When I race, there is only one thing I can really control: the distance. Despite the training and the mental preparation that goes into each race, there is always so much that is left to chance. This weekend, my double-header weekend, proved that to be the case.
The first run was Saturday morning – The Up, Up and Away 5K Run in Findlay, Ohio. Why Findlay? It’s just past Detroit where the boys watched the Emergency Vehicle Parade on Friday night and en route to Mason, Ohio where Daddy planned to watch tennis on Monday. This run was the first half of Mommy’s big weekend get-away with the boys. The thought behind this was “Let Mommy race on Saturday and Sunday, and we can have fun the rest of the time.” Basically, it was the first of two races to keep Mommy quiet. What the boys didn’t know at the time is the races ended up being the best part of the weekend.
I had 3 goals to meet in Findlay: finish top 10 in women (doable), finish under 22 minutes (doable), break the master women’s record (doable). But, then there was the unexpected.
Surprise #1: Dinner on Friday night. Being lactose intolerant, finding dairy-free foods is always a challenge when I’m away from home. We decided to go with the basics: steak and potatoes from the Outback. While this may not be typical pre-race nutrition, it was yummy and, more important, I did not get sick.
Surprise #2: The Heat. This has been a cool, rainy summer but, this weekend, temperatures soared into the 90’s. By 9:00 on Saturday morning, it was already hot and humid. In fact, it tired my trio of male spectators out more than it did me. Now, how did that happen?
Surprise #3: Knowing the Course. I studied the map before we left home and I was prepped for the route by another runner. But I still almost ran into that dang pole – the metre high pole that would render any male childless – on the way out.
Surprise #4: The competition. I had no idea who I was running against, nor did I have any idea how I placed for an hour after the race. For me, this is the most suspenseful part of racing: at the start line, I’m eyeing every female as a potential threat; at the end, I wonder how many of those who finished ahead of me are over 40. It’s not until results are posted that I really know who my competition was.
Once results were up, I realized that I had met all 3 goals: I finished 7th, in 21:36 and broke the course record by 29 seconds. The only problem was two other women broke it before I did. The other non-master women ahead of me, by the way, were under 25.
That morning, I did exactly what I wanted to do. Nothing else mattered for the rest of the day – at least not until I had to start planning for the next day’s race.
About once a year, we get away as a family – my husband, the 2 boys and me. This always leaves me with the fear of not getting in the running that I want or need. Family history shows that this panic is not unfounded. Usually I just don’t end up running when travelling because, despite my good sense of direction, I worry about getting lost in the middle of nowhere. Let’s face it, being female, I don’t like being out of my comfort zone and not really knowing where I am. I wildly imagine CNN news headlines – Mother disappears while jogging – and, boy, do I get annoyed when my own imagination refers to me as a jogger. This year, though, I have plans to run and can stick to them as I am off on a mother’s dream vacation.
Oh yes, the trip begins with an emergency vehicle show, the highlight being a parade of police cars and fire trucks driven by retired (read heavy-set) officers. Ooooohhhhh. Now, if the participants were currently active, my enthusiasm would go unparalleled, but this group definitely has extra tires hanging around. There is no eye candy here.
The rest of the “holiday” will be packed with equally exciting boys’ stuff. Lucky for me, though, Daddy realizes that a running mom is a happy mom – and that’s all it is going to take to keep me happy. So, I’m registered for 2 races in one weekend.
Yes, two: a 5K on Saturday morning, followed by a 10K on Sunday. This way, I can get in two runs and tire myself out enough that I won’t worry about missing a long run. I can justify taking a day off running before and after. This seems simple enough; let me have my hour of running time and I’m happy.
