Monthly Archives: February 2012

Running Unplugged?

Running Unplugged. So many people have used this term to describe running without music or headphones. So I’m sure that whenever someone runs across this blog (which I’ll admit is not very often), their first thought is, “Hey, here’s some blog about a girl who doesn’t run with headphones. Now that’s original.”

Well, let me blow your mind.

It’s not true. I actually do run with headphones. At least as long as I can keep them in place. I listen to music. I listen to NPR news. (Really! I’m addicted to Iowa Public Radio.)

I even run with my (gasp!) iPhone.

Yeah.

But I swear I don’t text and run. Or email and run. Or Facebook and run. In fact, if it wasn’t for the fact that the phone gives me that little security blanket of knowledge that I could call someone in an emergency, I probably wouldn’t take it.

You see, for me, Running Unplugged is about getting away. Disconnecting myself from email, from Facebook, from Twitter. From work. From my kids. From the constant noise of the TV (I’m the only one in the house who prefers the big black box to be off.)

Running is my time to be alone with my thoughts. To just be me. To be off the grid, out of reach, if only for a while. Even with music or the radio, it’s like a meditation for me.

I’ve actually never raced a half marathon with headphones. I’ve had them with me, but always end up with them off, tucked into my sports bra. I like being with the other runners. I like having conversations with whoever is running next to me. And I love cheering on the runners around me and thanking the spectators. It keeps me going much more than a thumping bass beat ever would. And even on my training runs, the music is just the background. Sure, sometimes a mile will disappear while I’m listening to a song I really love, or a fascinating news story on Weekend Edition, but in the end, it doesn’t seem all that important.

What’s important to me is having that time alone to decompress. Without a child hanging on my legs, or the looming count of unread emails from work, I can just be me. And there aren’t a lot of times I can really do that.

(warning: electrical engineering reference)

Running allows me to reset my circuits so that I can be a better mom, better wife, and better person.

Sometimes you’ve got to unplug to reset.

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Engineering, sore ankles, and birthday cake

It was another super busy week. I think as a working mom, they all are. But this was unusually busy. However, I brought it upon myself.

This week was E-Week, or “National Engineers Week.” Probably sounds kind of dry…but it wasn’t, really! On Tuesday I traveled back to my alma mater (University of Iowa) to speak to their WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) group at a panel session about interview skills. Also, I planned two engineering outreach activities this week. The first was on Thursday for “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day,” where a group of female engineers worked with middle school girls to get a real, hands-on idea of what engineering is. (And for the record, engineering is NOT sitting at a computer or doing math problems! We have lots of fun as engineers…but I digress!). I also planned an event on Saturday at a local family museum to introduce elementary school and preschool kids to engineering concepts. We built gumdrop domes with gumdrops and toothpicks. It was a blast.

And then today was my middle child’s 5th birthday. A mom’s gotta make time for that, right? We had a little party with a few friends. My stomach still hurts from all that sugar. (I also think it’s because I realized after eating it that there was shortening in the frosting. Ewwww.)

But all these activities took time away from running. So I only got two runs in this week. 6 miles on Wednesday night (which was a HUGE accomplishment for me to run that far that late in the evening), and 11 miles today. And through both of the runs, my left ankle HURT. Oddly enough it doesn’t hurt unless I am running.

Back in July, I rolled my ankle carrying the baby in a backpack. Extra weight on my back plus sandals = a big swollen foot for a week. Once it healed up, it hadn’t bothered me until now. But, during these last two runs, the ankle has ached. I’ve been questioning whether the shoes I have are substantial enough for marathon training, and I’m thinking perhaps I need to start looking for something with a bit more bulk. I love my New Balance shoes, but if I hurt after 11 miles, what will I feel like at mile 25 of the marathon?

So I’m considering going shoe shopping. But I’m a little nervous about this, because this means that yet again I haven’t found the perfect shoe. I thought the NB were going to do it. They feel awesome on, and my pace has picked up over 30 seconds/mile since I started wearing them. But perhaps they will have to be my “short run” shoes. I have really loved the lower heel-toe drop of the NB (heel-toe drop is the difference between the height of the heel and the toe – on the NB it’s 4mm, on many traditional running shoes it can be more like 12-13mm), so that will definitely be a requirement for any new shoes. I wore my old Asics running shoes around on Saturday at the engineering event, and they just felt weird. Bulky and weird.

In the end, I have to be willing to test out a few things. And honestly, now is the best time, because I still have time to recover if things don’t quite go right. So hopefully next weekend I will have a shoe update. And I am optimistic it will be a good one.

There’s always the chance my ankle will just stop hurting. Right? A girl can dream…


lost luggage and Louisville

cue chirping crickets…

chirp, chirp, chirp…

Hey, I’m back! Guessing you didn’t even notice I was gone. I’ll be honest, neither did I. This week has been a whirlwind.

I traveled for work this past week. Upon arrival in Louisville, about 10 of the passengers on the plane (probably more than 10% of the passengers) were luggage-less. I think the baggage handlers in Minneapolis forgot to load one of the carts onto the plane. This would have really bothered some people. In fact, the lady in front of me seemed to be livid, based solely on the number of swear words I heard. But for me, it wasn’t really that bad. I mean, yes, it’s an inconvenience. Sure, I would have rather had my luggage. But in the grand scheme of things, not having luggage seems like such a minor problem to have. I had my ID, my wallet, and my laptop. Plus my trusty iPhone and Kindle (although the chargers were in my luggage). There are a lot of worse things that could have happened.

