Category Archives: fitness

Fitness at Home: Work Out in Your Living Room

I care about fitness. I care about having a functional, strong, healthy body. Also, I need to move and be active and challenge myself. And running for hours or doing a hard workout or spending 60 or 75 minutes doing yoga is fun for me. I’m really connected to my body, and often I stay centered through fitness. And, yes, the endorphins sure help a lot!

When the Kids Are at Their Dad’s

On my days without the kids, I go to the gym before work or go for a run or do a boot camp-style workout with a friend. Or, okay, sometimes I wake up early and then just lie in bed reading The New York Times on my phone. That’s nice, too. If it’s a weekend, I’ll meet my trail group for a run in the woods or go to yoga. Or, you know, lie in bed reading on my phone.

Single-Parenting Workouts

When the kids are here, however, I obviously can’t go for a run, and by the time I drop them off at school and get downtown there’s no time to get to the gym. My boot camp friend could come over and work out with me in my yard at dawn, but sometimes one (or both) of the kids gets up  and climbs into bed with me at quarter past it’s-anyone’s-guess. And I fear that if I’m not in the apartment but instead out in the yard, the child would search everywhere for me but not think to look in the yard (because when you’re half-asleep and needing Mommy, why would you check the backyard, especially if it’s barely light out??).

I’m just now getting to the point where 1) my hip is recovered enough that I’m ready to return to regular workouts and 2) I’m finally ready to get up early and work out on the days the kids are here. I’m tired lately, people. And that’s OK. Lying in bed reading before the day starts is a luxury.

Wednesday

This week, there was one day I got up early, ready to rock, except there was nothing to rock. I couldn’t leave the apartment. And I’m terrible about working out on my own. I know what to do. I could easily do an hour or more of yoga or circuit training or a boot camp-style workout or whatever. But alone — unless it’s running (and even then I like company!) — I’m not terribly motivated.

There. I’ve said it. I’m a very unmotivated fitness freak. I’m an introverted extrovert athlete. I’m a hermit until it comes to working out, which I can do for hours on end as long as I’m with other people.

Whatever.

I realized it was early and I should make good use of the time before the kids got up. Full disclosure: Ben had climbed into bed with me at 4:30 a.m., waking me at exactly the point in my sleep cycle at which I cannot go back to sleep, and then his small body somehow took up most of my bed. I had somehow nearly dozed off again when he started laughing in his dreams. I love that sound. Max used to laugh in his sleep all the time (maybe he still does). To hear Ben laugh in his sleep was delightful, if not terribly restful. It was, by then, nearly 5 a.m., and I gave up.

Scones

Anyway, there was a scones recipe I’d been wanting to try (more on that later).

Scones in the oven, I still had an hour before the kids would get up I had to get the kids up for school. I was so antsy to move.

chocolate chip scones with whole wheat flour; sort of a fitness treat?

Not necessarily your typical fitness treat, but they’re really good whole wheat chocolate chip scones.

Fitness Online

I’d retained enough of what I’d seen C and the kids do with the TV that I knew there was some kind of yoga or fitness channel somewhere. Long story short (wow, I’m getting more and more like my father every year — love you, Dad!), I found it is possible — very possible — to get in a good workout in your living room even if you’re an unmotivated/socially-motivated fitness slug like me.

I found my workouts on the Gaia channel (don’t ask me, maybe it’s a ROKU thing? I don’t really know how to work our TV except to use that device).

First workout: Kate Kendall, Flow Barre: Spicy Buns, 19:27. Kate Kendall is a lovely person who does these yoga/barre workout videos. You usually need a mat and a chair, and she’s filmed in some lovely location (a garden in Thailand? I have no idea). She’s approachable, friendly, knows when it burns, and will get you to the burn point in this nearly 20-minute workout before you’ve quite realized you’re going there. Go, Kate. She has a few other videos on the Gaia channel; I’ve done one other before “Spicy Buns” which is, as its name implies, a hip/glute workout.

Second workout: Rebekah Sturkie, The FIRM: Get Chisel’d: Kick It Into Gear, 14:29. Rebekah Sturkie is all business as she took me through a cardio/kickboxing routine. Mostly I could keep up (I’m terrible with learning new steps). She kept it simple, named the steps, and warned in ample time if a new step was coming up. She was relatively easy to follow, and the sequence got progressively more active (side kicks, knee-up, punches, front kicks). It definitely got my heart rate up and a sweat going. I would love an hour of that workout, but the almost 15 minutes was all the time I had left before I had to jump into the shower and then wake the kids. It was a really good and efficient workout, considering it was only 15 minutes.

So there you go. There are plenty of online/TV resources if you’re stuck at home and want to work out. I know Rebekah Sturkie is on YouTube if you don’t have Gaia.

And dangit, now I have no excuses, right? These people are just so personable that working out alone doesn’t feel so…alone.

Three cheers for learning how to use the remotes!

[This is not any kind of promotional post. I’m just trying to share what I found one morning when I wanted to work out at home. I’m sure there’s lots more out there, and I’ll share it as I come across it. Enjoy!]

Without the Kids

We’re all still adjusting to the new schedule, but we’re coming along. Some things haven’t changed much: I still pick the kids up from school every day, for example. And we’re all together each weekend for T-ball and soccer, plus we all see each other on soccer practice nights during the week.

