Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Who wants my shoes?

It's that day again.  The first day of school!  I don't know about your house, but it was a first day of school miracle here.  With two boys, one in 6th grade and one in 10th, the fact they woke up ON THEIR OWN, were not only downstairs and ready before they had to be (with everything they needed, even), but ate breakfast and got out the door on time, without nagging, left me both flabbergasted and tickled pink at the same time.  It made the hassle of shopping, organizing and trying to get them to participate in preparation quite rewarding at 6:30 this am.  If only it could last all the school year...

Speaking of pink, this day is never an easy one.   As I watched my youngest head off to the bus stop, so independent and SO excited to be in middle school, I couldn't help but wonder, as I always do on the first day of school, what it would've been like if his twin sister was racing him to the bus stop.  That's the way it was supposed to be, you know.  With her pretty new back to school dress and platinum blonde hair in a ponytail with a pink bow.  Giggling as they shared yet another exciting adventure together.  I was supposed to be back to school shopping for girly things.  The clothes, the shoes, the backpack, the school accessories, the dance or gymnastic outfits.  We were supposed to get our toes painted together and get her hair cut.  I was supposed to hug my three babies and send them off for another year to learn and grown.  She was supposed to come home with her brother, telling me all about her middle school adventures and what sports or clubs she wanted to try out for or join.  I was supposed to get a hug and kiss from my twins, my son and my daughter.

Instead, my boys got on the bus and I drove to the cemetery.  To visit my daughter's grave.  There is pink there, among the trinkets and tributes left for her.  There is no backpack.  No new shoes.  No pretty new clothes.  No pink hair pretties. Dreams of watching her dance and jump and play died nearly 9 years ago when she did.  I sat there.  I stared at her headstone.  I felt guilty I've neglected the flowers the past few weeks and they've died in the heat.  I saw the resilient roses on the rose bush and smiled.  There will be pink!  She always was persistent...

I felt a heaviness in my heart.  I asked, to no one in particular, why?  Why was I robbed of the joy of raising a daughter?  Why were my boys robbed of their sister?  Why was it MY little girl and not yours? Why do I have to wear these shoes?  They are ugly and tight and they hurt like hell.  I will never, ever be able to get them off.  When everyone is posting back to school photos and complaining about something or other, I am sitting at my daughter's grave site.  Alone.  Alone with my sadness.  My guilt.  The pain of what could have been but will never be.  I won't ever get another hug from her.  I'll never run my hands through her silky hair. We won't ever giggle over the power of pixie dust.  I just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, walking further away from the last time I held her.  Heard her voice.  Smelled her scent.  Snuggled her.

I sigh.  Tears spring to my eyes.  For some reason, I'm always surprised by how easy it is, if I let myself just stop for a moment, to feel the pain.  As years go by, you get good at keeping it under the surface so you can function and live life.  Yet it's always there.  Just like those shoes.  They seem to pinch a lot harder on these trigger days.  Perhaps it's because on these days, the pain of her loss swells, making the walk that much more painful.

I'd give anything to give away my shoes.  The truth is, none of you want them.  I don't blame you.  The trade is not a fair one.  It's not even one I'd wish upon my greatest enemy (if I had one).  It's my path to walk.  I accept it.  I have no choice.  That doesn't mean I don't feel the pinch of my too tight, ugly and permanent shoes.  It doesn't mean I don't want to give them away.

It just means I want you to remember, I'm not alone.  There are thousands of other parents who wear this style of shoe and who feel this pain.  They may not say anything about it, but they may be cranky.  They may not call you back.  They may cut you off in traffic.  They may yell or overreact.  It's because they are hurting. Please remember them.  Me.  Us.  We have many days like this every year.

So please, don't make fun of our shoes.  Walk with us in them.  Just for a moment.  You are lucky.  You can always take them off...

Friday, August 23, 2013

Running with the wolves


Did you see that full moon this week?  Absolutely stunning.  A blue moon in fact.  Not in color, but in astrological/meteorological terms.  It is the 4th full moon in a season, thus, termed a 'blue moon'.  That, my friends, ends my trivia update.

In other news, let's talk running with the wolves.  Here is an update in the Run, Kimmy, Run! thread.

