A Good Problem to Have

I didn’t plan on becoming a soccer mom.  When my boys were younger – well, before they were even born – I imagined them becoming hockey players.  I would get them up in the morning and give them a bowl of oatmeal before Dad would take them to their 6:00 practices, and I would cheer loudly for them during games.  But this never happened.  Even then, at no point in my early parenting years, did I ever think that I would become a soccer mom.

When the boys turned 4, each was registered in the Timbits house league, practically a right of passage in town.   All of their friends played; I mean, ALL of their friends.  But as they got older, and their interests changed, they both walked away from soccer and got into other things.

Somewhere between chasing 4 year old Timbit players and going to High School, the oldest looked into working as a referee.  At the end of his grade 8 year, he took his first qualification course, CPR and First Aid, and he spent that summer getting himself to as many fields as he could so that he could work.  And he was good at it.  My 13 year old could control the field and the parents surrounding it – no easy feat- and that success propelled him to continue reffing during the following school year and summer.

soccer named ballsFast forward to the fall of 2015.  The Littlest Dude (TLD), entering Grade 5, decided that he wanted to play soccer.  Since the club was short of coaches and I was going to be there anyway, I decided to coach his team.  Within weeks, it became obvious that TLD was committed to the sport.  We registered him for another season, and I agreed to coach again.  When the Summer League opened, TLD wanted to play again – but he wanted more than a weekly house league; he wanted to play in the developmental program, which runs twice a week.

This year, it seems, I have officially become a soccer mom.  I am often helping my oldest with travel to his games or back home, since games can end late.  As TLD’s coach, I am committed to working with his team two nights a week.  And now, as he has eyes on trying out for Rep soccer in the next year, I find myself spending almost every afternoon taking him to a field, at his request, so that he can practise shots and play with his friends.  In an average week, I am making an average of 11 trips to any of the different soccer fields in town.

Honestly, I don’t know how this happened.  As a parent, I introduced my boys to different activities, hopeful that they would find one that they liked and would stick with it.  When they were younger, I told them, “It doesn’t matter to me what you do, but whatever you do, do it well.”   My oldest son chose music – played the piano, sang in a choir, played percussion in the band – and he was good, really good, in all.   He took swimming lessons and he ran cross-country, but that was really the extent of his interest in sport; his throwing himself into the world of soccer was a bit of a shock.  He refs, helps coach his school’s Senior team (grade 11 and 12) and mentors new referees.  My youngest?  He loves athletics but he never had any real desire to get involved in any kind of competitive sport.  Out of nowhere, something clicked; he constantly wants to play and, like so many boys his age, he wants to be one of the best. Soccer cleats

I like to think that my own racing and training have somehow rubbed off on my boys.   They have seen me throw myself into my running – especially during marathon season – and chase my own goals.  Secretly, I have been hoping that they would follow my footsteps, especially since they didn’t follow Dad’s path to the rink.  But they haven’t.  For whatever reason, at different points in their lives, both of them simply seemed to wake up one morning and throw themselves into soccer.  And they do it well.

Spending my time taking them from one field to another is a good problem to have.

 

Race Report: Canada Day 5K

Canada Day 5KMy last minute registration for the vrPro Canada Day 5K sums up my whole year: busy!  I forced myself to take a break from running over the winter, which ended up being 8 weeks instead of two, and re-building my mileage has gone slower than I expected.  Throw in a hectic work schedule and life with boys, and it has been difficult to find time to train the way I want, let alone race.  I have spent the past 5 weeks looking forward to increasing my training to the next level, writing about my running thoughts that are percolating, and start racing.  Last week, after receiving the umpteenth email reminding me that online registration closes on Wednesday at 6:00, I looked at my watch and said, “It’s 5:40.  I still have time.”  Yes, the time was right so I registered.  Easy as that.

I needed to throw myself back into the racing scene without putting much pressure on myself.   The Canada Day 5K fit the bill.  It was a low-key event on a quiet holiday, close to home and I have a history of running well there.  Then, on Thursday night, I learned that there were 600 runners registered; suddenly it wasn’t a small event anymore.

