Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Running away from home

As I look back on my year of running, some of my fondest memories were of running away from home. No, not fleeing the confines of Stately Wasser Manor, but rather enjoying a nice run while traveling for work.

When I'm traveling for work, I am completely away from my normal life. When I get up in the morning, I don't have a cup of coffee with Steve, make Jack his morning strawberry milk, and get him ready for school. Instead, I wake up and pretty much get to work, then do the same all day, then at night until I decide to get to sleep.

I forget that other people are not existing out of time like I am. I'll sit at the desk, impatiently wondering why no one has answered my emails, only to remember that it's only 8:00, most people have not been working for the past hour and a half, and that they are, in fact, trying to get ready for work.

I have learned that when I'm away from home, I always need to bring my running shoes and I always need to go for a run.

Those early morning jaunts have been terrific adventures. I wandered through a neighborhood in Charlotte, lined by honeysuckle bushes, and two little girls waiting for the school bus ran with me for a little while. I found trails around beautiful frozen lakes outside Minneapolis. In San Antonio, I zipped along the cobblestone paths of River Walk and watched the sun rise at the Alamo. I spent another morning with Lake Michigan to one side, the skyline of Chicago looming large in front of me. My favorite travel run was in Seattle, where I ran through memories of the summer I lived there with Steve, the summer we fell in love.

Running while on the road connects me with the city where I'm staying in a way that eating breakfast at the hotel and going to and from whatever project I'm working on does not. More importantly, it keeps me connected to who I am. When I'm away from home, I have to keep running.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Fab Four

Back when Jack was just two years old, we went to a birthday party for a little boy who was turning four. This other little boy was quiet and solemn, a huge contrast to the zany little bundle of energy that was my kid. I watched the other boy calmly unwrap his birthday gifts and eat a modest amount of cake and dreaded the prospect of Jack turning four. My cute, funny, entertaining little guy wouldn’t be so cute anymore.

This year has proven to me that I was wrong. That other kid was just weird. Jack’s fourth year has been fantastic.

Our family went through a lot of changes this year. I lost my job in January, which enabled us to spend a lot of time together, in the Mommy-Jack Academy. We went to dance classes and acted silly, we put on plays with his tigers, baked cookies, and had a great time. When I went back to work, he and I missed our time together, but it felt like things were a bit more back to normal… except that they weren’t, because all of a sudden, I had a job that required me to travel pretty frequently. And at around the same time, Steve also had to do more travel for his job. Jack has adapted really well. We keep a calendar in his room and mark when Mommy or Daddy is coming home. Sometimes he gets a present after one of us has been on a trip, but more often, we go out for a special breakfast to spend more time together.

Jack absolutely loves his preschool, especially the main teacher Miss Toya. Miss Toya has helped Jack improve his writing, so he will surprise me by pulling out a crayon and writing WASSER on a piece of paper. She teaches the kids to say “yes” instead of “yeah,” and it sounds so much nicer that Steve and I have adopted the same habit. The kids in Jack’s class put on a circus this spring at which Jack was an acrobat. She even showed up at one of his soccer games.

Jack has an incredible curiosity about words and language. When we go to the library, he loads up the bag with all kinds of reading material – picture books, non-fiction materials about animals, and now chapter books. His favorites are the Magic Treehouse series, about a boy named Jack who travels through time. Jack will sit and listen to me read for as long as I’m willing. He has also started noticing words everywhere and will ask, “What does ‘O-P-E-N’ spell?”

We have done some fun traveling together as a family this year. In June, we took a weekend trip to Chicago, Jack’s first big city. He was fascinated by the tall buildings, the pigeons, the noise of the El track, and the fact that he was allowed to go in a taxi without his car seat. Our big vacation was to the Wisconsin Dells and the Great Wolf Lodge. Jack had a blast playing in the many swimming pools and going down water slides.

