Thursday, August 28, 2008

My Perfect Recovery

Take It and Run Thursday this week is all about rest and recovery. That topic was definitely on my mind while I was sweating through Saturday's 20 miler, and I got to thinking about my perfect recovery.

(By "perfect recovery" in this case, I mean a recovery time that I can reasonably expect to get. My true perfect recovery, which involves Ewan McGreggor massaging my feet while singing songs from Moulin Rogue and wearing his Obi-Wan costume is, unfortunately, harder to arrange.)

I finish my run about a block away from my house, then walk the rest of the way home while looking at my (amazing) splits on my Garmin. I pull an ice cold bottle of Gatorade (purple) out of the fridge and down it gratefully. Steve and Jack have left a note saying they've gone out for pancakes and are proud of me. I grab a protein bar to get some food in me right away, then go upstairs.

I leave my sweaty clothes in a heap on the floor, then ease into a cold bath, which I truly believe helps aid in a faster recovery. I read a brand new issue of Runner's World as I shock my muscles into healing.

Then it's time for a hot shower. The water washes away all of the grime of my run, and I lather myself up with a liberal amount of shower gel, so I smell delicious. I put on a recovery outfit of a comfy running-related t-shirt and if I'm feeling fancy, gym shorts, with a warm, fluffy pair of socks.

Just as I'm dressed, Steve and Jack return home. "Mommy! Did you have a good run?" Jack asks, then tells me that he's tired and wants to take "a little rest in MommyDaddy room and watch a movie." We put in one of his favorite movies, one that I'm not too sick of yet, and snuggle under the covers.

Steve brings me a sandwich and a big glass of ice water. The man makes the greatest sandwiches known to man, taking the time to blot the lettuce and tomato so the bread doesn't get soggy, layering the meat and cheese carefully so that each bite is perfection. Amazing craftsmanship, truly.

After I eat my sandwich, I drift off to sleep. Jack tries a half-hearted, "Open your eyes, Mommy," but mostly focuses on cuddling his little body up to mine.

Once the movie - and my nap - are over, I'm ready to face the rest of the day, a day that hopefully involves Ewan McGreggor.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Glowing Like a Horse

Saturday morning was my final 20 mile training run in preparation for the marathon. The crazy guys at FIRST schedule a total of 5 20 milers, but I am going to change the last one to 18. I think that 4 20 mile runs should more than prepare me for 26.2, and my good friend Tom at Runners' Lounge thinks the big 2-0 is unnecessary. I'm still glad I hit as many 20's as I did, because it really builds my confidence. The reason I'm backing off the last one is that I don't think I need it, and I want to avoid the prospect of injury or overtraining.

The fact that Saturday's run was a horrifically sweaty experience only sealed the deal.

I thought it would be a pretty decent little run. It wasn't too hot outside. But as our friend the cliche tells us, it's not the heat; it's the humidity. I was the sweatiest person who ever lived.

You may think I was just your standard level of sweaty. Soaked ponytail? Check. Able to wring disturbing amounts of sweat from my wristbands and clothing? Check. Sweat stinging the eyes. Check. Sweaty, yes, but you're not impressed yet.

Well, how about the fact that, during the course of my run, I lost five pounds*? Still not sufficiently horrified? Okay, you asked for it.

At mile 14, I noticed that my shoes and socks were as wet as if I'd stepped in a puddle. They actually made squishing noises as I went. And Internet? I did not step in a puddle. The sweat dripped down from my legs and pooled into my shoes. I debated whether or not to stop at home to get dry socks and ultimately decided it was worth it so I wouldn't have the world's biggest blisters killing my really cute black peep-toed heels at my high school class reunion that night.

Friends, this post has a purpose besides just to gross you out. There was also a lesson learned in there. I'd stashed five bucks in the pocket of the Ridiculously Short Shorts, but it was so sweaty that I was embarassed to spend it. Next time? I will put that bad boy in a plastic bag.

*I had heard that giving birth was the fastest way to lose a great deal of weight really fast, but running 20 miles in the sweltering humidity was even faster. And just in time for my high school reunion!

