Tuesday, December 30, 2008


In Australia*, there is a rite of passage in which Aborigines wander about the wilderness for an extended period of time as a spiritual journey/test type of deal. Wasn't that an awesome opening sentence? Ultramarathoner/ass-kicker Dean Karnazes recommends that runners train by going on their own sort of walkabout, this being more of a runabout. Dean says to leave the house with a credit card and a pair of running shoes and just run wherever the mood strikes you. Wander, stop at Starbucks, run some more, walk if you feel like it... the point is to spend a lot of time on your feet, moving in a forward motion.

Right now, I am in the midst of base training, which is a fancy term for "Look, Betsy, you need to start training for a half marathon trisko in a few weeks, so let's not slack off." Because I don't have any particular mileage to get in, I have been experimenting with going on runabout.

There may be some slight variations in the way I do it and the way Dean Karnazes does, in that he will go out for 8-9 hours, whereas I am more like 40-50 minutes, but whatever; the point is that Dean Karnazes and I are pretty much the same in terms of our training and athletic performance.

Going on runabout has been pretty cool. I was able to check out a used bookstore that is half a mile from my house, but that I have never gotten around to visiting. I've explored a number of cool neighborhoods and found some hidden parks.

And thanks to the inconsistencies in terrain (cleared sidewalks give way to packed snow, which gives way to black ice), every step is an adventure. This has also taught me that if I am running through most residential streets in my town, if I start slipping and yell, "WHOAH!" I can pretty well count on no response.

*If you have not seen the movie Australia, please do so, as it is outstanding. And I am not just saying that because of the scene in which Hugh Jackman showers in the wilderness, though that would be totally worth the price of admission. You're welcome. Also, is Nicole Kidman not one lucky girl for having Baz Luhrman cast her in movies that allowed her to make out with not one, but two of my boyfriends (the other, obviously, being Ewan McGreggor in Moulin Rouge!)? Baz, if you'd like to cast an actress who is able to move her forehead, CALL ME.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Scenes from Christmas at Stately Wasser Manor!

Both Steve and Jack wanted to wear their new clothes right away.

Yes, that is a clone trooper who gave me that cute mug. Thank you for noticing.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Jack's Birthday

It's been a great Christmas at Stately Wasser Manor.

As my devoted readers know, Jack's birthday is on Christmas Eve, and this year he hit the big oh-four. He and I spent the morning at my mom's house baking and decorating cookies for Santa... and also secretly getting Jack out of the house so that Steve and my stepdad Doug could put Jack's new Big Boy Bed (as opposed to the Medium Boy Bed, or toddler bed, that he had been sleeping in). We made both gingerbread and sugar cookies, giving Steve and Doug ample assembly time. The sheets are the Empire Strikes Back sheets that Steve had as a kid, plus a set of Spider-Man ones for when those are in the laundry. Jack was suprised and thrilled with it...

and with the Millenium Falcon that we hid under it. The Falcon has been on his wish list for a while, but we weren't about to get him the new one we saw at Target. The thing is $250, and for that, it should come with Harrison Ford. Instead, we got him a vintage one, just like Steve and I played with in our own childhoods.

The rest of the day was spent playing with Jack's new toys. We decided not to go out for lunch or dinner this time, instead spending the day eating various snacks - meatballs, cheese and crackers, veggies and dip - stuff like that. It was actually a good idea on our part, since if you call food a snack, Jack is much more likely to eat it than if he thinks he's eating a meal.

Instead of a birthday cake (which creates a whole lot of leftovers when the house is already full of cookies and I'm about to make some dessert the next day for Christmas dinner), I made birthday cupcakes. They are snowmen, and they turned out really cute.

After cupcakes, Doug got out his guitar, and we (badly) sang Christmas carols. Jack, of course, did some dancing.

Then, it was time for our annual reading of "Twas the Night Before Christmas." Steve and I barely had to read it, because Jack has the thing pretty well memorized. It was wild - we're not just talking "visions of sugarplums," but also "the moon on the breast of the newfallen snow."

It was an incredibly fun day - not just for Jack, but for all of us. Best of all, we had absolutely no problems getting him to settle down and go to sleep, even with the excitement of the new bed. Perhaps if I tell him every day that if he doesn't go to sleep, Santa won't come?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Not-So-Terrible Threes

I still remember a phone conversation I had with my sister, even though it was ten years ago. I asked her how Devin, my nephew was doing. Jenny sighed, paused, then said, "Eh, he's three. I'm waiting it out."

Today is the last day of Jack's third year, and he has definitely had moments that made me just want to wait it out, like Jenny did with Devin so long ago. The whining that he did when he was two years old has not disappeared so much as it has become more articulate. And there have been times in which he was so unreasonable that I literally had no idea how to respond to him. For example, when I cheerfully remarked that it would not be long before Santa came to our house, Jack fumed, "That was really mean, Mommy. Are you trying to say that I am not the real Santa?" Boggles the mind, doesn't it?

That aside, Year Three has really been pretty great. Jack has developed the most amazing imagination. He loves his costumes and will spend hours pretending to be Anakin Skywalker, Luke Skywalker, Captain Jack Sparrow, Buzz Lightyear, Cinderella, Diego, Santa Claus, Mr. Incredible, Spider-Man, Superman, Batman... or a crazy hybrid of all of them. He assigns characters to Steve and me, then tells us what the situation is, like, "We're Star Wars guys, and this is our spaceship, and we are going to go buy a birthday present for Yoda." It got to the point where his teachers would greet him in the morning not with "How are you today?" but rather, "Who are you today?"

I am proud of how friendly and outgoing he is. When it was time to transition from the Turtle classroom at school to the Pre-K world of the Ladybugs, he wasn't scared to leave behind his friends or beloved teachers - he was excited, saying, "Ladybugs, here I come! Maybe I will make a new friend today." He will introduce himself to other kids at the park, looking for common ground by pointing out that he, too is wearing a Spider-Man shirt, for example, or opening with surefire conversation starters like, "Do you shop at Target?"When it was time to plan his birthday party, he insisted on inviting every single kid in his class because he wanted all of his friends to come to his house and eat cake. He is also really developing empathy. Yesterday, his friend Caeden was crying because his mom was leaving. Jack went over and gave him a hug.

Because he's so outgoing, he's not afraid to order his own food in restaurants. He will walk right up to the librarian and ask her if she can please help him find some books about Star Wars. He will get up and dance with Sully at a parade. And best of all, when he was selected for Jedi Training at Disney World, I had no doubt in my mind that even though he was the littlest kid on the stage, he would rise to the occasion. He did not disappoint. Jack immediately started posing, using The Force on the audience. And when Vader came out to battle-fight the kids, Jack was not afraid (Yoda: you will be. You will be). He unleashed 32 pounds of kid frenzy on Vader. The Sith Lord didn't know what hit him.