On Friday morning, the oldest dude played “the good son card” and dragged his almost 16 year old behind out of bed to cheer me on at the race.  (And, yes, he earned big brownie points as Hubs and the 10 yo were still sound asleep when we left.)  I was nervous; my stomach was a mess and I wasn’t sure how I should pace myself, other than as fast as I can.  I was glad to have my son’s calm presence, even if it was tired calm presence.  We got to Burlington before 7:30, I got my bib and shirt, and ran into my friend, Beth, who is a significantly stronger runner.

Canada Day 5K winnersBy the time we were toeing the line, I realized that there were many other fast runners and a very competitive Masters group.  In fact, I noticed more greying masters at the front of the line than I did sub-masters.  I started to play with numbers. “Sub-22,” I told myself. “Go out at 4:20, you can do this.”  I had my eye on Beth, who would run sub-20, two other women who were in my time range, and a handful of men whom I could pace off of.

The out and back course had everything from concrete, to stone and to sand.  Within the first 5 minutes, the clouds opened and that meant we were running through wet sand between 2k and 3k.  I don’t know how much it slowed me down, but it definitely did.  Beth was out of sight before I hit 2K, I passed the women I was worried about by the 2K mark, and I’m not sure what happened to the men that I was following for a while; suddenly, they were – poof! – out of sight.  In the last 2K, I chased two kids – around 12 years old, I think.  After I passed one, I kept encouraging the second so that he wouldn’t slow down and I had someone to follow. Canada Day 5K finish In the last 200 metres, I was quickly reminded that kids are able to turn into the extra gear much more easily than I can; he jumped forward and finished about 15 seconds ahead of me.

Canada Day 5K prizingBut I was happy with my time.  I was the 7th female (and Beth was first female!) and 1st in my age group (50-54).  I wanted sub 22 and I got it – 21:24.  And I won a sportswatch, which I was ready to give to my son until I saw it was pink.  Sorry, kiddo!

I’m glad that I got this race out of the way.  I got an accurate test of my fitness level, finished ahead of a few women whom I was sure would beat me, and a time that was exactly where I wanted to be.  This has given me the confidence boost that I need and has already made it easier to set some running goals for the summer and move me into the fall.

Running from Asthma

puffer picOne day, while having a conversation with a gentleman, he questioned, “You run in the winter?  Don’t your lungs freeze?”

I shook my head and explained that it is okay to run in the winter.  “You just dress for it, that’s all.”  I left out what I wanted to tell him – that I have asthma.

For years, I wasn’t able to run in the winter because of my asthma.  I’d go out and, within 20 minutes, my chest would start to tighten.  Every time I stopped (because, living in the city, you have no choice but to stop at a traffic light), my chest would tighten and I’d start to cough.  Often, I’d be wheezing.  Yes, it was a struggle.  I hated it.  And I started to hate winter running.  So for a few months each year, I would turn to cross-training indoors (but not the dreaded treadmill).

Fast forward to life after pregnancy.  Both of my boys were born in the late fall and, like many new mamas, there were days when I just needed to get out.  We lived in Toronto, where I could escape to the gym and park my babe at its child care for an hour.  When we moved to Oakville,  I became a home workout warrior; all of my fitness started and ended in my basement.  This was fine until after I delivered my second child.  I needed to physically leave the house.  However, it was winter – and I couldn’t run in the winter.  My lungs wouldn’t let me – until I woke up one morning and said, “That’s it.  I’m going for a run.”

run over obstacles“Are you sure?” my husband asked.

“Yes!  I have my puffer.  I’ll take my time.  I’ll only be gone for 20 minutes.”  I pulled on my winter running gear that had been sitting in the closet for years and headed out the door.  “I can do this,” I told myself.  “I’ll be fine.”

And I was.  My run was slower but I didn’t care.  I was outside and running.  I got back home feeling exhilarated and powerful.  “I can do this!  It’s time to take asthma by its horns and show it who’s in charge!”