Friday, August 22, 2008


Oh, sweet Yoda in the swamps of Dagobah.

Jack now has THREE tigers.

There's Roary, who has been Jack's faithful companion for a little over two years. Then there is newcomer Emmy, Roary's Mommy. Emmy, you may recall, used to be named Susie, but Jack changed it to Emmy for no apparent reason. Roary threatened to change his name to Johnny, but Jack just laughed at him.

Then, Steve and Jack went to the mall last night, where they visited a third tiger. Jack quickly decided that she was Roary's little sister, Nicey. That's Nice with a Y at the end, which is so steadfastly Jack's favorite name in the entire world that I am resigned to the fact that I will have at least one grandchild named Nicey some day.

Nicey joined Roary and Emmy to read books, and when it was time to say goodbye to her, Jack dragged his feet and Nicey started to cry.

Jack explained to Steve that he, Roary, Emmy, and Nicey would all be sad if Nicey couldn't come home with them. That she would be all alone in the store with no other tigers. That she should be part of our family, and that it would be wrong for her to go home with some other family.

Steve is not made of stone. He bought Jack the tiger.

The question now is one of logistics. Jack can carry all three tigers around with him, but that would be a vastly increased level of Crazy, even for Jack. Steve is trying to reach a compromise in which only two tigers at a time go out with Jack, while the third, assigned on a rotating basis, stays home to hold down the fort.

We'll see.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Halfway Down the Stairs

Take it and Run Thursday is all about "the middle" this week. The middle part of a training program is a tricky place to be for a runner. The beginning is great. You're in those opening throes of excitement, full of enthusiasm. And the end is cool, too. You're tapering, and that race is within sight.

But the middle? There's a lot of potential for ho-hum. That initial glow has worn off, and although you're building up miles, your distances aren't exactly amazing, rock star amounts. I actually wrote about that feeling when I was training for the trisko a few months back. I had just finished a training run of eight miles, and my pace was, you know... fine. Not bad, not great. The distance itself was okay - not an easy three, not a challenging double-digit distance.

Finishing a run with a feeling of malaise isn't a good recipe to want to get out there and run again, you know? What's the best cure for these middle training week blahs?

A healthy dose of perspective.

The easiest thing to do is to talk to a non-runner. I was at a party on Saturday, talking to some non-running friends, about what we'd done that day. I said that I'd gone running, just fifteen, then ran errands, blah, blah, blah.

They stared at me in amazement. "You ran fifteen miles today? If I did that, I wouldn't even be standing up right now."

I realized that was true - the distance I'd run, which was just in the middle for me, in the middle part of my training program - was something that most people I know (other than you damned BRF's, throwing off the average) could not do. It truly was an accomplishment. In fact, each and every run is an accomplishment, a gift. The middle is actually pretty cool. I can look back at where I've been, and confidently see where I'm going.

And because most things can best be explained by Muppets, I give you Robin, with A.A. Milne's "Halfway Down the Stairs."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ladybug Day

Today was a big day for Mr. Jackson W. Crazypants. The little man has been promoted from the 2-3 year old class at school (the Turtles) to the pre-K class (the mighty Ladybugs). Jack has been looking forward to being a Ladybug for months. There are no school-aged kids at Jack's school, so the Ladybugs are the big time. They have their own playground, they get to go on cool field trips, and most importantly, Jack is convinced that they learn a lot. Jack is eager to learn how to read, write, and speak more Spanish, and he knows that being a Ladybug will make it happen.

All the way to school, Jack and I talked about what his new class would be like. There's a racetrack around the playground for bikes. And lots of different books and toys, but still his own cubby for Roary and Emmy. He'd be reunited with his friends Cara and Emma, and his buddies Mason, Nico, and Cameron would be moving over with him.

As we rounded the corner to get to school, Jack declared, "Ladybugs, here I come!" He also informed me that today, he would try to make some new friends. That if he went up to somebody on the playground and said, "Hi, would you like to play with me? Would you like a new friend?" they would probably say yes. (They probably will, and I wish that it was that easy for grown-ups.)