Jack is also growing up and becoming more independent. If he wants to, he can get dressed by himself, often coming up with sweet combinations of red shorts and red t-shirts. Diapers and binkies are now things of the past. He can get his own cup of water from the bathroom sink. And he even went on a trip without us, spending a week with his grandparents, and learning valuable things like that this is a good way to get someone to buy you that lightsaber that Mommy and Daddy keep saying no to. He is learning new things all the time - he is recognizing more and more letters, can help make a grilled cheese sandwich, correctly identifies (and rejects) Granny Smith apples, and knows the days of the week and months of the year. He asked me lots of very interesting questions about why we vote, and how I knew to vote for "Mr. Obama instead of Mr. McCain." He learns new songs all the time, too. Sometimes they're songs you'd expect to hear, like "Jingle Bells," but he surprised me recently by singing Europe's "The Final Countdown," which he learned from my cell phone ring.

I love the person that Jack is turning into, and I could not be more proud of him. I am looking forward to my fourth year of being his mom, starting tomorrow. Last night, as I tucked him into bed, we had this conversation.

Me: Jack, I love you so much. I feel really lucky to be your mommy.
Jack: I'm not Jack right now. I'm Anakin.

Happy birthday, Jack - or whoever you are right now.

Friday, December 19, 2008

12 Month Meme

The always cool Daisy Bones introduced me to a year-end meme. The way to play is to take the first sentence of your first post in every month of 2008. Ready? Let's start the show.

January: These past few days at Stately Wasser Manor have been tough.

February: Because, again, if you have a Captain Jack Sparrow costume, why wouldn't you wear it to the grocery store?

March: In these past few weeks of running, I feel like I have re-discovered My Special Purpose.

April: Jack: MOMMY! Roary poked me in the eye.

May: And babies, I've got questions.

June: Two years ago, a miraculous transformation took place.

July: Last night was a track workout for me, and let me tell you, the Moline High School Track is a totally hopping place on a Tuesday night.

August: Internet, I am starting to believe that all of this running might be good for my legs.

September: The last time we went to the library, Jack checked out a ton of coffee table style books about Star Wars.

October: Thank you to all of you beautiful, talented readers for your kind comments on my race report.

November: "Are you sure that thing is waterproof?"

December: 6 years to Master's status... Or, how a runner perceives turning 34.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

2008 Bullets

This week's challenge for Take It and Run Thursday is to summarize your 2008 year in running in 52 words or less. Naturally, I turn to our friend the bullet point.

  • Knee, shin worries; both okay

  • Rocked first trisko despite weather

  • New mantra: One Tough Mother

  • Accidentally followed 20 miler with bike ride

  • Bix!

  • FIRST works

  • Purchased Ridiculously Short Shorts; did not die of embarassment

  • Marathon! 19 minutes PR! Jack ran me in! Joy!

  • Cross country season! Fun!

  • 5K PR's and Awards.

  • Strong

Monday, December 15, 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside

There's no getting around it: it's cold outside. So, what's a runner - who hates treadmills with a hot passion - to do?

Suck it up, gain some toughness points, wear the right gear, and go running anyway. Oh yeah, and share some tips with my fellow runners.

When I went out for my run tonight, the temperature was 9 degrees - with a wind chill factor of 10 below.

First, I put on a base layer:

My sports bra is Target's C9 (the official running outfitter of Betsy) and cost about $15. The tights are Asics Legato, which my brother got for me for my birthday. I believe they cost about $30. They are quite warm, and on most cold days are sufficient. The socks are by DeFeet, and I got them for free last February when I ran the Chili Chase. They're not the socks of my dreams, but they aren't bad.

Next, a long sleeved wicking shirt and a pair of fleece pants:

The shirt is by Asics and cost about $30. It is awesome. Besides being cute, see the little white holes in the sleeve? I can hook my thumb through there, which prevents a gap between my sleeve and my glove. How cool is that? The pants are by Under Armour and cost about $45. They are warm, comfy, and have a zippered pocket, plus they are roomy enough to wear the tights underneath if I need to.

We're still not dressed yet:

The vest is by the official running outfitter of Betsy, Target's C9. I probably paid about $20 for it, and at the time I really wasn't sure how much I would like it. Silly me - it is one of my favorite pieces of running clothing. It really helps me stay just that little extra bit warmer, it looks cute, and it has a ton of pockets. Then, we've got two pair of gloves, both of which I got for free from races. Yep, sometimes I wear both of them, and tonight was that kind of night. The blue thing? That's a Survivor buff that I got as a gift when I attended the finale party of Survivor: All-Stars. It's a handy little item that can be a headband, a tube top, pretty much anything. In the winter, I wear it around my neck, and when it's especially cold, pull it over my face. The only drawback is that eventually, the moisture from my breath gets it wet, but for shorter runs, it's nice to have. The hat is from the Des Moines Marathon, a great little souvenir that I believe was $10.

Speaking of race memorbilia...

I next put on my windbreaker, which is made by Brooks and has the Quad Cities Marathon logo on it. I paid $40 for it and I love it. It's lightweight, has plenty of pockets, and is, of course, red.

Finally, safety is important, and when it's dark and icy out, runners need to be extra careful:

My vest is by Jogalite, cost about $15, and is reflective. I always wear it when I run at night and am working to convince myself that it's so uncool that it actually turns the corner to be cool again. That really, unless I was a hardcore athlete, I would not own something so dorky. Play along with me. The little red thing is a clip-on light by Nathan. It was $8, and I wear it clipped to my hat to make me extra visible. Finally, attached to my shoes are Get a Grip Ice Joggers, which were $20 at Road Runner Sports. They are rubber, stretch over my shoes, and have small spikes in them to give a better grip on snow and ice. This was the first time I've used them, and I liked them a lot. I felt like my footing was a bit more sure, and they weren't obnoxious when I did run across a cleared area.

Altogether all of this gear set me back $233, which doesn't count my shoes themselves. On a cold winter night's run, I was comfortable and felt safe. $233 worth of running clothes isn't cheap, but it's a lot less expensive than a gym membership or a treadmill.

Best of all, running in the winter is a wonderful experience. First of all, anyone who sees you thinks that you are hardcore and is impressed by you, always a good thing. But better still, it's a beautiful and peaceful time to be out running. It's quiet, the snow sparkles, and there is no better way to see the Christmas lights in my neighborhood. Plus, you get to leave the house looking just this crazy:

Race Report, Jingle Bell Run 5K

On Saturday morning, as I got ready for the Jingle Bell Run 5K, I was a bit ambivalent about how things would go. After all, last week I surprised myself by rocking out a PR and age group award at the Reindeer Ramble which, given that the conditions for running were so lousy, felt like a bit of a fluke. Steve noticed my mood and said, "You know what? Just go out there and run it hard. Push yourself - it'll feel good." I figured, "Why not?"

I picked up my bib and race packet (which included shoelaces with jingle bells on them and a pair of gloves), then saw Sara, Chris, and Hadley - a group of runners who I met after last week's race. It's a great to have people to hang out with at a race, so I was happy to see them. The four of us chatted, compared gear, and so on before the race started. They asked me if I was going to PR two weekends in a row. I said I really didn't think so, since I was so happy with my time the week before. An age group award also seemed unlikely - the group was 30-39, twice as big as usual, and often including some very talented runners. But I said I'd do my best, because you just never know.