My first weekend without the kids, I kept busy. Very busy. I transformed my living room from an unlit space with merely a chair, a rug, and a TV to a warm, inviting, somewhat stylish place with a couch, a side table, lamps, and a plant (thanks, IKEA and the woman whose moving sale I happened across on my way home from a trail run!).

The weekdays are just busy, anyway, what with work and school pickup and trying to get done what I can and figuring out who has the cleats and which house has the favorite pajamas and do the kids have pants for tomorrow. Tonight felt like the first real night of being without the children.

I brought the boys to meet up with C at a sporting goods store to get baseball gloves for the boys (alas, C and I couldn’t find any for ourselves at a reasonable price). Then in the parking lot I handed over their backpacks, kissed them goodbye, and headed off. Without them. It was jolting and freeing but mostly, at the moment, jolting.

Stay busy. I went to the grocery store and then home. The night’s plan for a coconut curry veggie soup had to be postponed because I wanted to get to a meeting. My road running club is trying to find a new location for their annual ultra, and I want to participate.

But home alone, making dinner (well, reheating leftovers from when I grilled on Saturday night — and ask me if I have finally mastered the charcoal grill. Yes, yes, I have. I’m very proud of this after an adulthood of gas grilling), I felt a great aloneness. It wasn’t terrible. But I realized that so many people live alone all the time, not just part of the time. They eat all their meals alone. I know it can be satisfying sometimes, but that seemed a little lonely to me, to have to eat alone most of the time.

Me, I ended up pretty happy to eat dinner and read the paper and then brush my teeth and head out. Would I have been so sanguine if I didn’t have somewhere to go? I don’t know. I would have found something to do, I’m sure. But I’ve had constant chaos and noise and movement for the past almost eight years. For me, the quiet and the not-being-in-charge-of-everything is not terrible. It’s hard to talk about what all of this is really like without sounding disloyal or unmotherly or… let’s just say that as a Capricorn introvert, this new quiet in my home is interesting.

Yes, keeping busy is my M.O. for now, and that’s OK. There’s plenty of time for meditation later. It’s OK to stay busy as we get used to this.

I met the group to brainstorm possible race locations, discuss pros and cons, and figure out next steps. I met new people. I laughed. I was asked for my opinion. I came up with ideas. I felt useful and independent.

And then home again, home again. On my kid-free days I can leave home super-early to get to the gym before work, but tomorrow I might try to get to a 6 a.m. yoga class instead. I’m not sure that will quite be possible, as it’s more than a mile in the wrong direction.

I’m always lugging lots of stuff to work: gym stuff, my laptop, shower stuff and work clothes (for after the gym), breakfast and lunch (in reusable containers, of course, so I lug it all home again). That’s a lot of stuff to lug. I don’t mind, but I’m not sure I can add a yoga mat and bike helmet to it all.

So it’s off to the gym tomorrow, and I’ll probably meet my running club for the track workout tomorrow night, mostly because I can.

Being alone sometimes is OK.

 

Stonyfield OP Organic Protein Smoothies Fueling Me for Boston #Review

You may have heard I’m training for the Boston Marathon (seriously, I’ve gotten to the “completely annoying” phase of training, I think, and my taper only technically started yesterday!).

So there’s a whole lotta this going on:

Ran to work, took the train home.

Run 7 miles to work, take the train home.

And this:

grocery list: need magnesium

grocery list: need magnesium

And this ridiculousness:

What? I like shoes!

What? I like shoes!

 

And (best of all!) this:

 

YEAH FINALLY!!!!! (That's an official "runner's passport," which gets me my bib, shirt, bag check, and access to the Athlete's Village)

YEAH FINALLY!!!!! (That’s an official “runner’passport,” which gets me my bib, shirt, bag check, and access to the Athlete’s Village)

So when Stonyfield asked me to review their OP Organic Protein Smoothie, you can imagine that my answer was a resounding, “YES!” When I get home from a run, I often don’t feel like making myself a big pile of veggies and eggs, or even bothering to throw some stuff in the blender to make a smoothie. I want something quick, I want something tasty and high-protein, and I want to shower and move on….to stretch, play with my kids, do laundry (well, OK, let’s not bend the truth here).

Oh, hi, lovely stuff!

Oh, hi, lovely stuff!

The Stonyfield OP smoothies come in chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. I normally hate strawberry-flavored anything (including, sometimes, actual strawberries — it’s a long story for another blog post), but I like these. A lot. Anyway, I only tried the chocolate and strawberry, but I’d very happily try the vanilla, too. Thankfully, it seems to be increasingly available, meaning I can find it at the Stop & Shop down the road.

Besides being absolutely delicious, the 10-oz. strawberry OP Organic Protein Smoothies have 15 grams of protein and 15 grams of sugar (chocolate flavor has same protein, 19 grams of sugar). The sugar content led to a lively discussion on Facebook. So let’s bear in mind two things:

1) I hate a ton of added sugar.

2) I hate artifical sweeteners, including the “natural” ones like monkfruit and stevia.

3) Milk itself (and thus yogurt) has its own amount of naturally-occurring sugar, in the form of lactose. One 8-oz cup of milk has 11 grams of sugar. These smoothies not painfully sweet. And despite the fact that I cannot stand the taste of stevia, I actually didn’t notice it in these. My husband read the label and pointed it out to me. The smoothies contain some organic cane sugar (yay for real sugar!!!) and a little bit of stevia. The combination works for me. (I’d happily consume them without the stevia, too, because I think yogurt smoothies, like life, should be tangy and not so sweet.)