For that and the next winter, I taught myself to run with asthma.  I had to run a slower and longer warm up – to open up my lungs – in the same way that I have to warm up before a race.  I learned to use my inhaler properly: one puff while getting dressed and another (about 10 minutes later) before I head out the door.  68b71-p1290294Thanks to Running Skirts sub-zero skirts, I could comfortably carry my puffer in my side pocket (puffers in tights’ pockets just don’t work) in case I “got into trouble”.  My running partners got use to my heavier winter breathing, the constant running nose and snot-covered gloves.  Over those years, I built my winter running distance from 20 minutes to 30K.  I was the boss of my asthma.

Last winter, due to my fall and broken jaw, I was forced off all exercise for weeks.  This meant I escaped the woes of winter running and all of the laundry that came with it.  I thought I was lucky but I was dreading the shock of readjusting to cold weather running.  This past week was the first week of truly cold temperatures that southern Ontario runners have had to deal with this winter and I knew it was going to be a shock to my system.  For the past few days, friends have posted pictures of themselves running with frozen beards, frozen eyelashes and steam circling their heads.  Me?  I wasn’t ready to face that kind of running yet and stayed on my windtrainer in the comfort of my warm basement.  I was wimping out.

Until yesterday.  Temperatures were climbing and now closer to -20C.  I was ready.  On came my layers and out I went.  Within 10 minutes, I was quickly reminded that I have asthma.  Yes, I used my puffer and, yes, I took my time warming up.  But I could feel my chest tightening, resulting in that same feeling that I had many, many winters ago.  “Wow, the air really is a lot thicker when it’s cold like this,”   I thought.  And I remembered that conversation many years ago. “You run in the winter?  Don’t your lungs freeze?”

Cold 2016
Yesterday, after 5K in -20C.  Feeling great.

No, my lungs don’t freeze.  But I have to be careful.  I have to dress for it, that’s all.  I have to use my puffer and I have to do a long warm-up before I run the way I want to.  Yesterday, that is exactly what I did and guess what.  I got home feeling exhilarated.  Once again, I took asthma by its horns.

 

Keeping Up With the Boys

CR - ClimbIn December 2014, I took my sons to Climbers Rock in Burlington to try some indoor climbing.  The oldest dude had done some at school, earned his certificate to belay and was keen to keep at it.  My youngest was a natural; watching him go up and down the walls reminded me of Batman scaling city towers and, then, jumping down.  Me: I’m afraid of heights so I spent countless hours watching the two of them climb together.  But the more I sat there and the more I saw others harness in and reach for the top, the more I realized that I should be able to as well.

We stopped climbing when I broke my jaw, started again when I was cleared to resume activities, then stopped again when my parents died.  For whatever reason, we never went back.  The three of us never discussed why we weren’t going, but I often found myself thinking about it.

Fast forward to December 2015.  I wasn’t running due to a tight SI joint and was tired of just spinning and yoga.  The dudes were bored and needed to get more activity in their lives.  We talked about heading back to Climbers Rock and it wasn’t long before the dudes were literally driving me up the wall.

CR - walltopiaDuring the past two months, I have realized what a fabulous form of cross-training this is for me.   First, it is a great way to strengthen my feet and counteract all of the pounding I do to them when I run.  When climbing, my feet are constantly stretching; I can tell that they get stronger.  The day after every climb, I almost feel as though I’ve had a foot massage.  Climbing also supplements the yoga work that I have been doing to strengthen my core and it helps me to really stretch out my legs and back.  I love the feeling of waking up back muscles that I haven’t used in a while.

The best part of climbing, though, is I can do it with the boys.  One night, the Littlest Dude climbs better than all of us and, another night, I can climb tougher walls than the dudes.  We’re at approximately the same ability level right now and that will change. But we will still be able to do it together and, when we aren’t climbing, we’ll continue to  watch and support each other.  It is a great family activity.

CR - trySo once a week, we are committed to going to Climbers Rock.   Getting one busy mom, a working teen and an active 10 year old to find time to do this together can be a challenge but we do and happily get out of the house.  Hubs: he is happy to have the house to himself.

And my fear of heights?  Well, I am still working on that.  But I am reaching for the top and make it up there.  I just don’t look down.

 

Wacky Wednesday: Toilet Tales

Toilet Tale 1
I don’t know whether I should laugh or cry.