The weather was much nicer than the week before - in the 40's, with a bit of wind and a bit of rain, but nothing to freeze my toes like before. The course, however, was more challenging - an out and back with some hills, including a long slow hill just before the 3 mile mark that I knew would be tough.

We lined up at the start, and I did something I don't usually do - I moved up towards the front. It was a small race, and I told myself that I deserved to be up there as much as anyone else did.

And we were off! I blazed through the first mile in under 8:00, which is incredibly fast for me. The crazy thoughts crept in - was it too fast? Would I regret it later? I silenced them by telling myself that I was doing great, was on track for a PR, and was running a great race. I made an effort to relax my shoulders and just keep going.

A few women passed me, but they looked much younger (I later found out they were high school students), so I didn't let it bother me. I waved to the runners headed back, including the woman in the lead who was zooming through the course with a pair of red and white striped knee socks worn over her tights.

I hit the turnaround point feeling the fatigue of my efforts, but reminded myself how little there was left to run. I focused again on relaxing my shoulders, always a problem when I'm tired. I also listened to my iPod and gave encouragement to the runners heading to the turnaround (including my friends from before the race).

The long slow hill towards the end was indeed as tough as I thought it would be. When I run hills, I always tell myself that although they are challenging, they are easier for me than for everyone else and that I can plan on picking some people off along the way. This may not be true, but it keeps me going, and sure enough, I did pass a couple of people along the way.

Once the hill was over, I rounded a corner and sprinted for the finish line as hard as I could, especially when I saw the clock. I passed another runner and finished in a NEW PR of 24:44! I believe this record will stand for longer than the six days the last one did.

I was exhausted, so I walked around a bit, taking care not to stop. I went to my car and grabbed the race t-shirt (very cute long sleeved shirt with Santa on it) so I could change out of my sweaty clothes and not end up shivering like I did the week before. I watched Sara finish, then she and I cheered on Chris and Hadley.

It was a small race, so the food was limited to water, hot chocolate, and bananas, but that was fine with us. We hung out and chatted, waiting for the awards ceremony. Sara was positive I'd come in first in our age group and that she was in third. I wasn't so sure; there was a woman in front of me who might have been in her 30's, and I also didn't think there was anyone our age between me and Sara. Regardless, I was very happy with my time.

Turns out she and I were both right. I was first in our age group, and she was in second behind me. All in all, it was a great way to spend a Saturday morning.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I'm Dreaming of a White Elephant

Happy Take It and Run Thursday! With Christmas right around the corner, fearless leaders Amy and Tom are organizing a white elephant exchange. I shudder to think about some of the items my fellow runners will be offering.

My gift to whomever is lucky enough to receive it is this shirt:

I mean, come on - we all think it sometimes.

And while I'm at it, I do have a little present for Amy and Tom. The two of them are the special people we know as Running Angels, there to give their fellow runners a boost when they need it most. It's about time they each officially had a pair of wings.

My only warning is that I'm not sure the wings are made of a technical fabric, so be sure to use your BodyGlide before running with them.

Merry Christmas, running friends!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Race Report, Reindeer Ramble

The race report for the Reindeer Ramble has been brought to you by the letter R.

Hey, did you catlickers know I was running a 5K on Sunday?

Neither did I, until about 10:00 on Saturday night.

Steve and I were relaxing at Stately Wasser Manor, thinking about our plans for the next day, particularly the Grand Fiesta for Jack's birthday. Steve asked me if I was going to go running the next day, and I said, "Yeah, I'd like to. There's actually a 5K I could run if we have time." Steve showed once again that he is a fabulous husband by pointing out that I can crank out a 5K in no time, so I might as well.

So, I set the alarm and got up early, but not too early, so I'd have plenty of time for breakfast and coffee before registering at the race. It was really, really cold out, so I bundled up: tights, long sleeved shirt (with nifty thumb holes so the sleeve covered part of my hand), vest, jacket, buff, gloves, hat, ankle-length socks, and my trail shoes.

I drove to the race, and the turnout was not huge, but was perfectly decent, especially for a small race on a nasty cold day. I got my bib and my sweatshirt (with cute reindeer on it), then proceeded to circle the place looking for women who appeared to be between the ages of 30 and 34. I wanted an idea of who my competition was, just for added motivation. Does anyone else do this?

The race director gave us his instructions while we were indoors, which was nice. He gave a very simple description of the course, then said that the faster people already knew the course, so we should just follow the person in front of us!

Outside, we quickly gathered, and on "go," took off. I settled into a pace that was comfortable, but still challenging, and kept my eyes peeled for any slippery parts of the road. That was not a problem - there were a few slick spots, but they were easy to avoid. What was more of an issue was that I was really, really cold. My gloves were doing nothing to keep my fingertips warm, so I shoved all of my fingers into the palm of my gloves and tried to just wiggle them. My toes were cold too, since The Quest for the perfect winter running socks is still ongoing. My eyes watered from the cold, which meant that my mascara was running just as hard as I was. I noticed that some runners had frost on their hats - the moisture from the sweat had frozen. Yowza!

At the 1 mile mark, my pace was just under 8 minutes, which is excellent for me. At a mile and a half, a woman passed me who looked like she might be in my age group. I opted to stay just behind her. I rubbed my hands together (both to be evil and to keep them warm) and thought, "I have you right where I want you. You lead, and then I'll outkick you later." Alas, that plan never quite came to fruition; she grabbed a cup of water just before the 2 mile marker, I passed her, and she never came near me again.

Incidentally, I have a feeling that the volunteer stationed at that water stop didn't get many customers. You can definitely run a 5K without water, and the idea of drinking a cold cup of water was incredibly unappealing at that time.)

With black jacket girl safely behind me, I concentrated on passing the guys ahead. So long, red shorts over tights guy. Gotcha, ridiculously blond dude. I found myself keeping pace with a kid who was about 9 years old... and kicked past him to the finish line. Hey, it's a race! The kid's gotta learn to respect his elders, am I right?

I was happy and surprised to see my finishing time of 25:02 (thereabouts; it wasn't chip-timed, and I wasn't at the front) - which was a PR of 11 seconds. I have to wonder if my time was as good as it was because it was so catlicking cold that I wanted to be done as soon as possible!

I hurried inside to turn in my popsicle stick (41st place) and to warm up. The post-race party featured an impressive spread of food - sloppy joes, fruit, cookies, potato salad, and even slices of pumpkin pie. I felt warm again soon, but then started shivering from sitting around in my sweaty clothes - a cup of hot chocolate fixed that, and I was fine once again. I met a really nice group of people, and we compared notes about our favorite races, distances, and so on.