So I ran 17 miles and came home to gather this:

Cold Stonyfield OP smoothie, bag of ice for my ice bath, hard-working Garmin, and a mug of hot coffee.

Cold Stonyfield OP smoothie, bag of ice for my ice bath, hard-working Garmin, and a mug of hot coffee.

Ice baths suck in winter, by the way, in case that’s not totally obvious.

A week later — two days ago!! — I drove to Newton, got a ride out to Hopkinton, and ran the 21 miles back to my car with my running club, other running clubs, and a ton of charity runners. It was wet-snowing, and it was hilly, and it was fabulous. But at mile 16 or 17, I thought, “Oh, no!! I forgot to bring a smoothie with me!”

So when I got home, there was this:

Happy runner after 21+ miles, refueling.

Happy runner after 21+ miles, refueling. WHO’S EXCITED ABOUT THAT MARATHON IN 3 WEEKS???

And I also ate some pickles, and later enjoyed a beer or two while soaking in an Epsom bath (there’s that magnesium again!), and I am so ready for the big day on April 20. So incredibly ready.

Oh, and did you know Stonyfield is one of the big sponsors of the Boston Marathon? I’m not on the Stonyfield Marathon Team (that would be pretty awesome!), but I look forward to enjoying something Stonyfield after the run! (Yes, run; I’m not racing it, for a million reasons; I am running it.)

[Disclosure: I am a Stonyfield YoGetter, which means I’m an ambassador for Stonyfield. All products were provided to me free for review; all opinions are my own honest ones. All the excitement is mine, too!!]

Bring Yourself Out: Take Power

During workouts and runs, I’ve been talking to my main workout/running partner about life, because that’s what we do. We talk about stuff.

I’ve recently had a few job interviews, which feel hard after almost 7 years of freelancing. I feel strange. I feel unsure. I feel unworthy. I feel excited and utterly capable of doing the job, but I also feel…like maybe I don’t belong.

“You must check this out…about bringing yourself out in job interviews and other places,” she tells me in a typical predawn text (our predawn texts are usually a hopeful, “Want to work out at 6?”).  She continued with a link.

Tonight, while the kids have gone to bed but are still awake listening to “The Wizard of Oz” on CD, C and I fire up the TED talk on the TV (well, he does. I still don’t quite get how all our jerryrigged AV systems come together).

Ben comes out to find me. “What are you watching?” he asks. “It’s not fair that you get to watch something now.”

I hug him. “You got to listen to ‘The Wizard of Oz,'” I remind him. “Would you like me to snuggle with you?”

He nods. I pick him up and carry him back to his bedroom. “Besides,” I say, “we’re watching boring grown-up stuff about how keeping your back straight and your shoulders back can affect things like getting a job.”

He thinks for a moment. He’s still craning his neck, trying to see the TV, which is paused. “Watching archery would be better,” he says. “That would be more interesting.”

“It would,” I agree. I have no idea where this idea came from. “Archery would be much more interesting.”

And we snuggle, and then I cuddle a little with Max, and then I go back to see exactly how what I do when I cross a finish line (arms up, yay me, I rock) is what I should be doing in a job interview, basically (telling them I’m a WINNER!). And I learn how this kind of “power posture,” even if held for only two minutes, can actually change your testosterone and cortisol levels.

For real. Huh.

So you can see that working out with a friend is excellent for your health for many, many reasons.

‘Scuse me while I go sit back and put my arms up and just breathe in “powerful” for a little while. And feel grateful for my friends.

 

Running: Aiming for My Celebrity Marathon

I have been running. Regularly.

I’m afraid, I’ll admit. After a recent six-mile mistake—wherein I met my friend for a trail run on solstice, ran out of light, headed for the road, and had to run an extra three miles back to the car, totally overdoing it for my poor leg—I panicked, in fact. I saw a massage therapist recommended by an ultrarunner massage therapist (she lived too far for me to see). He spent a full hour on my calves, making them feel the best they’ve felt in months.

But it wasn’t enough.

I still feel a twinge when I run, right at the tibia, so I went back to my physical therapist. He kicked me out after the second session, insisting I’m fine.

Maybe.

I’m still supposed to increase by 5 minutes every few runs. I have no idea of my mileage, but I know I’m slow right now.

But I’m up to 45 glorious minutes on trails now (gnarly trails, icy trails, icy rocky singletrack that goes relentless up and down and up and down and watch that ice whoa!) and 33 minutes of road (because road, of course, involves no other motion, so the endless foot after foot after foot is just brilliant for re-triggering what is essentially a repetitive stress injury).

I’ll keep building up. I’m starting to run with other people again, being very clear that I’m limited to 20 minutes, 25 minutes, 30 minutes, and then I will ditch them in the woods and walk back to my car.

Yes, woods. Trail running feels so much better. It always has. There’s a reason I was a trail runner for 10 (almost 11) years with minimal injury and then joined a road-running club last year for a spectacular year of injury and failures. Road isn’t for me.

I’ll run trails as much as I can, and run road as I have to, and I am still looking forward to the Boston Marathon. I’ll run it, but my goal is “Copley Before Dark.” I won’t be fast. I’ll approach it like an ultrarunner: slowly, and I’ll walk all the hills.