In some bizarre way and for different reasons, everyone is excited about this little getaway. As I am gearing up, I realize how lucky I am to have the boys’ support. But a new sense of panic is starting to set in: what do I wear? Who knows? Maybe, on this dream holiday, I might manage to squeeze in a bit of shopping time too:)
I can run in the heat, and I can run in the cold. But I absolutely despise running in the humidity. Other than leaving my normally straight hair with an awesome wavy curl, there is nothing good that comes with humid weather. My youngest drinks a ton of water and wakes up through the night, wet or needing help in the bathroom; the fans are constantly on which ironically makes it difficult for me to sleep and adds to our energy bill. Mostly, though, I hate the humidity because it interferes with my running.
I should probably mention that I’m asthmatic. When the temperatures soar, news stations caution the young, the old and people with breathing difficulties to stay indoors. I honestly don’t see myself fitting in any of these categories so I usually ignore the warnings. Then, half-way through a run on a hot, humid day, when I’m literally sucking air, I tell myself that it probably would have been a good idea to listen.
Typical of me, despite yesterday’s high humidity (bringing temperatures into the high 30’s), I stubbornly headed out to run 10 miles. “Mileage is important, not time,” I told myself. Yet, I started my timer as soon as I hit the roads – to make sure that I wasn’t going too fast. Three miles into the run, I was doing exactly what I wanted – running an 8 minute mile – but I quickly realized that going back mile 6 was going to be brutal. So, I bailed at 31 minutes and headed home.
Now I’m willing to postpone a long run by a day or even skip it if need be – but not this week. I must get my 10 miler in because I’m racing next weekend – which means no long run. Two weeks of skipping long runs is simply not on this runner’s agenda, not with a half-marathon coming up at the end of September.
My neighbour tried to help out today by offering to watch my youngest so that I could run but the humidity hadn’t changed. At 5:00 in the morning, the humidex meant it felt like 32, and it was only hotter and more humid after that. So, today was another day without running. GRRRR.
Tomorrow? It’s suppose to rain – thunderstorms, actually – throughout the day and that isn’t leaving me too optimistic. But who knows what Mother Nature really has planned? I’m not taking any chances and am going to do what I have to: the 4:00 a.m. run, something I haven’t done in years, not since life before kids. I am determined to get that 10 miles in before Tuesday and this will hopefully let it happen. The alarm is set and I’ve got my shorts with the reflective piping ready.
And, if it really does rain, then I’ll just roll over and breathe deeply – hopefully with a 3 year old in my arms.
“Smile for the camera at the finish.”
I can’t count the number of times that have I seen that phrase on a race application or heard those words at a race? Nor can I tell you the number of my finish line photos that I don’t even recognize as being mine. I clearly recall looking at one marathon photo wondering who the old lady was in the picture; I was 27 at the time. Now, thanks to modern technology, race pics can quickly be deleted with one click of the mouse – not forgotten, but moved to the recycle bin (and, as if I ever want to see them again in any size or format).
This year, my race pictures have been, well, words really can’t describe them. At the end of one 10K, my greying hair suddenly turned white. If any of my students saw the facial expression at the end of a recent 5K run, they would never return to class, fearing that I would become the real teacher from the black lagoon. No matter how I run, my finish line pictures are, without a doubt, horrible.
This spring, at a 5K race in Toronto, my 8 year old decided to try out his new camera and took pictures of me running. The 2 side views and 1 back are awesome. You can barely see my face (if at all), my stride is strong and my muscles are ripped. Why hasn’t any “real” photographer tried these angles? Number 1’s pics were so good that he is now my official race photographer and, of course, he is under direct orders to only take pictures from the side or the back.
So the question I have is how do the elites do it? How do they muster up that energy to smile at the finish line. Here, for example, is Lisa Bentley, Canada’s Iron woman champ. She swam, biked and ran and she still has the strength to raise her arms over her head to smile at the crowd and the cameras. Me? I can barely find the strength to crack a smile. And they say it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown.
Well, this month with 3 races lined up, I’m set to go – and this has nothing to do with my training. On Thursday, I had my teeth cleaned at the dentist; today, I had colour added to my hair; I’ve already decided what to wear at each event. All I need now is for someone to tell me to smile.