The awards ceremony began, and the race director worked backwards from what many would do - he gave the awards to the walkers first, then did the age groups from oldest to youngest. I thought that was a nice change of pace... and of course enjoyed the ceremony even more when I found out that I'd won my age group. I got a very cool wooden plaque with reindeer carved on it. Yay for me! The race director also told us that we could get a $10 discount off the entry fee for next week's Jingle Bell Run. Looks like I have plans for next Saturday morning!

I Survived Jack's Birthday Party

As the big Oh-Four approaches for Jack, he wanted to celebrate with a party. Steve and I agreeed, figuring we'd have something at our house. I started talking to Jack about the guest list, mentioning the friends at school who he talks about the most. Jack shook his head, then said he wanted to invite ALL of his friends, meaning his entire class. Then, he said that he wanted to invite everyone except for one little girl who is his nemesis. We explained that no, you do not invite everyone except for one kid, because that's mean, and because near as we can tell, she is just a little girl, and not, in fact, the root of all evil in the world.

I'm sure you'll all be glad to hear that Jack's Nemesis was unavailable for the party, as Jack was convinced she would break all of his toys and burn our house down. And I am equally sure you will be stunned to hear that Steve and I successfully hosted 14 little kids Jack's age in our house and lived to tell the tale.

The key, I think, is that we left absolutely nothing to chance. Every aspect of the party was planned and scheduled. The timeline was 2-4:00 on a Sunday, a short period to entertain everyone. We moved all of Jack's toys up to his room so that he wouldn't worry about anything being lost or broken, and we cleared out the front closet so there would be plenty of space for everyone's coats.

Food was minimal - we had out cheese and crackers, chips, veggies, two kinds of dip, chocolate covered pretzels (made by Jack and grandma) and a crock pot of meatballs. We made no attempts whatsover to get the kids to eat any of that food; it was for the parents, and if the kids wanted something to eat in a driveby, they could do so with relatively little fuss or mess. We had cake, of course. Jack selected a Pirates of the Carribean cake, which meant it had a lovely picture of Johnny Depp on it.

Steve and I wrote a careful schedule of events so we'd know exactly how things should flow. First, we had several minutes for the guests to arrive, during which time Jack entertained them by leading them running around the house screaming. Then, it was time for games. We planned Pin the Tail on the Donkey, which is simple and everyone likes. Then we played Musical Pillows, which swapped chairs for pillows, since that's easier. After that, I set up a bean bag toss, giving each kid a Santa or Snowman stuffed toy that I got at Target for a buck. They stood on a line that I made with painter's tape and got as many tosses as they needed to throw the toy into a bucket - and they got to take the toy home. After that, Steve led the kids in a round of Simon Says, emphasizing silliness rather than competition.

During Simon Says, I hid clues around the house for a treasure hunt. We divided the kids into two teams (since there were so many of them), and they followed a series of clues all around the house. I planned the clue locations so that they'd move around a lot and so that the two teams would overlap as little as possible. The treasure was, of course, their goody bags.

Next, Jack opened his presents. Because the other kids had all just gotten a big bag of party junk AND a stuffed animal, no one was jealous of Jack's new loot. We had been practicing for weeks how to react politely to presents - even if a gift is something you already have or is lame (example: Hannah Montana doll), you smile and say thank you. All the practice was for nothing, because Jack's presents were all awesome. He was very happy indeed. I was especially pleased to see how much thought Jack's friends had put into the gifts. Emma, for example, was very excited to give Jack a Star Wars Leggo set because she knew he'd love it. McKenna told her mom that they needed to get Jack a Diego toy because he has a Diego backpack. These are some really nice, considerate kids.

After presents, it was time for cake. Steve was kind enough not only to give Jack the first piece, right out of the middle, of Captain Jack Sparrow's face, but also to let me take him into the next room so we could eat cake together. I had been so busy with the other kids and parents that I had not had much time to hang with my Cub.

Once everyone had their cake, we had a bit more time for playing. Steve and I both had a list of additional games and activities we could go to if we were at loose ends, but we ended up not needing it. Steve and half of the kids played with Jack's new toys. The other half joined me for more Musical Pillows, which was a big hit. I enhanced the game by telling the kids to not just walk in a circle around the pillows, but to pretend to be cats, goldfish, penguins, pirates, princesses, ballerinas, and so on.

After the last kid had gone home, the boys and I were worn out. We changed into jammies, played with Jack's toys, and watched a movie before an early bedtime.

I have to admit, the party was a lot of fun for all three of us... but I am also looking forward to a quieter party on his actual birthday.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Running Down a Dream

Happy Take It and Run Thursday, Interwebs! Today's topic is running hopes, dreams, and wishes. I've talked about my running dreams many times, from my current Quest for the Perfect Socks to my perfectly reasonable goal of running the Boston Marathon with George Clooney as my personal pacer, dressed like Wonder Woman, while The Killers perform "All These Things That I've Done" live. Y'know, the usual.

But I do have one dream that is bigger than all of the others.

Some day, I want to run a marathon with Jack.

If you've run a marathon before, you know the gamut of emotions that you go through as you cover those 26.2 miles. It is, as Emil Zatopek said, an experience - from happiness to fear to struggle and back to happiness again. To share all of those feelings, to live that experience, with one of the people who I love most in the world would be nothing short of magical for me.

I have to believe that Jack has a marathon in him. At three years old, he has the determination to run 1/4 mile, which is a lot if you're only 40 inches tall, and as his mother, I am all too familiar with his stubbornness when there's something he wants, all good traits for a marathoner. More importantly, look at the joy on his face in this picture:

That is the face of a person who loves to run.

I know it may be a few years before Jack's ready to do 26.2 with me. If we tried right now, chances are I'd have to figure out a way to bring the portable DVD player with us so he wouldn't get bored, or we'd end up arguing about whether or not to run the race carrying lightsabers. And really, anyone who throws such a big fit about getting his toenails cut that he gets a nosebleed (this actually happened on Monday) isn't quite ready for the prospect of losing a toenail altogether.

But my dream is that one day, when my best little guy isn't so little any more, he and I will cross the finish line of a marathon together. And he'll be an even better pacer than George Clooney.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Quest

The theme this week at Runners' Lounge is running hopes, dreams, wishes, and whatnot (the "and whatnot" might not be in their official description of it, but the word whatnot is sadly underutilized). Take It and Run Thursday isn't until tomorrow, and I am already crafting a post that will be so beautiful and moving that you'll find yourself saying, in the words of Flight of the Conchords,

"I'm not crying
It's just been raining
on my face
And if you think you see some tear tracks down my cheeks
Please. Please, don't tell my mates"

Or maybe not. The point is that tomorrow's running hope, dream, wish, and whatnot from me will be on the more serious side. Today's RHDWW is a bit less so, though not so frivolous that I won't be using the proper term for it. And that term is Quest.

I am on a quest, Internet, for the perfect pair of winter running socks.

The socks I wear in warm weather are fine - they are no-show socks that don't give me blisters and are soft and cushy. Even better, they are C9 brand from Target, the Official Running Outfitter of Betsy, so they are reasonably priced and easy to buy.