Another aspect of my plan was to let go of all ego and pretend this is my “celebrity marathon,” thinking of celebrities who run marathons in five-and-a-half hours or longer (which, I know, at this point is a time I will be very lucky to finish in). But then I looked it up.

 

  • P. Diddy: 4:14
  • Christy Turlington: 4:20
  • Alannis Morissette: 4:28
  • Oprah Winfrey: 4:29 (for real)
  • Mike Huckabee: 4:37 (please let me beat him)
  • Al Gore: 4:54 
  • Valerie Bertinelli: 5:14
  • Katie Holmes: 5:29 (now we’re talkin’)
  • Pamela Anderson: 5:41
  • David Lee Roth (yes, really): 7:04
  • Al Roker: 7:09 (ok, maybe I’m with him)

 

 

Whatever. It doesn’t even matter. What matters is not reinjuring myself. I’m loving the magnesium baths, the foam roller, and all the circuit training I am doing (oh, hey, my core really rocks right now).

Though I have qualified for Boston twice, when I actually run the Boston Marathon I’m not going to beat P. Diddy or a supermodel. I might not even beat Katie Holmes’ time. What is awesome is that I don’t actually care. If I end up walking the whole thing, fine. If, a few weeks before race day, I realize I just can’t do it and will re-injure myself, fine. I can let go of Boston.

Then I can get back to trails and get back to where and why I run, running in a place that has always made me happy.

Let’s see where this goes. By next week, I’ll be up to 40 minutes. Someone please calculate out what kind of time I’ll be on April 20. I’m not going to.

I’m just going to keep on running, for now, and I love it.

 

Today Is My Birthday

Today is my birthday. I’m 43 years old.

In a former life (or alternate universe), I’d take a break from my amazing and fulfilling job and go to yoga, then out for a really good lunch (sushi, or that new ramen shop, or oooooh maybe to a Korean place), then dinner would involve lots of laughter, a platter of nachos (with a Bruins game on in the background, maybe), and a really good cake, all while reflecting on the upcoming fabulous year.

However, I am unemployed, the kids have a half-day of school (alas, no time for lunch out), and Max’s final piano lesson/recital is tonight, smack in the middle of the time we’d be having cake and such, meaning we have to postpone my birthday cake until tomorrow. And I’m fine with all of that, because I am already having an awesome day.

I woke up too early, a little hungry, with my warm snuggly teddy bear—I mean, my son Ben—by my side. He likes to climb into bed with me in the middle of the night, because he gets cold (and, um, in the summer, too, because he gets….warm?). I was going to get up soon, anyway, to work out in the frozen field next to my house, so I decided, after an hour of lying awake in bed listening to Ben and my husband breathe, that I should just get up.

The workout is from some fitness website I came across while looking for a “figure skating workout.” I recently took up skating again (if hitting the rink a few times and then spending an afternoon on a nearby frozen pond counts as “took up skating again”), and I was actually looking for (don’t laugh) YouTube videos to teach me how to do some to of the spins and jumps I could do as a kid.

Instead, I found this excellent full-body workout, which naturally I printed out, laminated, and brought to the field at dawn the other day, where I met my friend for our morning routine. This workout is a good one: I know, because by last night I hurt a lot (yeah, that is how I measure a good workout). My upper body and core really took a beating, which is great, so this morning we’re meeting at 6 a.m. to do it again (but not the single-leg rotating hops, because I am not an idiot. I’m not going to risk blowing a meniscus doing single-leg rotating hops in an uneven frozen field, for chrissake).

Also as part of today’s plan I’m going to make kimchee, because I like kimchee and haven’t made any in awhile.

Since I am still ragingly unemployed, I’ll probably also finish my holiday cards (what? It’s never too late to get mail from me, right?).

The kids have a half day today (thanks, school!), so I’m picking them up midday and taking them (and hopefully some of their friends) to the town pond for an afternoon of skating. I’ll feed the kids an early dinner, take them to the recital (where C will meet us), and then C and I will eat a late dinner while watching Louis C.K., and we’ll have birthday cake tomorrow instead.

I might take the boys out for ice cream this afternoon, though, after skating.

So that’s what’s up for my 43rd birthday, and I am most looking forward to this morning’s workout, an afternoon on the pond, and Max’s recital (in part, I confess, because it means the end of this session of piano lessons, and I believe we all need a little break from it). And tomorrow, kimchee and cake!

What do birthday celebrations look like for you these days? 

 

The Most Ridiculous Week

I’m on the living room floor, crutches next to me, water bottle just out of reach. The front door is flapping open, the sick four-year-old is on the futon with the iPad, and I have no idea how I will feed us lunch.

Our refrigerator died on Monday. The parts were supposed to be in today but the repair guy can’t come until tomorrow, Friday. I had to throw out so much food. We rented a mini-fridge that freezes everything solid, and I transferred the piles of vegetables from our CSA out of our overflowing produce drawers and into two coolers.

IMG_3074.JPG

No, seriously, this is my kitchen right now. With a rented mini-fridge and a towel on the floor for any last drippings from the defrosting failed freezer.