The little guy has had a few dark moments. He got in the most trouble of his entire life when, mad at me, he used his scissors to cut a small hole in the back of one of our living room chairs. And when I tell him to apologize for things – “you don’t have to mean it, you just have to say it” – he steadfastly refuses.

At the same time, he’s sweet and affectionate. He was eager to help his three-year-old cousin play hide and seek with the big kids at Thanksgiving. Jack gives lots of love to Roary and his fleet of “stuffed guys,” telling them, “It’s okay, Sweetie,” if they are sad. And when I started to cry during the movie Up Jack reached over and held my hand.

He also loves to make people laugh. He will tell jokes over and over again, figuring that the knock-knock joke about the interrupting cow will only be funnier the 900th time you hear it. He is even a fan of physical comedy, pretending to walk into walls, then laughing like a loon.

Year Four has been wonderful. Jack does or says something every single day that makes me proud of him. When I look ahead to Jack’s fifth year, I have no fear. My little guy will still be my clever, funny, sunny little guy.

Happy birthday, Jack!

Monday, December 21, 2009

2009 report card

At the end of last year, I posted some running goals for myself. How’d I do?

1. Run at least two half marathons triskos. Set new trisko PR of 2 hours or less (down from 2:05).

Goal OBLITERATED! I ran four half marathons in 2009, three of them in a 29 day period, earning me a spot in the Half Fanatics. Of those four triskos, the first was the best, with a finishing time of 1:56:51. Boo-yah!

2. Run at least one marathon, setting a PR of 4:30 or less (down from 4:38).

Goal FAILED! As awesome as I was at Goal #1, the second was not meant to be. I started a new job in February, which requires frequent travel. I do run while I’m on the road, but when I’m home on weekends, I don’t want to ditch Steve and Jack to go run 20 miles. I’m sure I’ll tackle the marathon again some day, but at this point, I’m not called to it. The half marathon is my favorite distance, not only because it suits my lifestyle, but because I feel like I can more successfully race it, not just survive it.

3. Get a Fuel Belt and a Road ID. That should be easy enough, but they are important things to do nevertheless.

Goal accomplished, and I’m glad I did. The Fuel Belt has given me the freedom to explore a bit more on my long runs, to go further afield of my house and the bottle of Gatorade that was always waiting at the end of my driveway. And that’s been great. And because I have been running while travelling, the Road ID gives me a little bit more peace of mind.

4. Run at least three new races.

Betsy SMASH puny race goal! In 2009, I ran 13 new races: an indoor track meet (one event, three races, so I am counting it as three), the Frostbite Footrace, the St. Patrick’s Day 5K, Steve’s Old Time Tap Chaser 5K, Imagination Library 5K, the Madison Half Marathon, 13.1 Chicago, an outdoor track meet (one race), Run With Carl, the Quad Cities Half Marathon, and the Governor’s Cross Country two-mile. I do have to travel for my new job, but the wellness program sponsors 50% of my entry fees to local races, thus making it very appealing to check out new things.

5. Here's the big one: get more involved in running locally. I love my online running friends, but I also want to make some real life running friends. To that end, I am working to participate more in my local running club. I am also planning on joining the group track workouts on Tuesday nights, and anything else I can think of. I want to go to races and see people I know.

Done and done! I’ve been going to club meetings, joined training groups for the Quad Cities Distance Classic and the Quad Cities Half Marathon, and volunteered for a couple of races while I was injured, just to stay in touch. And it’s worked!

Thanks to a combination of goal 4 and goal 5, I got second place in my age group in my running club’s 2009 circuit. Fellow Runner JP gave me my t-shirt and medal, insisted on getting his picture taken with “my favorite age group, women from 30-39,” then later told me that he was really glad I’d come out and done so much running this year. I really feel like I’m part of something bigger, and it’s great.

I’m mulling over 2010 goals now, but in the meantime, I’m happy with how well 2009 has turned out.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Half Crazy? Half Fanatic!