But when the weather turns cold, they are inadequate. They leave my ankles exposed to snow and wind and my toesies freeze.

My perfect cold weather running socks must meet minimum running sock standards - providing some extra cushioning, and not providing blisters.

They also need to be very warm, but not itchy. Not ankle-length, but rather knee-length, to give some extra warmth under my tights*. And while we're dreaming, I'd prefer that they also be striped.

If any of you can help me in my quest, you will win a coveted Wasser No-Prize.

*Truth be told, I am toying with the idea of wearing my regular socks and putting a pair of legwarmers over the tights. One can actually purchase legwarmers not just in antique stores as you might imagine, but at the Official Running Outfitter of Betsy, Target. A concern is that people who see me out running and sporting a pair of legwarmers might laugh at me, though I suppose I could always respond with something diplomatic like, "Laugh it up, fatass; at least I'm out here running. And by the way, there's a Dorito stuck to your shirt."

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

6 Years to Master's Status

Or, how a runner perceives turning 34. That's right, internet - yesterday was my birthday. And yes, I am totally posting this so that I get comments wishing me a happy birthday, so GET ON IT.

You know how there are people that you find out it's their birthday and you say, "What? I didn't know it was your birthday! Why didn't you say anything?" and they act all shy and say they didn't want a fuss?

That's not me.

It was a really good day. My dad and stepmom sent me my usual Amazon gift certificate, which I immediately spent on running-related stuff. Currently winging their way to me are a Spirit of the Marathon DVD, Performance Nutrition for Runners, Brain Training for Runners, and The Runner's Guide to the Meaning of Life. All stuff that I have been quietly coveting, but have not gotten around to buying for myself, so in other words, perfect presents! My brother and sister in law sent me a new pair of tights, and my coworkers chipped in on a gift card for Running Wild, the local running store. Score!

And, for the times that I am not running, my mom and stepdad got me an array of pretty velvet-y clothing, including a skirt in a size XS, which must have been purchased in a fit of optimism. Steve and Jack gave me a gorgeous necklace, bracelet, and earrings in black and copper-colored pearls.

After I opened my jewelry, Jack was upset because he didn't actually help pick out my presents. Steve gave him some cash and told my mom that, wherever they went during the day, to have Jack choose a gift for me. Jack and Nancy went to the grocery store, and Jack picked out a cannister of different colors and shapes of sprinkles so that he and I can decorate cookies together. Very cool gift from my little guy... and it made me realize that I should involve him in choosing Steve's Christmas presents.

The button to leave your birthday comments is right down there, guys. Get on it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Race Report: Living History Farms Race

Okay, so I am a bit late in posting my report for Saturday's race. Things have been ridiculously busy in and around Stately Wasser Manor, but it's all good, as I am about to take off for several days of turkey and pie.

I got my first inkling of what the race was going to be like on Friday night when I went to pick up my packet. The place was so crowded that I couldn't find a parking space and wound up just parking across the street at Starbucks. The line went out the door and wrapped around the building, and Internet? It was really, really catlicking cold. I was afraid my tauntaun would freeze to death before I reached the north marker.

But although temperatures were low, spirits were high. (Did you like that transition, that cute juxtaposition?) I struck up conversation with the other runners shivering in line. We talked about how absolutely crazy we must be, what to wear, whether or not our shoes would survive the experience, and what other races we enjoyed running. Inside, I grabbed my t-shirt, which has a very cool design on it and a minimum of sponsor logo clutter and saw Kent, who clearly volunteered just so he could get his hands on a bullhorn. Not that I blame him. I also got a running log, which was a cool giveaway.

Race packet secured, I decided to enjoy the sweet, sweet freedom of being all by myself with no husband or kid to take care of. Specifically, I thought, "Hey, I could go see a movie," and so I did. It may not sound like much, but it was great to just do that on the spur of the moment. And I am pretty sure that popcorn counts as carbo loading, right?

I woke up bright and surly on Saturday morning and got ready. Race gear included my Des Moines marathon winter hat, a long-sleeved tech tee I'm not too attached to, the Washington & Lee University sweatshirt that still bears mud stains from last year's race, tights, socks, gardening glove with grips on the palms, and a pair of old running shoes that were ready for a hero's send-off.

Outside, I found it once again to be ridiculously cold. I started shivering the minute I got out of my car. I knew I'd be all right once I started running, but I had an hour to kill. The solution was obvious - I went to 'bucks and got a gigantic latte. Aaaah!

While I was there, a fellow runner asked me about my sweatshirt, saying that he was a professor at Virginia Military Institute, which is right next door to (though in another world from) W&L. He and I realized that the world is not just so small that we both have a connection to the tiny town of Lexington, Virginia and ran into each other in Iowa, but that we had met before, at around mile 19 of the Des Moines marathon last year. Running is magic.

Back outside, the latte kept me warm. I immediately found Runner's Lounge co-founder, running angel, and all around ass-kicker Amy, there with her brother-in-law Dave. We met up with Kent and his daughter Tasha, as well as Mary and Steph. We resisted the urge to cuddle for warmth, and instead checked out all of the cool costumes around us. There were people in suits, superheroes, princesses, people in flannel jammies, Care Bears, Harlem Globerunners, and best of all, about 10 women all wearing wedding gowns.

Just moments after I finished my latte, it was time to go. It was slow moving across the starting line, an issue that in theory would have been solved by the fact that the race was chip-timed... except that there was no mat at the start of the race. As Vanilla has pointed out, that makes the chip fairly worthless. I can just go by the clock if I want to see my gun time.

I ran for the first few miles with Amy, Dave, Mary, and Steph, and sure enough, once I started running I was no longer cold. Instead, I had a new problem, as that latte whipped right through my body and created a screaming need to pee. I probably lost a good 10 minutes in line for the port-a-potty, but that seemed like a nicer prospect than exposing my bare butt in a cornfield.

I felt MUCH better after I peed and took off like a shot, racing up hills and passing so many people that I actually caught up to where I was before.

We entered the woods, and the race got interesting. That first creek immediately froze my feet. The mud was slippery, so I used whatever I could to scramble up hills or across banks - trees, roots, rocks, and so on. Running down the hills was exciting and risky - luckily I didn't see anyone get hurt. Several of the hills going up were so steep that there were ropes to help you up - hence the need for the grippy garden gloves.

Amid the carnival-like atmosphere of the costumes, the mud, the people yelling, "Whee!" as they slid down hills (that last one might have been just me), there was some absolutely beautiful scenery. Cornfields, frozen ponds, old barns, and thick forests gave us plenty to look at along the way. I saw a deer running across the field, and even more interestingly, an owl. I don't think I've ever seen an owl in nature before, and there he was, awake and watching us all curiously. I wondered what the owl thought of all of us. He wasn't threatened, or he'd have flown away. Instead, I like to think that he was wondering what all of us other animals were running to, and why we were waking him up on a quiet morning.