Jack led the way to his new classroom, and I was immediately struck by how the teachers really do make the kids feel a bit more grown-up. His first responsibility when he arrives is to check himself in. He has to put his picture on the "Who's Here Today" board, but his name in the red basket, and then sign himself in. He picked up the pen, made a decent attempt at a J, then spelled out "A-C-K" as he wrote various scribbles on random parts of the page. Hey, he's getting there, and J's are hard to make.

After quick hugs and kisses, he was happily sitting at the table drinking juice.

Jack had been in the Turtle class for over year, which is a long time if you're only three and a half. If he had been clingy or sad or missing Miss Missy (say that three times fast), it would have been perfectly understandable. But instead, he was excited about this new chapter in his life. He looked at it as an adventure. And that makes me incredibly proud.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Marathon Dreams

With 39 days to go until the Quad Cities Marathon, I have already started dreaming about the race. That usually doesn't happen until much later, so I don't quite know what all of this is going to mean for me. Am I more nervous? Is it a good sign? I know that my feelings about this one are different from last time. Instead of thinking, "Wow, can I really run 26.2 miles?" I am thinking, "How strong of a PR can I get?"

Last night, I dreamed that it was the day before the race. I was going around trying to find as many sources of carbs as I possibly could. Pancakes, bread, pasta - mmm! I was also making an effort to drink water and Gatorade all day.

A few weeks ago, I had one that was even better. My brother and I both ran the marathon (which might actually happen and would be awesome). I used a strategy that I've been considering - wearing my Garmin, but not looking at my pace. When I ran the trisko in the spring, I couldn't get coverage for the first half of the race, probably because of the ridiculous storm. As a result, I just ran at a pace that was comfortably challenging, which I think maybe made me run faster than I would have. Anyway, that's what I did in my dream. Andy finished in 3:00, and I finished in 3:03.

Obviously, that's not going to happen. But it was a lovely dream.

In the dream, my first thought upon seeing the clock was just WOW. But that was immediately followed by, "I am going to have to start saving my money for a trip to Boston." Because if I ever qualify for Boston (like a certain other Betsy I could mention), baby, I'm going.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


For those of you who wondered how I'd fare in a head-to-head lightsaber battle-fight with my young Jedi, I give a dismissive, "Pfft."

Internet, please. I have been preparing for this since I was a kid, making a lightsaber from a stick and practicing my duals in Jedi training with my siblings.

I can take this kid down any day of the week.

The Agony of De Feet

Next weekend, I will be attending my 15 year high school reunion. Yeah, I know, Internet - I look so fabulous that you can't believe it's not my five year. Anyway, as we are all aware, the point of attending one of these soirees is not to reconnect with old friends, to recall fond memories, or to hit the bar, so much as it is an opportunity to look absolutely freaking fabulous.

Running, of course, goes a long way in making that happen. Thanks to our favorite sport, I weigh just five pounds more than I did when I was sixteen. I bought a dress for the event that looks great on me. It's a halter style, showing off the strong shoulders that cross-training sessions in the pool have given me. Running has elmininated both my gut and my butt, so the fact that it's a jersey knit is not a big no-no. And it's short, showing off my runner legs (though not RSS short, thank Yoda).

But, as you pan down past the hem of my dress, you reach a problem. While the rest of my body is a runner's body, so, too, are my feet. And though I may wish it were so, the dress does not look good with running shoes or moon boots which might cover up my unsightly hooves. Alas, it calls for something that does, in fact, expose my feet.

I pretty much beat the hell out of my feet with running. They are callused, with hideous patches of dry skin that flake off in sheets. I keep my toenails cut ridiculously short, so as to keep them from turning black and falling off. My current shoes created a battle with blisters that I think I have, for the moment, won. Several of my toes are now old man toes, thick and yellow. There is a clear sock line, despite my careful application of sunscreen. The only good thing I can say is that, at least for the moment, I do not have athlete's foot. For the moment.

