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.