Well, I did it.  I ran my first official 10K race AND I lived to tell about it!  I signed up at the urging of a friend and fellow aspiring Disney half marathoner.  We wanted to run a 10K to qualify for corral placement at the WDW half.  There are not many options that worked with our busy schedules, so we decided on a whim to sign up for this one.

Two problems.  First, it was a 6:30 pm race in August, on a Wednesday!  I don't run at night.  I am an early bird.  I run very early in the morning.  I have no idea how to prepare nutritionally for an evening 6 mile run.  I am tired by dinner time.  I had a crazy long day at work and had work to complete upon returning home. The last thing I wanted to do is run a 10K!

Second problem, the heat.  Although the temperatures have been blissfully cool for August most of the month, this week, it was hotter than usual.  It was 86 degrees and moderately humid at the 6:30 pm start time.  My body and the heat/humidity do not get along.  The saving grace was it was a beautiful out and back run along the Assabet River Rail Trail that was blissfully shaded.  Adorned in a running tank and skirt, sweaty band head band, sunglasses, water belt and running music, I was as ready as I'd ever be.

The end result?  It was fun!  The race was limited to 300 runners and was sold out.  It was called Running with the Wolves because it is on the eve of the full moon.  Some were in wolf costumes.  There was even a little Red Riding Hood.  There was a great DJ.  The race began with a beautifully sung National Anthem, followed by a group howl.  Then, we were off.  It was chip timed and the course was great.  The race was well organized and the volunteers were numerous, friendly and immensely helpful and supportive of all the runners.  The other runners were also quite possibly, the happiest group of runners I've seen at a race. Especially nice, the water stops had COLD water!  I admit, I drank some and wore some!  Hats off to the Highland City Striders for organizing such a fun race.

I ran with a friend.  We opted to follow Jeff Galloway's run-walk-run strategy with 90 sec run and 30 sec walk.  We skipped a few walk breaks on the down hills since it was downhill out and up hill on the return loop.  We slowed down the last 2 miles, but overall, given the heat, I think we did quite well.  We conversed most of the run.  It was nice to run with a 'buddy'.  Thanks, Mel!  She could have run the entire race, and probably a few minutes faster, but it was nice to run together. It was the only race I've ever run where my name was announced when I crossed the finish line (that tells you I finished behind the 'pack'), which was pretty cool.  I was also handed a pretty cool finishers medal, a cold bottle of water and a gingerbread cookie in the shape of a dog bone that was delicious!  Might be the best post race snack ever!  The technical T-shirt is pretty cool, too!

I ran my first official 10K in 1 hour, 9 minutes and 54 seconds.  It was about what I expected to run given the heat. It was an average pace of 11:17/mile.  That should translate into a sub 2:30 half marathon, and for this girl, who couldn't run 90 seconds ONCE when I began this journey a few years ago, that's damn impressive if I do say so myself!  ;-)  Go me!

When I returned home, I found this on my computer monitor.  My husband rocks!  He sent supportive text messages prior to the race.   He bought me a T-shirt that says, "13.1 Only half nuts".  He has been so wonderfully supportive of my running, it has helped spur me on when I wonder what the hell is wrong with me that I want to run this far and often!  He massaged my weary muscles when I got home.  He and my boys often run 5K's with me and I love that we do it as a family. They did not run this one because of the distance and because of conflicts with soccer.

Interestingly enough, from a spiritual perspective, wolves are about new journeys.  Discovering our strength and perseverance. Wolves teach us about balance, spirituality and health/healing.  As the fairy tale tells us, wolves often come to us in disguise, teaching us much about ourselves and the world around us.  Huh. Appropriate race for my first 10K, don't you think?  

Then there is the full moon.  Full of feminine energy.  She shines brightly, reflecting the sun's rays, illuminating the night.  Pure beauty and serenity.  Showing the way to honor our inner self.

It's a good thing that full moon is a calm yet energizing force of nature.  I have less than 5 months to be able to run that distance twice in a row!  I wonder if I can catch that mouse...

Friday, August 16, 2013

What is strength?

Every now and then, I must make an obligatory chocolate post.  After all, this is about love, light, laughter AND chocolate!

I saw this sign at the local Paper Store.

At first, I thought, "Yeah, I'm strong!"