When reunion time comes, I am basically going to put a bow on the pig - that is, get a pedicure, paint my toenail stubs a shiny red, and hope that no one looks too closely at the wreck beneath the red paint.

But red paint or not, I am still me. The very first thing I'll tell the pedicurist will be, "Keep my calluses, please. I'm a runner."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Baby's First Swear

It's moments like this that make a mother's heart swell with pride. Jack has learned his very first swear word. That word is damn, and already I can see how it will serve him well in the years to come. Jack has learned some of the many uses of this new tool.

Exclamation. When out for a nature walk with his Poppa, Jack tripped over a tree root and said, "Damn!" My dad managed to not laugh.

Adverb. "Mommy, this pillow is too damn noisy." To be fair, that pillow as really damn noisy.

Adjective. "Where's my damn binky?"

It should be noted that if you are asking, "Where's my damn binky," chances are that you are, in fact, too old for a pacifier.

I know, I know; all of you are wondering where Jack might have learned this new word, but is that really relevant? I don't think we need to dwell on that do we?

Yeah; you guys figured out he learned it from me, didn't you?


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Country Roads, Take Me Home

My long run last weekend was a lot harder than it usually is. Not because of the distance (it was a 20 miler, but my third of this training season, so it felt surprisingly comfortable in that respect), but rather because of logistics. Steve and I were in Murphysboro, Illinois, my hometown, to retrieve Jack from my parents.

It's hard running in an unfamiliar setting, and I honestly wasn't sure how I was going to run 20 miles in Murphysboro - it's really small. The last time I tried was at Thanksgiving, when I decided to do an explore run, feeling flexible on the distance, but wanting to cover a decent chunk of mileage. I went all the way across town, through a park, and back to the house and discovered I'd only done a 5K.

My dad suggested that I go to Lake Murphysboro State Park, where there is a 4 mile loop that I could just do five times, "but it's hilly." I drove through it to see just how hilly it was. The park was beautiful - trees everywhere, glimpses of the lake... but it was so hilly that my Achilles tendons were like, "Lady, no. You've got to be kidding me." Okay, fine - but I'll be back there during my unofficial cross country season in the fall.

I decided to wing it, doing three six mile loops, with stops back at the house for water or Gatorade, then a two mile loop.

As I started the first loop, it became quickly evident that Murphysboro is not designed for runners. There were no sidewalks, and the shoulders weren't especially wide, either. I ran facing traffic and felt like I had to keep dodging pickup trucks. I ran on some random country roads, and it was really pretty - trees, little ponds, deer - and people who looked at me like I was crazy. Unfortunately, I also saw a lot of trash on the ground, including an empty case of beer next to a home pregnancy test box. Classy! I had to slightly modify my planned course when a bunch of dogs chased me.

Six miles down, and it was time for the second loop. I ran across town, then turned in a direction that I was hoping would lead me to some decent empty space. A few turns later, and I discovered myself under a huge blue sky, facing one of those Stealth Hills. The kind that is not steep, but is very, very long. I hit eight miles and noted my time for Nancy's Olympic Challenge - 1:25:33. I ended up at Lake Murphysboro, where I saw the only other runners I encountered the entire time I was out. They gave me a look of started recognition, as I suspect they weren't used to seeing other runners out and about. Oh, and trash report? Condom wrapper. I like to think that the people whose story began with the beer and home pregnancy test was concluded with that Durex wrapper, that they learned their lesson.

I hit Stealth Hill after Stealth Hill and comforted myself with the idea that the way back would be downhill. Turns out it wasn't - heading back, I saw another Stealth Hill. I told myself that if I hadn't noticed it sloping down, it shouldn't bother me sloping up.

As I ran back for a drink, an old man in a pickup truck called out his window to ask if he could run with me. "Sure," I said. "Come on out." Then he got a good look at the Ridiculously Short Shorts(tm) and said, "You sure look good out there." Still got it, baby! Sure, he was a semi-creepy old man, but I take what I can get.