Needless to say, packing lunches this week has been tricky at best. I found bagels in the freezer and used the last of our cream cheese on them for the first day. I bought sliced turkey, but it froze solid in the mini-fridge (Plan B: Shredded cheese and baby carrots, failed because the cheese had gone bad when the big fridge died, and the baby carrots had frozen solid in the mini-fridge; Plan C: Hummus, also too late to save it; Plan D: Granola bar and apple, and good luck, kid). [And no, the kids can’t really buy lunch at school; it’s brought in by some private catering company and you have to pre-order and it’s expensive and just didn’t seem worth it. And nut butters aren’t allowed at school, and the kids hate sunbutter.]

Making dinner wasn’t too hard except there’s not much room for leftovers in the mini-fridge, and the veggie coolers are out of ice.

What a fantastic opportunity to really deep-clean the fridge!

What a fantastic opportunity to really deep-clean the fridge!

Then yesterday I finally made it to the orthopedist (both kids in tow, and yes, I shamelessly handed them the iPad and my phone for our full hour in the waiting room—-overbook much, doc?). Dr. Orthopedist promptly ordered an MRI and glanced at the kids. “Do you have any more of them at home?” he asked me.

“No,” I replied, “just these two.”

“Good, because you’re going to have to be on crutches for the next six weeks. Maybe just four weeks, if it’s a stress reaction instead of a fracture, but I think it’s a stress fracture. I mean, obviously you’ll need to make an exception to shower, but otherwise, no weight on the leg.”

He stepped out of the room to write the script for crutches, and I started to cry. See, my leg has been hurting a lot, more and more, and even walking a mile really bothers me. Spinning class hurts. It’s been feeling bad, but since my soft-tissue person thought it was just some tightness, I didn’t think I should worry about it or think about it much. Yeah, it hurt all the time, more and more, but since no one said anything was wrong with it, I was learning to live with it.

It’s nice to finally have verification—even before the MRI has been done—that something is actually probably quite wrong. I can finally admit that my leg hurts! It hurts.

Then I emailed my husband and said that what with my leg and the refrigerator situation, we’d be having take-out tonight. There was no way I was going to try to deal with making dinner. He offered to come home by dinner time and pick up the food on his way. YES PLEASE.

Then—-because oh yes, it gets better—Ben was sick all night, tossing with a fever and wheezing. I tried to imagine how I’d manage school drop-off, trying to crutch up the steps carrying a sick 40-lb child, and I made the quick decision that it would not be possible. No, it would be possible, but for the love of god, I was going to take the day off. I asked C to drop off Max this morning.

And then—did you think we were done yet?—I got up after five fitful hours of “sleep” next to Sicky Coughy Wheezy Boy and remembered that I’d used the last of the coffee yesterday. As in, we’re out of coffee.

Poor sick little Lumpkins. He requested baby carrots, lemonade, and chocolate milk for breakfast. WTF, dear child.

Poor sick little Lumpkins. He requested baby carrots, lemonade, and chocolate milk for breakfast. WTF, dear child.

And then I made the oatmeal and tried to carry a bowl and yogurt and a spoon, while on crutches, to the dining room. We don’t have an eat-in kitchen, and the dining room doesn’t directly adjoin the kitchen. You have to go through the pantry to get from kitchen to dining table and back again.

This is Day 1. I have at least another six weeks of this. I ordered a rolling utility cart from Amazon to use to get food and dishes to and from the kitchen/dining room. There’s no other way to do it, unless I entrust the small children with plates full of hot food or hire a butler.

We’ll live on instant coffee until one of us gets to the store. We’re talking about getting me a handicapped placard for the car, for times when I have to go to the grocery store and won’t be able to hold the kids’ hands in the parking lot (thanks to crutches) and it would be safer for them if I could park as close to the door as possible. It feels like a weird reason to have a placard, though. Mostly I’ll be able to get around fine, but grocery shopping will be sort of more hellish than usual.

My kitchen is also more hellish than usual. I cannot summon what it will take to empty the dishwasher, reload it, and wash the other stuff.

My kitchen is also more hellish than usual. I cannot summon what it will take to empty the dishwasher, reload it, and wash the other stuff. Hello, TaskRabbit?

But today! Today Ben and I lay around all day, not doing much, and it was marvelous. And then my friend and I got into trouble for passing notes to each other (and cracking up uncontrollably, as a result) in our kids’ piano class. And then our friend/neighbor, to whom I gave most of our produce yesterday and also today’s CSA share for her to pick up, dropped off the best baba ganouj I have ever had, all smoky and silky, and a lovely salad, and I realized I haven’t really eaten fresh vegetables since Saturday, unless you count the aging celery stick I fished out of the melted ice in the cooler in the kitchen this afternoon. 

Enjoy the pictures of our squalid life right now. I am going to assemble my new cart now. Then maybe I can clear the dining room table, crutching along as I roll my little cart of dirty dishes to the kitchen, like some unfortunate lesser character from The Hunchback of Notre Dame or something.*

 

* I have no idea why I am in such a good mood through all of this. It’s just funny at this point.** I mean, to have everything kind of thrown down at once like this? It’s great. It really simplifies things, in a way. In a very messy and debilitating way.

** Also, maybe I’ll find a drive-through Starbucks tomorrow. I think the closest one is 12 miles away. Wonder if that is on my way anywhere.