Then, after thinking  about getting it, it occurred to me, why would I want to eat only once piece?!    That's just crazy!  Eat the entire chocolate bar!  Life is short!  Die happy!


Guess what I'm doing?


Run Kimmy, Run. An update.

For those of you interested in my conversion to a crazy middle-aged running mom, I thought I'd share a bit about what the last month or so of training has been like.

So, summer.  Yeah.  It's been hot.  And humid.  I lost some ground in late June when I vacationed in Florida. I just couldn't manage more than 3-4 miles 1-2x/week even running before the sun rose.  It was just too humid and hot for my physiology to adapt to.  Then there was the face I was on vacation!  We spent 4 days at WDW and walked 10-14 miles each day!  Staying hydrated was SO hard!  I returned home to the Northeast, with weather as hot, if not hotter for several weeks!  No rest for the weary.  Oy.

Jeff Galloway, my new mentor and running hero, because without him, I'd never have made it past 5K, advises to slow your pace when running in temperatures over 60 degrees.  I can count on 1 finger the number of mornings I've run when the temp was below 60 since June!  So, I've been basically listening to my body and using a much tighter ratio of running to walking and trying to get out the door as early in the morning as possible before it gets too hot and before the sun gets above the trees.

It has meant sacrificing sleeping late (past 6 am) when I otherwise could.  It has, on occasion, meant that I walked way more than I intended to, but still got the mileage in and therefore, maintained/built endurance.  It has meant sacrificing 'me' time that used to be productive in other ways.  That said, I'm really not convinced my pace will be any faster when the temperatures start to fall.  I guess time will tell.  Heck, I'm not sure the temperatures will fall given how warm this summer has been!  Not that I'm eager for snow, either!

I've been trying to stick to Jeff's Half-Marathon training program but I do admit I'm tweaking it a bit. I've got the time and I've got an average of 2 races per month between now and then.  Mostly 5K's and 2 10K's. I've been playing with run-walk-run ratios to see if it impacts my overall pace and how I feel afterwards.  I've also been experimenting with terrain.

On my 'short run' days, which are usually 3-4 miles (and 30-40 minutes) and mid-week, I run various loops to/from my home.  I live on top of a hill, so these are highly variable elevation runs.  I run up hill and I run down hill with bits of flat or mild rolling terrain in between.  How much is determined by which route I choose.  I vary it for the pure variety, so I don't get bored, and because I run on the road, and being a woman, I am a bit leery of being too complacent in my routine because there are crazy people out there! The overall elevation gain is over 1000'.  Much of it in one, very long, very annoying hill that falls at the end of my run.  Someday, I will own it...God willing.  And calves willing.  :-)

On my long run days, I drive to a place where I can run on a relatively flat stretch of road.  It's a somewhat busy road, but not so much at 5:30 or 6 am on a Sunday.  I'd never do it in the afternoon/evening.  It's an out and back loop with a few neighborhood diversions for some variation and to get extra mileage and last weekend it was a 7 mile loop.  I used a ratio of running 90 sec and walking 30 seconds.  My pace averaged 10-11:30/mile.  It took me about an hour 20. I still slow down every mile after 5K.  Especially when hilly.  I wonder if that will ever change...

In between days, I've been trying to cross train.  It's a half-hearted effort.  Burpees twice a week (up to 18, goal is 100, in sets of 10.  I've done it before...).  Some upper extremity free weight training.  Stretching/easy yoga.  And of course, ballroom dancing!

Today, a bit of a breakthrough and a PR!  A personal goal for me was to run a 30 min 5K.  When I ran my first, almost 4 years ago, it took me 42 minutes, and that was faster than I thought I'd be!  I've been stuck around 31:30 (my previous PR in May)-33 minutes for the past year, even in ideal conditions.  Today, I met my goal!  Yay me!  I did 'cheat' by skipping a few walking intervals to do it and it was a hard push for the last minute, but it was a good feeling.  It would be interesting to see if I did run the entire 5K, if my time would be better or worse.  On a flat course, I might be able to do that.  On my hilly run, I doubt it.