On Friday morning, one of my co-workers told me, “Cynthia, you are the most accident-prone person I know.”

 

Actually, I’m not accident prone at all.  But when I do have one, I go all out.  Either it is going to be huge (like last January when I broke my jaw in four places) or I am going to end up with a great story to tell.   On Thursday, I walked away with a great story.

One of the greatest challenges of being a teacher is being able to get to the bathroom at the right time.  We can’t exactly walk out of class when the need arises; we have to plan ahead.  This means that many of us are often lined up at the beginning and end of a lunch break, or we rush in and out of the bathroom at the end of a preparation (or planning) time.

Last Thursday, I looked at the clock at the end of my prep time.  “Geez!  It’s 2:40!  I have to be back in class in 5 minutes!”  So I darted for the bathroom.  When I finished, I got up quickly from the toilet, turned to wash my hands and, somehow, managed to bang my head on the bottom of the medicine cabinet.  I fell back into the wall and cried, “Oww!”  Something didn’t feel right.

A co-worker checked my head.  “No, it’s obviously bumped, but there is no blood.”

Toilet tale 2
A bump, blood or a hole?  You decide.

As I returned back to class, I was feeling “off”.  I headed back downstairs to the main office and begged, “Please, don’t laugh at me.”

 

Needless to say, there were giggles.  Then, after my head was checked, I heard, “Oh my! You’re bleeding.”  Within minutes, my class was covered and I was told to sit down.  A concussion was the concern and, since it happened in the work place, my incident had to be taken seriously.

While waiting for my husband to pick me up (since I couldn’t drive if I had a concussion), I had to complete typical paperwork.   In my case, the questions led to more giggles: How did the incident happen?  Were there any witnesses?  I can only imagine the reaction of the case worker who will be reading this later.  When my administer had to answer “What treatment and precautions were taken?”, I asked her not to make me go through toilet re-training; she wrote that I was told to slow down.

Forty-five minutes later, my husband arrived and we headed to the doctor who determined that it was not a concussion but told me to watch for symptoms overnight.  I was relieved as I really did not want to miss school the next day.

The next morning, a co-worker asked if I was okay.  “What happened?” asked another.  “You know Cynthia!  She sprinted from the toilet!”

Yup, that’s exactly what I did  – and it’s a sprint that I am pretty sure I won’t be doing again.

Becoming Better Than You Were Before

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During the past week, I have had time to reflect on my past year – the good and the bad – and think about running goals for the spring of 2016.  I am not setting a resolution as I have never been a big fan of them.  But chasing a dream, setting a goal to achieve it, and becoming better for it: I am all about that.

But, like many others, I go through periods when sticking with those goals is tough.  Family life can take over; work might get busy; I might be side-lined with illness or some type of ache/pain.  So I have a couple of tricks to help myself stay motivated and work towards becoming better.

a.  Make a Commitment to Others:  For almost a year, I needed two of my training partners – Kelly-Lynne and Monica – to lyoga picure me to the Yoga Studio.  Don’t get me wrong; I like yoga, but I don’t love it.  I do it because it is good for me.  Between the three of us, the texts would fly during the week to figure out who could go to Friday night’s class and who couldn’t, who had to work late and who didn’t.   Nine times out of ten, if neither of them could make it, I would find something else to do.  But the more I went with one or both of the girls, the more comfortable I became to the point where I now make the effort to go to yoga on my own.  And, by the way, my fitness goal for the winter is to strengthen my core so I will definitely be frequenting more often.

b.  Put Your Goal in Writing:  This works for me and the more people who see it, the better off I am.  Write your goal down and post it in a spot where you will see it again and again: on the fridge door, on the bathroom mirror, at the top of your desk at work.   The more you see your goal, the more likely it will become a part of you.

c. Register for a Race:  If you are a runner and want to run a 10K in the spring, find one now and register for it.  By doing that, you have made a formal commitment to yourself and you have put it in writing.  My husband talked about running at The Eggnog Jog when I race many, many times until I finally asked him, “Do you want me to register you for it?”  Once I did, the talk stopped and the training started.  Registering gave him the little bit of motivation that he needed to start running again.