It was time for the third loop, and my dad had suggested that I run to the high school, that it was about three miles away. Unfortunately, he miscalcuated - it was only two. I did my best to add some distance on by wandering around the athletic fields, but no such luck. I just wound up with a bunch of cut grass stuck on my legs.

I ran to a park for the final portion of my run, hit 20, and felt incredibly proud of myself for finishing it up despite the odds against me. I celebrated by diving into the swimming pool in my running clothes, which highly entertained Jack.

I may celebrate further by getting myself a present.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Jack Wasser's Big Adventure, Part 2

Since Jack took off for the wilds of Southern Illinois on Tuesday, I've been keeping in touch with him with daily phone calls.

The kid is having a freaking blast.

Every day, he talks my ear off, all about how he went swimming three times, went on a hike with Poppa, has a new Lightning McQueen sleeping bag there, played with his glamorous older cousin Devin's old toys, and on and on.

There has not been a single hint of tears or "I miss you, Mommy."

This is a good thing. Because meanwhile, Steve and I have been having a great time, too. Things are awfully relaxed here, and I have time to do things like put cages around my tomatoes before work, sit around and read a magazine, fold laundry without a "helper," and go for long walks with Steve.

I think that Jack's Big Adventure will have lasted the ideal amount of time. He's having lots of special grandparent time, Steve and I got a break, and although none of us are pining for the other, we will all be happy to see each other later today.

There is just one hazard to having Jack spend all this time with his grandparents. Mr. Jackson W. Crazypants is now the proud owner of a lightsaber. A lightsaber of his very own was an inevitable purchase that Steve and I were attempting to delay. We'd point to the "Ages 4 and Up" on the package and lament that he couldn't have one yet. Not because we thought he'd hurt himself, but because we dreaded spending every waking moment of our days having "battle-fights" with Jack.

But now, battle-fight we will. Steve went to Target last night, and now all three of us have lightsabers.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Three by Six

Yay! It's time for Take It and Run Thursday! This week, Tom and Amy challenged us - nay, dared us - to give a running memoir in exactly six words.

I have been a runner since I entered my first 5K when I was ten years old. So, I am going to cheat pay tribute to my lengthy running career by writing a memoir for the three eras of my running.

That's right, I said eras. I'm in a grandiose mood today.

During my teens, my running was defined by one man, my high school cross country coach, the appropriately named Coach Quick. Quick had very high standards for his teams, and I know that we worked harder and had longer, tougher workouts than many of our competitors. Varsity runners would start the day with a 6:00 AM practice, a simple 5 mile road run. After school, there would be a mix of road runs, hill work, and brutal track workouts. I averaged 10 miles of running a day. On weekends, we could have stuck close to home and creamed our competition in local meets, but instead, we woke up pre-crack of dawn to travel to the Chicago suburbs to compete against the best teams in the state.

That hard work got results. All four years that I ran for Quick, our teams (both boys and girls) won our conference, regional, and sectional championships, qualifying for the state meet.

From Coach Quick, I learned not to cut corners. I learned that a hard workout wouldn't kill me, and that, in fact, after I got over wanting to die, I'd feel amazing. My memoir for this time would be:

Running hard. Running with the best.

In my 20s, I did a lot less running than I had in high school. I think I was a bit burned out, and the prospect of running for my college's cross country team was unappealing. And after graduation, I was awfully preoccupied with my horrendous, soul-sucking first job, cutting down on my time for running.

Still, I'd go to the gym and see disturbingly thin girls pounding away at the stairmaster, looking miserable, and probably figuring that their workouts earned them the right to add some fat free dressing to their evening meal of lettuce as a special treat. That's not how I do things. Instead, I'd lift weights for a while, then go out for a three mile run. Why did I run then? Not for extra salad.

Running so I can drink more.

I turned 30, and a few weeks later, had Jack. Unless you've experienced it, it's impossible to describe how parenthood shakes your world. I realize now in a way that I never understood before how, if you let it happen, taking care of that baby can easily occupy every minute of your time, every thought in your head, every ounce of your soul. As a woman, you become invisible, because if you walk into the grocery store holding a baby, nobody looks at you; they look at the baby. You are a faceless Mommy.