When I tell people that I ran four half marathons this year, three of them in a 29 day period, they think I’m (at least) half crazy. Thanks to a fellow Betsy over at Eat Drink Run Woman, I’ve learned that I’m not just half crazy… I’m a Half Fanatic!

That’s right, those nutbars over at Marathon Maniacs have a little sister club devoted to my favorite distance, the half marathon! And thanks to my running streak this spring, I qualify as a Neptune-level Fanatic, #249, to be specific.

I encourage my fellow trisko enthusiasts to join up so that we have more brothers and sisters in blue at upcoming races.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Run, Run, Rudolph

It’s definitely cold outside her in the tundra known as the Midwest, but I refuse to let that keep me from getting a run in. Naturally, I’m not going to do anything extreme and foolish like run on a treadmill. Much better to cover myself in layers and layers of clothes, yank some Stabilicers over my shoes, and suck it up.

Last night, I was reminded of another benefit to running out in the cold: Christmas lights!

I meandered all through my neighborhood, running down unfamiliar streets, and enjoying the beauty of houses all lit up for Christmas. I like driving around looking at lights, but this was even nicer than a quick drive-by.

As runners, we see a world that non-runners don’t. This is just one of many examples.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Circuit

One of my 2009 goals was to get more involved in my local running community. So, when I saw in our club newsletter that you could compete in something called the "race circuit," and that it was free, I figured why not?

Here's how the circuit works:

  • Run a 4Km to 4Mi you will earn 10 pts. for participating.

  • Run a 8Km to Half Marathon you will earn 15 pts. for participating.

  • Run a Marathon or greater distance you will earn 20 pts. for participating.

  • Run in a Duathlon you will earn 15pts. for participating.

  • Run a Relay Leg or part of a Duathlon Team you will earn 10 pts for participating

  • Volunteer for any event on the circuit and not run in it you will earn 10 pts.

  • Participate in CBRC Club Races you can earn double points.

  • Tie-Breakers will be determined by the most volunteer points.

I ran a lot of races this year, but not all of them were on our "circuit." I kept track casually of how I was doing, but didn't think about it too much. It turns out, I ran enough races to count - at our club meeting last night, I got second place in the women 30-39 group! And for my efforts, I scored a medal with our club's logo on it, and even better, a t-shirt! A red t-shirt, with all of the races listed on the back - in a technical fabric! I cannot wait to wear it out for a run.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Last race of 2009

I often find myself grateful that I'm a runner. That feeling was especially strong last week, when I ran my last race of 2009.

Especially because that race wasn't an actual sanctioned race, but more accurately, a race through the airport.

I'd just finished a challenging, but hopefully productive trip to New Jersey for work and was eager to get home. The meeting ran over, so I missed my first flight and got booked on a different airline. The flight from Newark to Chicago was delayed... and delayed... and delayed.

Slowly but surely, that 45 minute layover evaporated.

The pilot announced that many flights leaving Chicago were also delayed, so "All bets are off." As soon as we landed, I checked the flight to Moline on my phone and saw that, sure enough, it was delayed, too.

I had a chance.

I got off the plane as quickly as possible, groaned when I saw that I needed to get to a far away concourse, and started running.

I ran through Ohare airport in a long skirt, tall boots, and pearls, with my heavy laptop bag on my back. I ran past legions of amused looking travelers, along moving walkways, and up escalators.

All told, I ran a distance of probably a mile. It was really hard racing in my high heeled boots (feeling a rip in my stockings) with my zillion pound computer, and there was certainly no guarantee I'd make it before they closed the doors. I wanted to stop and walk, to just give up.

But because I'm a runner, I can do more than just physically move myself from Point A to Point B quickly. More importantly, I know how to keep going even when I want to quit. I know how to motivate myself and push through. I thought of Steve and Jack and how if I kept running, then maybe I'd see them that night, but that if I quit, I definitely would not.

You know how this story ends: I made it. I made it because I'm a runner.