Eggnog Jog 2015 -Dave
Dave finishing the Eggnog Jog.  photo credit: Sue Sitki Photography

 

d. Involve Your Family:  I cannot stress how important this is – especially if you have young children.  When my boys were little, planning the week on Sunday nights also meant writing out the days that I would run and the type of workout that I planned.   Then, when I got home from work, they already knew whether or not I was going for a run.  That reduced the meltdowns at home and it led to my sons’ encouragement and support in my own fitness goals.

e. Join a Club or a Group:  This ties in with making a commitment to a training partner.   The advantage of running or working out with a club or a group is that it will always be there and ready for you – even if your friends can’t – and you are likely to make some new friends with the same goals as you.  I love training with Lions Valley AthleticsLVA uniform circle Even though I am the slow one in the group, I am always  supported and encouraged by the others in the group, and I have made some great friends.  This is a few of us at a training run back in August.  And, in case you are wondering, I made some great friends – including my yoga buddies above – through my former club, Toronto Olympic Club, and through Lions Valley Athletics.

2016As I mentioned above, my goal for 2016 is to build a stronger core.  Rather than focussing on it once or twice a week, I am changing my game plan: 20 in 16.  In other words, I am going to do 20 minute core workouts over 16 days in the month.  I have started a Facebook group – 20 for 16 – which people can join, set their own goal (e.g. 20 minutes of cardio, abs, strengthening, walking….), and we can all support each other on FB or Instagram.   You can check out more details on Cynsspace .  If you want in, leave a comment below.

Being better than you used to be: that is what resolutions are really about.

 

 

 

 

Race Report: Eggnog Jog 10.8K

Eggnog Jog 2015- with Dave
Pre-race at the Eggnog Jog, photo credit: Sue Sitki Photography

The Eggnog Jog is a popular race which runs out of the Terra Cotta Conservation Area, just north west of Toronto.  It is 10.8K, is unusual distance but the country roads in the area make  a 10K route difficult unless it is an out and back course. Regardless, the race draws over 600 participants; every year, it sells out so my husband and I registered early for it. This was my first race after the Chicago Marathon and the mid-December date gave me enough time to recover and work on regaining my speed.

Since the beginning of November, I spent my Saturday mornings focusing on speed work.  Knowing that the course has a challenging elevation, I incorporated hill training, mile repeats, and shorter intervals in those workouts as I could do them in daylight.  On the other running days of the week, I tempoed, did a long run (with my longest run at 17K) and just ran for the love of it.  I headed back to the yoga studio on Friday nights (and, by the way, yoga on Friday followed by speedwork on Saturday  makes for tired abs on Sunday morning).  Everything felt right.  I was ready and, hopefully, going to race a sub-50 minute race.

Dave likes this race because of the later start (10:30 a.m.).  I like it for the challenge.  The elevation drops about 100 metres over the first 2K and then climbs over 120 metres for the next 5-6K; the finish is a fast 400 metre downhill.

One of the biggest challenges that morning was deciding what to wear.  I had my LVA singlet, Saucony Sayonaras, and Sweaty band – but did I need one layer or two; tights, capris or a running skirt?  It poured in the morning and temperatures were hovering over 0 degrees at the start, so I opted for a t-shirt with my Running Skirt long sleeve and my tights.  I was worried about being over-dressed but, as it turned out, my gear was perfect for the day.

Despite the training I had done, when I started the race, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I had 3 goals: to run as fast as I could, watch my pacing and try not to let any women pass me.  I took the first 2K conservatively as I knew that I had to start an evil climb right after.   In those first kilometres, I heard a woman talking to a man – something about keeping up – and picked up my pace enough to open a bit of a gap.  From that point on, I didn’t hear her again.

Once I got to 3K, I started to play cat and mouse with a few men.  They would run ahead of me, I would pass them, they would work to pass me again….It became a vicious cycle.  At 7K, another male runner caught up to us and, then, another at 8K.  I tried to stay with them but they were both stronger than I was – and finished less than a minute of me.  Once I got to 9K, I turned on what power I had left and gave myself another boost at 10K.