Because the chip timing wasn't really effective, I'm not sure how I did, time-wise. I didn't wear my Garmin, since it's not that kind of race. I do know that I felt strong, even on the long hills at the end. Having fun and feeling strong is really the best I can do in a race like that, so I'm happy.

After I crossed the finish line and got my medal (awesome), I headed right for the hot cider. It had just started to snow, and I was freezing. I passed up a lot of food that sounded really unappealing -yogurt and chips - grabbed a doughnut, and headed for my car. It was too cold, sadly, to hang out.

I changed clothes in the backseat of my car, miserably cold and blowing on my fingers to get them to work. My shoelaces were actually frozen shut, but once I had on a clean, dry pair of sweats, clean shirt and sports bra, and warm socks, I felt much better.

I think that will be my final race for 2008, and what better way to end the season?

Lucky Me

At dinner last night...

"Mommy, I want to tell you something. I really love you and I like you. I want to give you a kiss... Mommy? You might want to wipe off your cheek. I got some tomato sauce on there."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cuteness Seminar

It seems that, without my knowing, Jack has attended some sort of Cuteness Seminar. The kid is really turning it up.

Last week, Steve was away on a conference (not, as far as I can tell, in Cuteness, as his own level of cuteness has remained fairly steady). Jack would do things like color him pictures or jump up and down with delight upon learning that Daddy would be home "in just two days and that's not a lot, Mommy." We got Steve a small present, which Jack hid in various places around the house so that he could surprise Steve with it when the time was right. Adorable.

When Steve got home, Jack, naturally, ran up and tackle-hugged him in the airport. Spent the next day hanging out at home in an outfit that matched Steve's.

But yesterday, he really ramped it up. He and I were packing his bye-bye bag to go to Grandma-Grandpa house, and I asked him which tigers he wanted to bring. He grabbed Garfield and Roary, so I said that the two of them were having Daddy-Son time.

"Mommy? Can I bring Emmy, too? Because we're all together again and Roary wants his whole family with him, too."

(and, in answer to Nitmos's inevitable question, no, I did not tell him no.)

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Greatest Running Day of the Year

I think I can say without exaggeration that tomorrow is the Greatest Running Day of the Year.

Some people might say that's Patriot Day, in honor of the Boston Marathon. Those people are not only mistaken, but have obviously never run the most fun race that there is, the Living History Farms Race.

When I first ran this race last year, it became immediately apparent that I would never miss another one. And as fellow runners Kent and Amy can attest, I basically spent the weeks leading up to registration frantically hitting "refresh" on the website to see if it was open. Turns out it's a good thing that I did, as the race is sold out and people are trying to buy bib numbers on Craigslist.

Tomorrow is going to be a crazy, challenging, muddy delight as the course takes us over bales of hay, across creeks filled with frigid muddy water, and over ridiculously steep hills that would dispel any notions that the Midwest is flat.

Intrigued? Check it out:

I am excited like a kid on Christmas.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thank God I'm a Runner Girl!

Take It and Run Thursday asks us this week to celebrate "Thank Goodness For Running Day." And with apologies to John Denver, I must burst into my song, "Thank God I'm a Runner Girl."

Well life as a runner is nothing but fun
Any bad day can be saved by a run
Love me a race and the sound of the starting gun
Thank God I'm a runner girl

Well running always helps me keep a grip
On my love of cookies with sweet chocolate chips
Without running I'd have gigantic hips
Thank God I'm a runner girl

Well I laced on my feet some new running shoes
And I run so fast I chase away all my blues
No matter how slow I go I know that I'll never lose
Thank God I'm a runner girl!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Kicking the Habit

Internet, my son is an addict.

To make things worse, Jack is not addicted to something awesome like, for example, running or coffee. Instead, he is hooked on the dangerous entity known as binkies.

Observe the addict double-fisting binks.

Jack is almost four, and therefore getting way too old for binkies, even by my own fairly liberal standards. A few months ago, we were at Target and Jack asked to go browse the binky aisle. When I asked him why, he said, "Oh, just to look and see if they have anything new and cool." Clearly, if you are keeping track of Nuk's Fall 2008 Color Story, it's time to give them up.

We've been kind of weaning him away from binkies, limiting them to bedtime and rest time only and encouraging him to get rid of his binky as early as possible after waking. We have also reminded him several times that when he turns four, no more binkies. He accepted that since his birthday feels a million years away.

But yesterday, Jack and I were browsing at Build-A-Bear. Naturally, he was interested in doing more than just window shopping, so I saw an opportunity. I told him that he could get a new stuffed animal right then and there... if he exchanged it for all of his binkies. He agreed so quickly that I reminded him of exactly what the deal was - no binkies at all, ever again. Not at rest time, not to sleep, not in the morning. He was still game, even suggesting that we could take all of his binkies and mail them to Aunt Jenny, who is having a baby in a few months who would surely need them.

Jack selected a stuffed elephant, that being his favorite animal, and after trying on several outfits, decided up on a Santa suit. Jack and I told every associate in the store about how Jack was trading his binkies for Elephanty, and what a big boy he is. As you might imagine, the Build-A-Bear staff is well-versed in the fine art of Making A Big Deal Out Of Things and told Jack what a good choice he had made and how he is clearly sophisticated and ready to give up binkies.

At home, we packed all of the binkies into an envelope for the new baby. Here he is saying goodbye to one and hello to Elephanty.

Jack had a hard time settling in to sleep last night. I figured he would, given that he has literally never fallen asleep without a binky in his entire life. At one point, he came and said, "I need something to suck on," and so great was my empathy that I managed not to respond, "That's what she said." This morning, he told me that he missed his binky and wished he could have it back. He wasn't really angling for me to return it, but rather just telling me how he felt. I told him that I know it's not easy, but that he went all night without it, and that it would be easier every single day. Together, we will get through this period of detox.

Hawk Hustle Race Report - Lessons Learned

As devoted fans of Coffee Betsy know, I am feeling a bit hutt-like after a poor week of running last week. By competing in the Hawk Hustle, a 4-mile cross country run, I planned to kick-start my running, get my mojo back, and resume the training that I know I am capable of.

The trouble is, a week of sloth does not make for a good race experience. I felt sluggish and tired the entire time. I never had a moment where I felt good and strong like I usually do on a run. I even took a few walk breaks - up hills, but still unacceptable to me for a run of such a short distance.

As I shuffled along, I resolved to never let myself get to this state again. True that by going out on a cold Saturday in the first place, I am doing better than the many people who were still sleeping or eating doughnuts, but I was not at the level that I know I am capable of. I can do better - and moving forward, I will.

So, imagine my surprise when I crossed the finish line at 37:10; not as fast as last year's 36:57, surely, but not too far off. My astonishment continued when I picked up my trophy for coming in second in my age group. My first lesson expanded into a second lesson.

That is that I am stronger than I thought. Even running poorly, I can finish in a time that at least is not embarrassing - and can be rewarded with some hardware. To extrapolate, if I can do this well with an effort that isn't up to par, imagine what I can do when I am at my full strength.