Some days I wake up and the first thing I think about (well, after wondering how early my little monkey is wanting to play lego with me) is when and where I am going to run. In my house, this is a major decision as I have so many things to consider:
(1) Nutrition: When did I last eat? Have I had enough to eat to run? Did I eat long ago enough that it’s not going to come back to haunt me?
(2) Time of day: Has the 3 year old had his nap yet? If not, is he likely to fall asleep and, if so, does this mean that he is going to be up with me at midnight? (This, by the way, negates all benefits of stress-relief during that run.)
(3) Nutrition – yes, again: When did the boys last eat? Does the oldest need a snack before he gets on his bike with me? If the youngest eats, will this induce sleep during the run? (hmm, I’m sensing a theme here.)
(4) Weather: Can the three of us cope with whatever Mother Nature might bring us?
Yesterday’s was an easy decision – at 5:00, after snack, before dinner and, if you-know-who falls asleep, he can sleep through until morning. But, out of nowhere, the winds changed direction and, by mid-afternoon, a major thunderstorm watch was in effect. How dare Mother Nature get in the way today?
In true running addict form, I constantly checked the radar from my homepage throughout the afternoon. I was not going to let my mother, Mother Nature or any other mother tell me what to do. The storm was north and east; we seemed to be escaping it – for now. And, then boldness set in. “Okay, boys, we’re going now and we’re going fast.”
The kids jumped. It was going to be an adventure. “Let’s beat the storm!” cried one. “We have to get home first,” cautioned the other. We were all keen but, as we walked down the driveway, the spitting began.
Nothing was going to stop me now. “If it rains, we get wet. If it pours, we get soaked – and we’ve done that before. If we hear thunder, we high-tail it home – and we’ve done that before too.”
We ran, and we ran fast. It continued to spit, the drops got bigger, and then they stopped. We still weren’t going to take any chances; we’d been caught in downpours more than once. So, even though we faced a long hill, followed by a gradual incline (you get the point, right?), we didn’t slow down. And, as our luck would have it, we were greeted at the top of the hill by a boom of thunder.
“Quick, 1K left, go straight home!” I yelled to my little cyclist.
“You’re old enough! Stay in eyesight! Go!”
And we weren’t far behind. We won this race. As soon as we literally got onto the driveway, the clouds exploded; we made it home.
Now that was satisfying.
As expensive as they can be, shoes are the only things in my entire closet that I’m willing to pay full price for. I blame my mother for this. As children, my brothers and I were religiously taken to the shoe store every 4 months to see if our feet had grown into the next size. I suppose I should really be thanking her as none of us have had or do have any problems with our toes, feet, knees or hips today – and with our combined ages being well over 100, that’s pretty impressive. However, this means I am now programmed to return to my favorite running shoe store whenever I sense that my shoes are nearing the end of their running days (only, of course, to become my favorite playshoes).
Last month, I went to replace (sniff, sniff) my ASICS, the pair that had seen me finish my half-marathon training, run during the winter for the first time in years, and helped me win many age group awards. With a resume like that, how could I not want this year’s version of the same model? So, I tried the same size, the size below (just to make sure) and bought a 9 1/2, the same size I had worn for years.
Within the first week, I had a black toenail. By the end of the second week, the same toenail on the opposite foot had also blackened. This made no sense to me at all and, when I checked the size of these and their predecessors, they showed that they were the same. “Darn,” I thought. “I did need the 9’s.” So back to the shoe store I went.
After retrying the 9’s and commenting that they were definitely too tight, and lacing up umpteen other makes and models of shoes, I realized that the unforeseenable had happened to my feet: they shrunk. I didn’t think this was possible, especially when all of my female running mamma friends complain that their feet got bigger after childbirth. Not me, though; mine had to be different from the others – an abnormality. And worse than that is they had shrunk 1/4 of a size. Now I had the crisis of figuring out what to wear on my feet for the rest of my running days. This was decidely worse that finding that perfect dress for a formal event.