 

 

 

 

10 Things I Can Do While I Can’t Run*

1. Blog more. You know, about what people do when they’re not getting up at 4:30 a.m. on weekdays to run.

2. Work out with the old people at the suburban gym. I got a 30-day membership to my favorite gym (thanks, Groupon!) and made the happy discovery that the suburban locations have midmorning classes because there’s a huge stay-at-home population in those towns to support them. I’m no longer stuck with just 6 a.m. spinning, 9 a.m. Burn, and noon spinning. No, now I have access to yoga at 9:30, pilates at 10:30, ballet or stretch at 11:30…it’s awesome. Even if I am the youngest person in the class.

3. Figure out ways to hang out with people that don’t involve running. Before now, the only time I saw my non-blogger friends (whom I only see at PR events, which is a whole different story) is to see them at dawn for a road or trail run, or on a weekend morning for a race. That’s it. Now I’m up that early with no one else to hang out with—I mean, to run with—and, uh, I’m realizing that now I have no social life. Except for PR/blogger events. Which are awesome, but my runner friends don’t go to those. So there are about a million people who I miss right now. Plus, running is such a comfortable space to hang out in. It’s totally different—-if we were to go get dinner or drinks or something—to sit around a table and expect the same kind of banter to flow. It just doesn’t. Also, priorities. We runners can easily meet at 5:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning in the pouring rain for a two-hour run, but it’s just so hard to find an evening to meet up for coffee. I get it. It’s true. It’s just harder.

4. Ice cream. I mean, why not? One local ice cream shop has some nice flavors on tap this month, plus I’ve been meaning to make my own pumpkin ice cream after having some a few weeks ago.

5. Writing. I wish I could gallantly announce I’ll be writing daily morning pages or keeping a journal or writing a letter a week or something, but I don’t yet know how this will shake out. Probably all of it.

6. Sweep under the dining room table. Really, it’s time. I don’t even know when the kids last used drinking straws. Why is one under there?

7. Spend a lot of time with my orthopedist and physical therapist. I hope they’re funny. Like, really funny.

8. Paint the hutch. I found a nice hutch/cabinet on the street and have been meaning to paint it ever since, but now I have totally no interest in it. But that means it is just one more brown thing in the dining room, which doesn’t need any more brown things.

9. Blog about food more. I talk about food a lot on Facebook. I’m in a food/cooking group on Facebook and just by talking about food come up with some amazing ideas and combinations. I post photos there. I post ideas there. Why aren’t I posting those here? I want to start a food blog but the name I came up with has already been taken by a porn site (no, really) so maybe I’ll just write more about food here. 

10. Play the piano. We just got a keyboard (thanks for the loaner, Leah!), and now I need sheet music so I can start playing again.

I don’t know why I am so calm about being crippled indefinitely and giving up my dreams of my first ultra and blahblahblah, but I am. And that’s fine. I don’t feel a big need to poke the wound and ask why it doesn’t hurt. It just doesn’t. Maybe it’s not even a wound. Whatever. I’m OK.

 

* Yeah so maybe I’m hoping this post will make me look like a jackass because by writing I jinx myself and will be able to run 10 miles no problem day after tomorrow. Yeah.

Race Recap: Lehigh Via Marathon (or, The Race that Made Me Cry. A Lot.)

[On Sunday, I ran the Lehigh Via Marathon in Pennsylvania in an attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon again, so I can run it in 2015. For my age, I needed a time of 3:45. My previous marathon best is 3:35 (BayState Marathon, 2011), but that was long ago. I was pretty sure I could do 3:45 on Sunday…until the race started.]

The first 18 miles were so easy….

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The next morning, Monday, I held my 4-year-old son, his school snack, and his water bottle as we waited for his classroom to open. I dropped his water bottle and watched as it rolled away. I knew I could probably crouch down to pick it up, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get up again.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

When the airhorn blew, signifying the start of the marathon, I burst into tears. Absolutely everything depended on this race, on qualifying for Boston. The rest of my life was feeling tattered, and if I hit my goal time for this race, then at least there’d be ONE thing I was good at. I wouldn’t be a total failure if I could just do this.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

“I don’t think it’s gonna happen for me today, Jen,” I told my friend and pacer…at mile 3. My bad calf was already a ball of pain, and there was something funny and bunched up under my left forefoot. “This isn’t going to happen, not today.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * 

At mile 18, I grabbed a water at the water stop, as I’d done at all the earlier water stops, except for some reason I started sobbing. I have no idea where that came from. I just started sobbing. And then I stopped, and I drank my water, and Jen teased me that I’d actually been laughing, but I hadn’t been, and on we went.

That was strange.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 My foot kept hurting, hurting worse, and I kept trying to think of the finish line because once I crossed it I could finally take off my damn shoe and stupid sock and make the pain stop. It felt like my sock was a little bunchy or something, but I didn’t want to take the time to adjust it along the way, and after mile 21, I knew that if I stopped to fix it, I would not get going again.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

She didn’t notice I’d given up. She didn’t notice I’d started walking. She was all talk, talk, talk about pace and about how much under my goal pace I was and how we could keep it at 8:40s now and still be OK as long as we didn’t slow down at all. I didn’t want to hear anymore, so I stopped running. She was getting further away from me and I didn’t care. I stumbled to the water stop and leaned over the table and started weeping. I couldn’t get water into my mouth. I got most of a gel in, but was sobbing too hard to drink much water. I couldn’t stop crying.