That's not a good way to be.

There are a million articles in women's magazines about how important it is for a new mom to make time for herself. None of them were appealing to me. If I went and got a pedicure, I felt guilty for spending the money on something so completely frivolous. Take a nice bubble bath? Not so relaxing when you can still hear your baby crying.

But one thing that I felt absolutely no guilt about doing was going running. I mean, come on: I was exercising. Losing baby weight. No way could I feel badly about that. And when I was out running, I wasn't Jack's Mommy; I was Betsy.

Running became a way for me to forge my own identity, completely apart from being a wife and mother. My new inner strength, resolve, and dedication allowed me to fulfill a lifelong dream of running a marathon. My memoir for this time of my life?

Running lets me be me again.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Jack Wasser's Big Adventure

For ages now, my dad and stepmom have been talking about how great it would be for Jack to come stay with them for an extended visit. My nephew has been doing that for years, and I know how special that time is both for my dad and Vickie and for Devin. The question to me, really, was when Jack would be ready for a solo trip.

Then, a few months ago, Jack announced, "I have good idea, Mommy." That is, that he would go visit Mawmaw and Poppa, stay there by himself, and then Mommy and Daddy would come get him after "a couple whiles."

Well, okay, then.

My dad drove up last night, and this morning, he and Jack took off for Jack's big vacation. Steve and I will drive down on Friday, spend the weekend there, then take Jack home.

The little man was VERY excited this morning. He and I were eating breakfast, and as soon as he saw that Poppa was putting his stuff in the car, Jack told me that he was "all full," clearly sated from three bites of Kung Fu Panda waffles. Next thing you know, he'd gotten dressed in lightning speed and was in the car, blowing me kisses and hugs.

I know he'll have a great time with his grandparents, and I know that we will miss each other. The only thing I don't know?

What on earth am I going to do with all of this free time?

Monday, August 04, 2008

Ridiculously Short Shorts 18 Miler

Internet, I am starting to believe that all of this running might be good for my legs. Even more astonishly, it seems to be good for my perception of said legs.

Witness: when I discovered that the photographer at the Bix had taken the classy "up the running skirt" shot of me headed to the finish...

my immediate reaction was not to be horrified by the gigantic size of my thighs. Instead, I thought that, while they are enormous, they looked really muscular and strong.

Such delusions, or, if you prefer, increased self-esteem, can be blamed for my decision to purchase the Ridiculously Short Shorts (RSS), which made their debut on Saturday's 18 mile run.

*not my legs. Obviously.

I remain a total Skirt Convert and love my running skirts beyond all measure. However, on incredibly humid long runs, my skirts have been reduced to a sodden mess, clinging to my legs and threatening me with chafing. It's amazing what the fear of chafing will drive me to, because lo and behold, I found myself actually wearing IN PUBLIC, a pair of Ridiculously Short Shorts that are shorter than any shorts I have every worn in my entire life.

The verdict? Once I got over my fear that one of my butt cheeks would escape and greet the world, they were quite comfortable. Almost like wearing nothing, which obviously I almost was.

My time was excellent, perhaps spurred on in some part by my desire to go home and put some pants on. Goal pace: 10:31 per mile. Actual pace: 10:29 per mile. Score!

Besides running with the lower half of my body almost completely exposed, I employed a few additional strategies that helped me.

  • I drank Gatorade in addition to water.

  • I put the Gatorade and water in a cooler with ice on my front stoop. For the entire 3 plus hours I was out on the road, my drinks stayed icy cold, which was bliss.

  • Lately, I've been running my long runs in loops of about six miles. Run 3 miles out, then back home for a drink/Gu/whatnot/walk break. This time, I took short walk breaks every three miles, which made my breaks at the six mile points much shorter.

  • I packed a bag of Sport Beans in my Amphipod. I ate half of them at mile 9 and half at mile 15. I think they really gave me a boost.