I also learned the value of sport snacks before and during a run.  Since I run first thing in the morning, I don't eat first.  I drink a chocolate coconut water and sometimes have a cup of tea (caffeine) and I run with a water belt, but have never hand an issue.  Until now.  I have noticed that after 3-4 miles, I start to feel sluggish.  So I tried sport beans.  OMG, the difference was amazing.  I realize that I need the calories, sugar and electrolytes for those longer runs.  I'm in the process of testing various products.  I like the sport beans.  I also tried snap beans and I really like those!  Gu and Clif blocks/products are next to try.

Oh, and stretching, massage and 'rolling' with the foam roller (torture) or the 'stick'.  It actually really helps, despite the self-inflicted pain that is necessary to get from tight and sore to happy and injury free.

Next week, my first 10K race!  It's going to be a qualifying run for a corral placement for the WDW Half Marathon in January.  I plan to interval it at my 90:30 ratio and hope to average about 10:30/mile and finish in 64 minutes or so.  It should be fun.  Weather looks to be quite warm that day.  Only 300 runners and it's a rail trail run.  My biggest concern is it is an evening race!  I don't know how to run in the evening!  Or on a rail trail, even if it's paved!  I'm a bit frazzled with how to prepare nutritionally.  I hope I'm not too tired.  It should be interesting.  I'll let you know how it goes!  It is actually a good experiment, because eventually, it will be too dark at 6 am for me to run and I'll have to shift my runs to the late afternoon as we move deeper into fall.

For inspiration, I just ordered myself a cooler weather running shirt.  It's from Running Princess.   It says,

"The race is my ball, my running shoes are my glass slippers, the finish line is my prince charming and the accomplishment is my happily ever after."

Hell, yeah!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Walking in the rain.

This morning I woke to the sound of a gentle rain falling.  My cat nuzzling my chin.  I smiled.  I placed a hand on my heart and another on my solar plexus and did a little self Reiki.  I pondered a walk in the rain, but motherly duty called.

Fast forward a few hours.  The kids are at camp. I am sitting quietly at my desk.  I feel energetically stuck. Down.  Blah.  A bit overwhelmed at the tasks that await on my to do list.

The rain continues to fall. It's a gray day, but there is something warm and comforting about the low cloud deck.  It's almost like a hug, like a bit of the Divine coming closer to the earthly plane.  There is a stillness and a sense of peace that comes with the rain.

Water is cleansing.  Not only in a practical sense, but in a spiritual sense as well.  Rain is water from the sky. A gift of Mother Nature.  It is nourishing as much as it is cleansing.   Rain quenches the thirst of the earth.  It facilitates growth.  In a way, it also soothes the soul.  Nourishing us by offering our own cleansing and opportunity for growth and renewal.

The rain is falling harder now.  As if to agree with me.  I feel called to go outside.  Strongly.

Please stand by...

I had a lovely, leisurely, barefoot walk in the rain!  It was meditative.  The feel of the wet earth beneath my feet was grounding.  I even jumped in a few puddles!  :-) The water falling on me gently was like kisses from the heavens.  Slowly washing away the negative energy and debris from my aura.  The sound of the rain so soothing.  Something about the rain and the gray skies make everything that is green seem somehow more vibrant.  Peaceful.

As I walked, I encountered the scenery I do everyday, but today I noticed it more. I literally stopped to smell the roses.  I paused and observed a mother turkey and her babies cross the road ahead of me.  I observed the cows in the pasture, near the stone wall, munching on a shrub.  Picture perfect.  He looked at me as if to ask why I was standing in the rain when I was wondering the same thing about him.

I heard birds singing and the guinea hens squawking.  Mostly, though, I heard chatter in my head.  I consciously focused instead on the sound of the rain, the feel of it on my skin.  I noticed I got colder, the wetter I got.  Oddly, it didn't bother me much.  My hair got wet and eventually, dripped into my face.  Instead of wiping the water from my eyes, I closed them and turned my face toward the sky.  I stood.  Arms outstretched, face to teh heavens. Bring it, Mother Nature!  She did!

I am back now.  Somewhat reluctantly, actually.  I pondered throwing a towel over me and lying in the lounge chair on the deck in the rain.  Apparently, I need a lot of cleansing!  Now I sit.  Hair curly and damp. A warm cat purring in my lap.  I feel more grounded, calmer, more at peace.  I feel as if I could sit with a cup of tea and just gaze out the window all day.

Maybe I will...