Eggnog Jog 2015
Racing the last 400m of the Eggnog Jog.  photo credit: Sue Sitki Photography

 

As I made the last turn towards the 400 metre finish, I focussed on stretching out my legs, which was tough to do when my quads were still burning from the rolling hills.   I saw the clock read 48:something and gave it everything I had to finish in 49:12.  About 20 seconds later, another woman ran in and called me a “powerhouse.”  Never in my entire life have I been called a powerhouse; it felt great.

 

I had no idea where I was in the final standings.  I felt that I was close to the top but, as I didn’t see any women ahead of me, I didn’t know if I was chasing 2 or 3 or more.  I was thrilled when I found out that I finished Third Overall.  It was a great way to end the season.Eggnog Jog 2015 - awards

 

This course was tough and I promised my husband that I would do my cooldown by running back out so that I could cheer him in.  I tried to convince a few other runners who finished ahead of me to jog with me and they looked at me as though I had horns coming out or my head.  So off I went on my own; the things we do for love.   I found Dave around the 9K mark and ran with him until we neared the finish line, when I let him close his race alone.

Both Dave and I got what we wanted out of the Eggnog Jog.  Dave wanted a goal race, a chance to push himself to run the 10.8K distance regardless of the time it took.  Me, I wanted a goal of running a sub-50 and I got that.  Best of all, though, was the chance we had to race together.

Back to Basics

Christmas 2015 - treeThis is the first Christmas that I am no longer the child.  We lost my parents in the spring and, for the first year in a long time, my brothers and I did not spend Christmas together.  So this year, Christmas was on me.  It was my year to establish some new traditions while keeping the old.  This is a mothering role that I wasn’t quite ready for and there is a lot of pressure in doing it right.  So I did what felt natural; I took my family back to basics.

We started our holiday prep on Sunday.  That is late for most families but both of our dudes have birthdays in the 3 weeks before; we wanted to respect those and not blend them with the rest of the Christmas season.  We were also so busy with choir, school concerts and events, and report cards that I didn’t really have time to focus on anything Christmas.  So Sunday was the planned day to put up our tree.

We have always gone to a local church to purchase one from the Boy Scouts of Canada, where we have always able to find a beautiful tree from Nova Scotia, but I wanted to try something different.  This year we decided that we would go to Merry Farms where we could cut our own.  At the last minute, the littlest dude resisted making the trip out of town and complained most of the car ride but, once we got to Merry Farms, he was the one who had the most fun.  The two dudes laughed and giggled, took turns pulling each other on the wagon and ran around looking for the perfect tree.  After that, they picked out a new ornament for the tree and shared a large chocolate chip cookie.   The day was a success and a new memory for us.

This year, the boys had big ticket items on their lists – electronics and expensive.  Christmas 2015 - toilet plungerI have always followed 3 criteria for purchasing a gift: something that the other person wants; something that you aren’t really buying for you; something that is affordable.  Their “wishes” did not fit the bill but this toilet plunger  for my husband did as he always complains about our old one.  It also had the benefit of being completely unexpected – and it raised loads of laughter on Christmas morning.

For my husband and boys, I had ideas which were much different than their dreams of gadgets and electronics.  It was going to be a year free of technology- not even an iTunes card; it was a year of gifts which brought the family together and would help them grow rather than send them to their quiet spots where they did their own thing.  Santa and I respected their interests – sports, cooking, and play – and they found real toys, games, books, magazines and cooking appliances (“Oh!  A rice cooker!  It will do the work for me!”) under the tree.   Everyone has happy; there wasn’t one complaint and the house was filled with laughter in the afternoon.C

Laughter cutting down our tree; giggles while playing Monopoly or during Nerf gun battles; hysterics about a toilet plunger carefully wrapped and placed under the tree.  These are the sounds of togetherness, the joy of being with family, and the feelings that will stay with us for many Christmases to come.

 

 

Do You See What I See?

A few weeks ago, when mornings were suddenly dark at 6:30, a friend emailed me:

“Cynthia, I’m so upset.  I almost hit a jogger.  I didn’t even see him.  He was wearing black.  I’m still shaking.”

