no time at all, you’ll develop a love of running too!

If you’d like learn more here are some fantastic online resources:

The Couch to 5K Training Program  – 60 Days to your first 5K!
The Runner’s World 8 Week Beginner Runner’s Training Program  – Runner’s World online is a great resource, with information for beginner runners on gear, sneakers and training.
Hal Higdon – This running expert has training schedules for every fitness level and nearly every race distance. It was his schedule that I used to train for my first marathon.

Runners, are there any tip you’d like to share? Any questions?