After retrying many of the not-so-badly fitting shoes and likely trying the patience of the sales associate, I walked away with a pair of Mizuno’s. They are not the prettiest shoe but, for me, they were the most comfortable. And, today, a week and 35 kilometres later, my feet and toes are happy. If the shoe fits, wear it.
I watched the forecast, I watched the clouds, and I performed on of the greatest sacrifices a mother could do: I skipped my workout. Yes, yesterday was an official day of rest. I hung out with the boys. The only thing we had to do was go to the library; the threat of library fines and the fear that all those years of preaching the importance of being on time would be forgotten impelled me to get there.
During the afternoon downpour, the boys and I were safely under shelter at our local library. The only problem was so was the wagon, and I don’t mean car. The stubborn mom in me, the one who refuses to drive to the library because it is only a ten minute walk, arrived there yesterday afternoon with two boys and a wagon in tow (hoping the youngest would fall asleep on the way home). While the rain came down, the announcer reminded us that the library was closing in 15 minutes; how would we get home?
The oldest thought that we should just find a corner in the rec. centre and read our books until the rain passed. There was no adventure in that at all.
We then considered leaving the boys by the door of the rec. centre while I ran home to get the car. How fast can you really run, Mommy? Not fast enough.
“I can run home, Mom,” was his second suggestion. Great, I thought. So he gets home soaking wet and waits alone until we get home. He then added, “I can get 2 umbrellas and come back.”
And, double his chances of being grabbed, I thought. No.
Every trip to the library has its own story and this one was quickly evolving. I wasn’t really worried about getting home – we’d just be wet. But getting home with wet library books would be an issue. Can you tell your child they can’t take home books to read?
At 5:00 sharp, we were evicted. But, while there was no mercy from the librarians on this Friday afternoon, there was from above. The rain suddenly lightened so we decided to make our move. The youngest jumped into the wagon and tried to sleep but couldn’t as the clouds were spitting at him. We walked quickly – almost fast enough to qualify us as power-walkers – hoping to beat the rain before it plumetted again. Secretly, though, I hoped our tale would end with the skies opening and the boys running home in giggles.
I’m not sure what happened but the youngest suddenly didn’t want to sit and be pulled anymore; he wanted to walk with his brother. Before long, the two were running and their laughing started as they left me behind pulling our bag of library books in the wagon. They ran the rest of the way home, giggling every step because they beat me and the heavy rain.
Children laughing and running in the rain – one of life’s little treasures.
Today is the first day of summer – the first day of my summer. School is out, summer school is over and now I get to play. The only problem is somebody forgot to tell the weatherman.
This is the day I look forward to the most, the one when I can get up, stay in my jams until I feel like getting dressed, and hang out with the boys with no time committments to be anywhere at any time. This is the day that I almost have complete freedom to do what I feel like do (as much as can be expected with two young children). Today is the first day all year that I can go out and run whenever I want to and for as long as I want. And, even though that means tagging along with one on the bike while the other sits in the jogger, that is freedom.
But, it’s raining and raining and raining. Even the dog is refusing to go outside. The rain started last night, just after supper and it seems endless – except, of course, when the 3 year old finally decides it is naptime. There will be no trips to the park with the boys, no walk to the library and, sadly, no run; today will be an indoor day.
This isn’t exactly what I had planned for my first day of summer vacation. But, as a mom and a runner, I have learned to be flexible. Isn’t that what life is all about? Isn’t this what the human race is all about – doing what we can, when we can and striving to come out on top? Today, then, while as annoying as it is, is really just another test of my own inner strength. While I really, really want to run, I must simply accept that it is very likely not going to happen – at least not on my terms.
Today, then, is a day for rest or a day for cross-training. Or, maybe it’s a day for the babysitter:)