Friday, November 14, 2008


These past two weeks have really been pretty weak in terms of running. Little things keep getting in the way. Steve has a meeting, or I have a meeting, or Jack has transformed into a hideous Whine Beast, and next thing you know, I've decided to skip my run. On Sunday, I certainly had time, but I had a horrible case of Dontwanna that kept me in the house. It's not that I haven't run at all, but I certainly haven't run as much as I should.

It is not good.

What's worse is that once I've skipped one run, it's a little easier to skip the next one. And the longer I take to get back into it, the colder it's going to get and the easier it will be to just hibernate for the winter.

I feel lazy and bored and slow. I posted the picture of Jabba not because I feel fat - my clothes all still fit me fine - but because I feel sluggish. Because I'm not making the effort to exert myself physically, I feel only a few steps removed from just beaching myself on the couch.

The time has come to shake that off and move on. I am running a 4 mile race tomorrow on a hilly and challenging trail course. Next week poses more of a challenge - Steve will be out of town, so I will have solo Cub duty. But that just means I'll have to work harder and hit the gym at lunch.

I can do this.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bein' Green

Take it and Run Thursday this week is about "running green." Excuse to post a picture of Kermit the Frog? Done and done!

There are quite a lot of things that I do in my everyday life in an attempt to think green - CFL's, driving a fuel-efficient car, recycling, and waging a war against plastic grocery bags, to name a few. But I want to focus on what I, as a runner, do to be green.

If we want to save the Earth, we have to love it first, and I feel that runners especially love our planet. We spend as much time as possible outside, experiencing the elements, and enjoying the physical beauty of our surroundings. I feel a responsibility as a person to take care of the planet, but even more as a runner.

That was a lot of preamble, wasn't it? Let's throw in another Muppet quick before I continue.

That's Kermit's little nephew, Robin. Isn't he cute?

Okay, right. Running green. Here are my tips:

  • Whenever possible, I register for races online. Saves the paper for the printed application, plus the envelope, plus the transportation costs to get it from one place to the other. Besides that, it's faster!

  • I never buy bottled water. I have a reusable water bottle that I keep in the fridge so it's nice and cold. No waste, no needless use of plastic.

  • I also don't buy bottles of Gatorade. I buy the powder and mix it in my reusable bottles. As a bonus, that's cheaper.

  • I almost never drive to go running. My running routes pretty much all start and finish at my house. I am lucky to live a mile and a half away from two tracks, so on speedwork days, it's a perfect warm-up and cool-down.

  • I try to race local, too. There are lots of great races in my area, and I rarely have to drive more than 5 miles to go to a race.

  • I donate used running shoes, t-shirts, and other gear to charity. What no longer works for me can be a great benefit to someone else.

  • When I run on trails, I keep my eyes peeled for trash. I'm not running my fastest on a trail anyway, so I definitely have time to go pick up that discarded beer can and throw it away.

Plus there's always riding your bike - cross training AND green (and an excuse for more Muppets)

Monday, November 10, 2008


I am not going running tonight because I am going to a meeting for my local running club. Ironic, no? I guess if i were really organized, I could run there, but it's just not going to happen tonight.

I am really hoping to get more involved in running in my community. Wish me luck that I happen to sit by somebody cool.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Change We Can Believe In

The topic of this week's Take It and Run Thursday is "running through transitions." Transitions and changes are on everyone's mind this week, runners and non-runners alike. The United States just elected a new president who promised us sweeping changes to the status quo. I heard a story on NPR about how incredibly challenging this transition will be for President-Elect Obama (man, do I love typing that). He has the burden of taking office while the country is fighting two wars and is in an economic crisis. President-Elect Obama (look, I said it again!) has the added pressure of a tremendous amount of hope and faith placed on him by voters.

I also think about the huge transition this will mean for the Obama family on a personal level. Dad now has an incredibly challenging new job. Many of his detractors questioned whether or not he was ready to be president, and honestly, I don't think anyone could possibly be fully prepared to take on such an awesome responsibility, though I have faith that he can handle it as well as anyone else could. And then there is the fabulous Michelle, who must leave her Chicago home behind and be thurst even more firmly into the spotlight. And let's not forget Sasha and Malia, who are going to have to switch schools, leave behind their friends, and move to a new house. At least they're getting a puppy out of the deal.

My advice to the Obama family is simple: go running.

When life throws a series of curveballs at you, when everything is in transition, running can be a constant. It can be a time to either sort out your thoughts or to not think at all, focusing only on your breathing and the pounding of your legs. Running allows you to put aside all of the other trappings in your life and just be you. Can we feel better after simply lacing up our shoes?

Yes, we can.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

You Bet I Voted

I am completely geeked out on democracy right now. I fully anticipate spending tonight glued to the TV, waiting for election results. It is strange to remember the last presidential election. I was hugely pregnant and sick. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and flipping on the news to see if the election had been determined yet. When the results came in, I could not believe it. George Bush had been re-elected, and I knew only one person who was voting for him. I felt completely disconnected from so many other people in the country.

This year will be different. First and foremost, no matter what happens, I truly believe our president will be a good, smart person who will work hard to do what's best for America. I definitely don't agree with everything John McCain stands for, but I will not be upset if he wins. And I am filled with hope that Barack Obama will be our next president. I truly believe that he will do something special for our country.

I've spent the past few days talking to Jack about voting. I have tried to explain in the simplest possible terms what the president does and what an amazing thing it is to be part of choosing who has that job. We also talked about why it is an important thing to do. I had a mock vote about whether we should have chocolate or strawberry ice cream. Jack and I both voted for chocolate, and Steve wasn't paying attention. "See how Daddy didn't vote?" I asked. "If he wanted strawberry, he's out of luck now, isn't he?"

I took Jack with me to vote this morning. We waited in line for about half an hour, which pleases me. Not that we had to wait, but that voting was so important to so many people this election. In my county, 20% of eligible voters had already voted early, which is amazing. I held Jack up so he could watch as I marked my ballot. After we were finished, we both got "I Voted" stickers.

On the way to Grandma and Grandpa's house (and they will be taking Jack to vote with them later), Jack asked, "Mommy, how did you know that you wanted to vote for Mr. Obama instead of Mr. McCain?" I did my best to explain it in a way that a three-year-old would understand, but more than anything, I was proud of the fact that he asked the question.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Race Report: Governor's Cross Country

"Are you sure that thing is waterproof?"

As we lined up yesterday afternoon at the Governor's Cross Country race, a fellow runner noted my Garmin and asked that very astute question. I wasn't too worried about it. While I can't take Paula swimming with me, I believe it's okay for her to get splashed a bit. And it was a lovely day for a run, warm and sunny. I was wearing my She-Hulk trail shoes, my lucky running skirt, and a red shirt. Ready to go!

I had no idea what I had in store for me.