I think that was mile 23. I was done. But I didn’t know how to get to the finish line, and there was no ride for me, and I knew my dad was there waiting, and the damn course itself was probably the most direct way, and I didn’t know what else to do so I wiped my nose and started running again. I couldn’t think of any other way out of this.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I hated everything and everyone and my breath was gross and my lips were dry. I wrestled cinnamon breath strips from the pocket of my shorts. They were kind of stuck together, so I just got what I could and jammed them into my mouth. Sweet fresh-breath relief. Then the whole wad got stuck somewhere next to my tonsil and burned like hell for another two miles.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 Fuck it. Just fuck it. I don’t even want to qualify for Boston. Who cares? The registration fee is too high, anyway. I don’t care. I don’t need to qualify. That’s stupid. I don’t need that goal. I can volunteer at the marathon instead. I can help at a water stop. That would be awesome. That would be so much fun. I can give up now. I hurt. My leg hurts. My calf hurts. My foot is killing me. I don’t care about Boston.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 I hate her. I love her and am very very grateful to her, but I hate her. Why is she telling me what kind of pace I need to keep? “Julia, that last mile was 9:47,” Jen said, all business. “We can’t do that again. We just need to stay at this pace and you’ll come in 2 minutes under. We just need to stay at this pace.” I hate you. Stop talking. I can do another 9:47 mile if I want to. I can stop and die right here if I want to. Don’t tell me what to do. So if we have 2 minutes to spare, why can’t we slow down? Stop making me go.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 I went deep inside my head, kind of like where I go when I am in a great deal of intense pain, like just near the end of transition in childbirth, right before it’s time to push. Way inside my head, and I can hear people talking, but I don’t respond, or maybe I just grunt, but I don’t, I don’t respond at all. I don’t need to. I’m way inside my head and it’s the only place I can be. I’m way in here. Way in here. Way….in…..here.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 Once I got to mile 24, past that deep deep childbirth-transition horror of miles 19-24, I knew I had it in me and could do it. I could run for another 18 minutes, or 20, even. I could do it. I think Jen was talking to me but I was focused on getting to mile 25. Then I could breathe. Then I knew I would live.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 Mile 25. Sweet beautiful sign I love you so much and I love you Jen and stop talking to me keep talking to me keep moving, legs, I can do this I can do this I can do this WHOA SWEET JESUS is that cheering that I hear? Are we finally near the end?

And I could hear the announcer and the cheering getting louder, louder, blessedly louder, and I could see people and white tents….but I was confused, my watch said we still had too far to go….oh. We had to go up this ramp to the highway, down, across the bridge—but there are no runners on the bridge, is there a second bridge? How far down before we can cross and get to the finish line? Please? Oh, there are runners on the bridge. We cross on this bridge, just up this ramp…

and the traffic/race volunteer was saying, “Just to that cone, that’s the top of the uphill, you’ve got it, you’ve got it” and in my head I cursed his cheerfulness but I did need to know that was the last cone, thank god I was passing that cone (“that’s it! that’s the cone!”) and ’round the bend and Jen said, “I can see the finish line!” and I couldn’t, not yet, and I wasn’t going to pick it up until I could—OH THERE IT IS BEAUTIFUL BLUE AND WHITE HERE I COME TO END THIS PAIN—and I wanted to get there so badly, and a glance at my Garmin said 7:00 pace, I’m not dead yet, and I just went there, just went there, just went there, there was no sound, no one else in the entire world, possibly didn’t even exist, I was just moving as hard as I could, and there were three strips to cross, and I heard Jen’s voice at my shoulder saying, “Don’t stop until you cross all three” and I churned onward

and I was done, and I could stop, and I did stop. And there was my dad, smiling just past the barricade, and Jen said, “YOU DID IT!!” and my father untied my shoes because my foot was almost numb with pain.

And it was over and I’d qualified for Boston and that was awesome. 3:42:06.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Also apparently our other friends from Boston (another qualifier and her pacer) were screaming my name as I came down the finish, but I had absolutely no idea there was any sound at all from anywhere at that time. And Jen says there was a big screen overhead and she said to me, “Hey, we can see ourselves on the big screen!” and I think she is making it up because nothing at all—no crowd, no sound, nothing to see, not even her by by side—existed from that last bridge until the finish line.

Things I’d have done differently, in hindsight?

  • Get massage and bodywork, to deal with the seizing-calf problem, much earlier in training instead of two weeks before the marathon. (What was I thinking??)
  • Wear my lucky shorts instead of my favorite shorts, because it turns out the favorite shorts were totally not my favorite shorts at all by mile 17 and I don’t want to put them on for a good long time. Why didn’t I wear my lucky shorts?
  • Train better. You know. Train better. Not run races the day after long runs, things like that. 
  • Not wear Balega socks for a race ever again, because it turns out they have some extra kind of cushioning under the forefoot, and when I got home I examined them and found that the left sock had thicker stitching and sort of a lump there. !!!!! Well. Now we know for next time.  

My friend Jen is a saint and marvelous human being. She talked me through it, did some massive psychological work on me those last 6 miles, carried my crap including my sweaty, snotty tank top and my handheld water bottle (she read my mind, somewhere during that time I was deep in my head, and offered to carry it for me, like she somehow could exactly tell that I hated that thing more than anything else in the world right then). She got my lip balm out for me, told me the story of how she got engaged just to keep my mind occupied, talked me up a little uphill that came late in the race, reminded me to stop grabbing gels from the aid station, since I still had plenty of my own, and kept me laughing.