Tonight, while driving along a dark and quiet street, I went through similar emotions.  A man was running on the road, facing the direction of oncoming traffic (i.e. me), and wearing an orange jacket with a reflective strip.  He likely thought that the orange made him visible; it did not.  The jacket itself was not reflective and the reflective strip was worn so I didn’t see it until after I saw his face – at the last minute.   I swerved to get out of his way and he was fine.  In fact, he probably had no idea of what was happening or that I felt panic; he continued jogging down the road and I cursed the fact that he wasn’t wearing reflective clothing.

Visibility for runners is essential.  Whether it is day or night, we need to be seen.  For this reason, I tend to run on the road – and am sometimes criticized for this by my non-running friends – but I am safer.  First, drivers are more likely to see me when I am on the road than on the sidewalk; since I am sharing a lane with traffic, it is hard for them not to notice me.   Secondly, without trying to sound too cocky, most drivers can’t judge my speed; if I am on the sidewalk, a driver will often try to quickly swerve into a turn, thinking that he/she can beat me to the intersection but, instead, forces me to a grinding stop just as I am about to jump off the sidewalk onto the road.  For me, running on the road often seems to be the better option; I just have to dress for it.

For the past few winters, I was sporting a Vizipro jacket by Saucony.

Reflective gear 1
Kelly-Lynne and me in our Vizipro vest and jacket.

I loved its vibrant pink and, even more, the battery-charged piping that lit up when I ran.  When training with my club, I often did a reverse-Rudolph run and ran at the back of the pack so that we could be sure that cars from behind would see us.

In January, when I found myself lying face down in the middle of a busy road, I clearly remember thinking “It’s okay.  Drivers will see me.  I have my jacket on.”  The next day,  I looked at my running gear and noticed a rip on the right sleeve of my Saucony jacket.  Since I loved that jacket, I considered fixing it with duct tape but I didn’t want to spend the rest of the jacket’s life looking at the sleeve, remembering the night that I broke my jaw.  My husband agreed.  “Get rid of it,” he said.  Being frugal, I usually pass unwanted gear onto running friends but this one didn’t make the cut; I didn’t ever want to see someone else wearing this pink vizipro because of the negative connotation it now had.  Straight into the garbage it went.

Since I haven’t really needed to run in the dark or the cold since that night, I haven’t had to worry about a jacket either. Reflective gear2 A few  Tuesday’s ago after school, I was dressed to run when my husband stopped me at the door.  “You are not wearing that,” he insisted.  “You’re wearing black.  By the time you get home, it’s going to be dark.  No one will be able to see you.”  I reminded him that I hadn’t replaced my reflective jacket yet.  “Take my Brooks jacket.  I don’t need it.  I have another.”   It is orange (not my favorite colour), a little big on me and a little warmer than I need right now, but it does the trick.  I can be seen when I run.

Tonight, I realized how much I do need this jacket until I do replace it with one that fits better.  In the past few weeks, drivers have slowed down to let me go first, or they have given me space on the road; I know they can see me.  But the guy who was running tonight when I was in the car?  He was not visible; he may as well have been dressed in black.

A simple trick to check your reflectivity is to ask someone to shine a flashlight on you, dressed in your gear, before you head out the door.  If that doesn’t work, trying taking a selfie outside.  You may be surprised by what you do – or don’t – actually see.

How Did I Become a Soccer Mom?

For the past 2 weeks, I have been hopping around from one blog to another and have enjoyed meeting new people.  Today is my spotlight day so I am going to start off telling you a bit about me.

Chicago - expoChasing My Dreams – Setting goals and going after them makes me happy.  After my long layoff this year, I still ran the Chicago Marathon and BQ’d.  When I was still on the course, I set one of my goals for 2016: to marathon in the spring and improve my time for a better corral start.

Yummy – My favorite food is chocolate.  I’m pretty good about staying away from it.  Being lactose intolerant helps.  But when I do my own baking and I know that foods are “safe” to eat, I have to really watch that I don’t eat all of the chocolate chip cookies.

Nerd – I am such a math nerd.  I love looking and analyzing data, especially when it involves running.  It’s a good think I teach math.

Toenails – I have ugly toenails – really ugly.  Running has not been kind to my feet at all.