The race was completely on trails, which also meant it was nothing but hills. One of the hills was so steep that runners had to use a rope to climb it. At the top were two volunteers, who each grabbed one of my hands, yanked me to the top, and launched me back down the trail. I jumped over hay bales, fallen logs, and tree roots. I crossed creeks of rank swamp water up to my waist.

It was, as you might have guessed, an absolute blast. And if the race itself wasn't enough fun, the organizers added a sort of treasure hunt. Just off the trail were hidden ribbons. If you found a ribbon, say, tied to a tree branch, and brought it back, you could get a prize. I think there were some pretty good prizes, but there were also smaller, fun prizes - like t-shirts from other races, small bags, and lanyards. For climbing into a sticker bush after my ribbon, I got a water bottle.

Because I wasn't prepared for the conditions to be quite so rustic, I did not dress right at all for the race. My She-Hulks were okay after going through the washing machine, but next year I'll save an old pair for this race. My shirt was fine, but the skirt was a huge mistake. Because it was soaking wet, it got really heavy and threatened to become an ankle warmer. I wound up wringing it out and tying a knot in it at my waist, essentially transforming it into a pair of Ridiculously Short Shorts. In retrospect, I should have either worn tights or just gone with a pair of RSS and worn them with a pair of knee socks to protect my legs a bit.

My legs took quite a beating. I have scratches all over them, and my left knee got it pretty bad in that thorn bush. It didn't hurt, but for a while, I had blood running down my leg. I have to admit to thinking, "I hope other people are noticing this, because it looks bad-ass."

This race was the absolute definition of fun run. I don't think anybody came out expecting to finish strong or get a good time. There were a bunch of high school cross country runners out there, and I definitely felt good about keeping up with them. Towards the end of the race, I was running with a big group of people and we realized that we had somehow gotten off course - no red flags to be found. We kept on following the trails and finally found our way to the finish line.

And at the finish? Delicious, delicious beer.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

If I Could Turn Back Time

This week's Take It and Run Thursday challenges us runners to "Choose Your Superpower." As a comic book fan, obviously, this is something I've given some thought to. If I were a superhero, my powers would definitely include flight (because why be a superhero if you can't fly), my costume would be red and would include pants (so no one got a free show while I was flying overhead) and would have a cape because that would look cool rippling in the wind.

But, for practical purposes, I am a mom, which means that I am already a superhero. See? Look at me as Elasticgirl last Hallowwn:

As a mom, my superpowers include the ability to find lost objects (Jack, Roary is on the couch in the living room, under the Mickey Mouse blanket, and Steve, the honey mustard salad dressing is in the door of the fridge, second shelf, in the back, towards the left), cure boo boos,
make Roary's tail tiny, create a healthy meal out of whatever random stuff we have in the house, remember when Jack's homework is due, not to mention the whole bit about working full time, training for marathons, going on dates with my husband, and still having time for lightsaber battle-fights.

Maybe I don't need super powers... but I could use a little magic.

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, my girl Hermione uses a magic necklace called a Time Turner. The necklace has an hourglass, and for each time you turn it, you go back in time an hour. Hermione, overachiever that she is, uses it so that she can take more classes.

If I had a Time Turner of my own, I'd use it so that I had just a little more time in every day. If I was out running, a twist of the necklace would give me the time to turn a five mile run into a ten mile run without sacrificing any time doing the other things I have to do. I'd be able to give myself a little extra time on nights that I'm scrambling to get dinner on the table. Or, on weekends, to take a nap or see a movie. Everything would be just a little bit easier.

Also, I could still fly.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hitting the Dirt

I'm happy to report that after over a week without running (the longest I've gone without being injured in I don't know how long), I am back at it again.

On Monday, I went out for a casual almost 4-mile run. I took it easy at a 10:00 pace and felt great - I definitely had a lot more in me, but I didn't want to push it too hard. I was happy just to be running.

In the time I was away, the weather got much, much colder. It was time for a long-sleeved shirt, tights, jacket, hat, and gloves. I swear to Yoda, I saw a couple of snowflakes while I was out! Can anybody recommend some good cold weather socks? My toesies definitely get cold.

Today, I'm going for a miles TBD trail run at Blackhawk State Park. You guys, trail running is really hard! Those of you who have run long races and training runs on trails have my respect. I'll be out there working my butt off, heart pounding, trying not to fall down a cliff, and Paula The Garmin will notify me that I am, in fact, crawling along.

The thing is, though, that although I'd be much faster on the road or on the track, I would not be surrounded by breath-quickening beauty every step of my run. I wouldn't have the fun challenge of jumping over tree roots and climbing steep hills. Plus I wouldn't have the excuse to wear my super cool new green trail shoes!

My series of November cross country races starts on Sunday with the Governor's Cross Country race. How awesome is it going to be? Let's review the race application again, shall we?

"Weather conditions can make the course very difficult. Be prepared to get wet, muddy, slip, fall, and laugh at yourself. "

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Week of Magic

The boys and I are back from Disney World. I didn't run the entire time, yet managed to hold onto my sanity because, really, when you are experiencing wall to wall fun, a little time without running is okay.

Jack met every single princess in Disney World.

Cinderella (at the castle!)...

The Little Mermaid...

He and Princess Jasmine bonded because they both have tigers. We also met Sleeping Beauty and Belle. He loved the princesses, and...

They loved him, too.

There were a million little moments that were special and fun. Jack danced with Sully in a parade...

Clowned around with Daddy on the teacup ride...

and visited the Muppets with me.

But the Serious Awesome came when he was chosen for Jedi Training at the Star Tours ride at Hollywood Studios. I was beside myself with excitement, and you can see how happy he was.

The Jedi Master led them through a series of lightsaber drills, and then they got to put them into practice with a battle-fight (as Jack would put it) with Darth Vader. Now, the other kids had been training to battle-fight Vader for about three minutes, but Jack has been preparing for this for literally half his life. He ditched the prescribed routine and just unleashed his wee Jedi fury on Vader. And it was awesome.

After defeating Vader, all of the kids got certificates declaring them to be official Jedi. That certificate is probably Jack's most treasured posession.

We ended our vacation by going to Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, dressed, naturally, as "Star Wars Guys." Jack was Anakin, Steve was Luke, and I was Princess Leia. Let me tell you, in no way were we humoring Jack by dressing up as Star Wars characters; Steve and I were giddy with excitement at it.

I loved being Princess Leia. People complimented my costume all night, and according to Steve, lots of guys were checking me out.

Because there were fewer people at the party than during the usual Disney World hours, it was a great chance to see characters. We met Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty again, this time with Prince Charming and Prince Phillip. Both of them were amused by the fact that Cinderella's wicked stepsister Anastasia had kissed Jack.

We then went to the next room, where we met characters from Alice in Wonderland. Alice and her friends were hilarious, adding a level of chaos to the proceedings that was completely in character. The Queen of Hearts demanded that Jack bow, but he didn't know how. Alice grabbed Jack by the arm and busted into the princess room, demanding that one of the princes teach him how to bow properly to the Queen. Prince Charming obliged.

We are already planning to go back next year.