And kept me running. I might well still be sobbing there at mile 23 were it not for her.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I got a lot of amazing support for this race, much of it on Facebook from my trail-running community, road-running friends, old high school friends and acquaintances…everyone. Way back in training, when I had my make-or-break it 16-miler, so many people said they believed in me.

Thanks, everyone. It helped so much more than you know. And thanks to my family for believing in me and to my husband for getting up with the kids and getting them fed and dressed on my long-run days, while I was still out running.

And now let’s hope Boston registration doesn’t fill up before it’s my time to register!!!!! Because wouldn’t that be hilarious?

 

Mud and Logs: TARC Spring Classic Race Recap

Saturday, April 26 was the TARC Spring Classic, a morning of trail races ranging from 10km to 50km, with a half-marathon and marathon in between. I, as usual, signed up for the 50km (that’s 31 miles) but, as usual, realized that I wouldn’t be trained in time. *sigh* So I ratcheted down to the 10km and offered to volunteer after my race.

Volunteering is a big part of races, both road and trail, and though I’ve run many a race, road and trail, I’ve never volunteered before. It was time to give back.

The weather on Saturday was cold and rainy, as promised. It wasn’t yet raining when I left my house at 6 a.m. and drove around town, picking up various trail-running friends both old and new, on my way out to Weston. It didn’t rain as we hung out at the trailhead, organizing our gear and waiting for the pre-race meeting. It didn’t start to rain until about a mile into my race.

I’d never run any trails in Weston. They were beautiful. The course was a 10k loop, with each race distance running the appropriate number of loops (marathoners and half-marathoners had an extra little bit to run to make up the distance difference). It was mostly singletrack, mostly a soft pine floor, often quite narrow, with a few little hills. The course was very well marked (thank god, because at times the trail looked fairly untrodden). It also had its fair share of rocks and roots and—best of all—mud pits. Genuine actual mud pits, lower parts of the trail that were just really muddy after all the rain. Oh, and a small stream crossing or two.

There were some rocks and roots arranged through the water and mud if you wanted to keep your feet dry. I was only running one loop, so I didn’t worry much about that (wet socks= blisters).

And there was Purple Woman. When our race started, I was just behind a line of guys. I caught up with them and stuck with them…..meaning I was the first woman….

…until Purple Jacket Woman caught up with me. I caught a flash of dark purple over my shoulder. Crap. I’d better push it.

We came to our first real mud/water crossing. A slight hesitation, and then I went right through it. Yup, cold and wet. But I gained some space from her. I pushed hard. I heard heavy breathing behind me. Was that man-panting or woman-panting? Man, I thought, but I wasn’t certain until Yellow Jacket Man passed me. We mostly stayed together for a while.

The course had some sharp turns but was really well-marked, so I didn’t really have to think or look around much. Just run.

And then at mile 5, a flash of dark purple again. What?? Where had she come from? Why now? I wanted first place so badly! When the trail opened up just enough, I asked Yellow Jacket Man if I could pass. I passed him and cranked it up. She was still too close for comfort.

Oh, hey, is that a big water/mud mess ahead? We were now on the stem of the “lollypop” of the course, meaning that mud pit had been trampled, by now, by all 400 runners of the day (the other races had started all at the same time, just after our 10k started) , plus the three guys in front of us. Here I come, water. With the tiniest concern for footing, slipping, and twisted ankles, I plowed right through.

This is NOT me, but it's one of the muddy areas on the trail during the race. Photo Credit: Topham Photo

This is NOT me, but it’s one of the muddy areas on the trail during the race. Photo Credit: Topham Photo

It was enough. I blasted into the finish area, fourth overall finisher and first woman finisher for the 10k. First. I have never been first before. I have placed in my age group (as in, “second woman in the 40-49 age group) but never just first.

Josh and Bob (in charge of the race) brought me over to the tracking tent and told me to pick out a log.

TARCrainylog

Yes, a log. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? It’s even engraved: TARC Champ 2014. And that’s a Yeti footprint on it (hard to see).

I immediately changed into dry clothes (and if you think it’s tough to wrestle a sweaty sports bra off your body, try wrestling a sweaty, rain-wet one off. Nearly impossible) and headed to the aid station to help. First I helped in the tent-covered hot food area, where we heated soup and boiled potatoes and heated water on big camping stoves. Then I was sent out into the rain to the water station.

As runners came in, we offered them water or some kind of sports drink. After awhile, many were unable to open their own water bottles for refills, because their hands were too cold. So we helped them and watered them and sent them on their way.

A few blasted right through the aid station without stopping, including Sam Jurek, who won the ultra in a mere 3:35 (I know, right??).

I stayed as long as I could before it was time to leave for another engagement. I needed time to scrub off all the mud and the sweat. It was hard to pull away, though—the camaraderie at the TARC races is unbeatable, and it’s even better when it’s raining and you’re helping with the race, as it turns out.

I’m looking forward to volunteering next month at the TARC 100 while I ramp up my own mileage for the 50km at this year’s Fall Classic….because this is my year to run an ultra, finally. I’m doing it.