Hot – I love hot weather runs.  I love to sweat.  I hate all of the winter laundry.  Summer laundry is so much easier.

Ice – After last January, ice terrifies me.  When I fell, I broke my jaw in four places. cropped-pw-near-trail.jpg I was off work for weeks and was forced to stay away from exercise of any kind for weeks and weeks.  Even downward dog was dangerous for me to do!  I’m not sure how I’ll deal with running this winter yet but I should know soon.

Asthma – I developed asthma when I was in my late 20’s.  For a while, it stopped me from running.  I tried and tried, but I had asthma attacks that simply wouldn’t let me run.  I go fed up and took asthma by the horns.  Over a few years, I learned to run with it, even in the winter, and can now race as a top Masters athlete in Ontario.

I am a Grade 6 and 7 teacher and, from one day to the next, each of my students has something special that makes them stand out, something that makes them shine.  It could be a passion for a sport, a favorite hobby that they love to talk about and share, or a general excitement that they bring to class.  That enthusiasm makes their eyes shine and makes even the toughest kid smile;  it defines who they are.

Ten Miler - finishMy enthusiasm for fitness and an active lifestyle makes me who I am.  Fortunately, the digital age is still fairly young so I can’t post any pictures from the Richard Simmons’ era, when I was bitten by the aerobic bug that eventually led to me teaching aerobics.  In the 90’s, I needed more of an adrenalin rush so I turned to running and general fitness training – and I haven’t looked back.   Today, if you were to ask someone about me, they would most definitely use the word “runner” in the first two sentences.

In the past 25 years, my running has only been halted three times.  The first was when I developed asthma – induced by cold and exercise (not great for a Canadian runner)  but I spent several years learning how to run with it.   I also stopped running when I was pregnant (my boys are now 9 and 14)  as I really didn’t enjoy running while pregnant .  So I turned to cross-training – mostly stationary cycling and the stairmaster.   My most recent hiatus was this past winter when I broke my jaw while running and, then, had to deal with the deaths of both parents in the spring.    After every “rest” period, whether forced or self-inflicted, I could not wait to get back to the roads.

So it has always shocked me that my own boys have not been into sports.  My husband is an avid hockey player, cyclist, tennis player and occasional runner.  Me:  I run competitively (competitive enough to claim the Canadian 50-54 title for the 8K distance).   We dreamed about raising superkids with both fast-twitch  and slow-twitch fibres, coming from his speed and my endurance.  Nope!

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The Littlest Dude (at 4), ready to go.

Over the years, we encouraged both to participate in sports but they showed a combination of low skills and an even lower interest.  They came to races with me, cheered me on, and would race the odd Kids’ event.  We’d see glimmers of potential and a bit more enthusiasm, but the boys kept going back to the things they loved: music and lego.

We couldn’t push them.  I wasn’t going to be “that parent” who dragged a screaming child to a swimming lesson or soccer game.  But I could plan my training with them in it.  I would throw one into a baby jogger or drag them out on their bikes when I ran long.  We talked running around the house a lot but, still, there was no real interest.  All I could do was hope that they would eventually realize what they were missing.

At the beginning of August, like every other August, the two Dudes and I talked about what sports they could get involved with this year.  To my surprise, they both said soccer.  My oldest has been refereeing for the past year and has taken an interest in the game as a player.  My youngest is either following his lead or was bitten by the soccer bug when we watched the PanAm Games.  Either way, it didn’t matter; they wanted to play soccer.  Soccer cleats

At the end of the month, I opened an email: “Coaches Needed for U11 Boys.”  Hmmm…. We had a quick family meeting, a few days to digest the decision and I was suddenly coaching the Littlest Dude’s team.    So now, a typical weekend for us includes one U11 game, one U15 game, a few games to referee and a load of soccer laundry.  This week, Soccer Mom also organized a practice for the team.  It looks like the boys aren’t the only ones bitten by the soccer bug.

“Where are my soccer socks?”  “Can you wash my ref jersey?”  “Who do we play this week?”  Soccer has quickly become part of the regular language in our house.  The boys are excited about it.  They smile when they talk about it.  Soccer: it defines who they are.PanAm Green Screen Andrew