I actually tweeted about this experience while I was in the neverending “lost luggage” line, and was surprised to find out that Delta Airlines does monitor their Twitter feed when they instantly replied with a nice note. Customer service isn’t totally lost in this world.

The baggage claim attendants (what an awful job they must have!) gave each of us a nice little bag of the cheapest toiletries money can buy (but hey! there was deodorant in there…). I was surprised to find when I opened it that there was even a t-shirt inside. It was an XL, so it fit me like a dress, but it was a pretty nice feeling to have something clean to sleep in.

The only thing that nobody could seem to find for me was contact solution. Finally the hotel staff dug up a vial of eye wash/saline. Better than nothing, I figured. And as an engineer, I was able to improvise and create a contact case out of two of the coffee creamer vials. Yes, I washed them out.

So I spent the first night at the hotel in an XL Delta SkyMiles t-shirt, with my contacts swimming in coffee creamer cups, and my gums sore from the beating the travel toothbrush gave them. But, like I said before, I didn’t feel I had anything to complain about. I was in a hotel room with a nice bed, fluffy pillows, and a hot shower. Lots of people make do with a lot less.

I wasn’t feeling too bad at all until I realized my plans to get up early and run first thing in the morning were not going to work out too well. Hitting the treadmill in the two clothing options I had (jeans and a shirt or a XL t-shirt) was not sounding good. Although I suppose I could have tried out barefoot running again… So plans for an early morning run were squelched, and I got to sleep in for an extra hour. BONUS! And then, I got to wear jeans to my meetings while everyone else was in business wear. DOUBLE BONUS!

Although the luggage didn’t arrive at the promised time of “around noon,” my suitcase was sitting in my room when we got done with meetings around 3:00 pm. At 3:15, I kid you not, I was on the treadmill. I don’t know where this motivation came from, but I’m glad I tapped into it. I changed into running clothes so fast that when I returned to my room after my run it looked like a tornado had hit my suitcase…

During my stay, I got a few runs in the hotel fitness center. For the record, those treadmills were tough! I’m blaming the heat in the room…and perhaps the fact that I was stuck watching awful daytime TV. One day I watched Dr. Phil, the second it was Teen Moms 2 on MTV2…don’t judge.

Apparently this was a recovery week (or something) because the plan only called for a 6 mile long run yesterday. I thought it seemed low until I started running and my legs felt like lead. I’ll tell you, by the turnaround at 3 miles I was GLAD I only had to do 6. Next weekend is 11…we’ll see how that feels.

Happy running, friends.


I ran for Sherry.

Don’t know who Sherry is?

Read this and then come back.

Back?

Good.

Now you know who Sherry is.

When I first heard about Sherry’s disappearance, it rattled me. As a mother, and a runner, and someone who does most of my runs alone in the country, it made me think twice about my running routine.

Am I predictable? Well, yes, kind of. I run on the same path almost every weekend.
Am I someone who would be seen as an easy target? Well, depends on who you ask. I’m not exactly the strong, muscular type.

But I think we’ve come to realize that Sherry’s disappearance was just what it is. An awful, horrible, there-are-no-words-to-describe-the-evil event. And, in all honesty, an isolated one. Most of us aren’t going to be threatened in our running routines – but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be careful. I’m always aware of the people and cars around me – thinking of what I will do if that guy on the trail ahead of me isn’t just walking his dog for fun.

This morning, when I got up, the windchill was -6. It was cold. And windy – the wind was gusting up to 17-20 mph. I did NOT really want to go out and run 9 miles.

But I headed out anyway. I will be the first to admit those first miles were hard. I was cold, even with extra layers. Those extra layers were making me uncomfortable because my jacket felt tight and my sleeves felt twisted. My legs felt kind of like cinder blocks. I was plodding along feeling pretty miserable for myself, and I wasn’t even halfway finished.

Then a red tail hawk flew over my head. Not once, not twice, but many times. The hawk circled overhead, soaring on those 20 mph wind gusts. I saw it at 3.5 miles, and then again at 4 miles. I thought of Brian, and then I remembered Sherry.

What Sherry wouldn’t give to have been out in my place plodding along in the subzero windchill.

How her family would probably give anything, even the ability to walk, to have her back with them.

How lucky I am that I am able to go for a 9 mile run in subzero freezing temperatures FOR FUN.

I realized just how blessed I am, just how wonderful life is, and I spent the next 5 miles thinking of Sherry, being thankful for my life, and hoping that in some way this outpouring of support all over the world is bringing her family just a little bit of peace.

The last half of the run was a lot easier than the first half.


Week in Review – Week 0, January 31

I just realized I forgot to write this!

Last week was a good week. My first-ever 5 mile evening run (for real), and I actually did each of the runs on my plan (hooray me!).

Sunday – rest
Monday – 3.1 miles on treadmill 8:36 pace)
Tuesday – rest
Wednesday – 5 miles on indoor track (8:42 pace)
Thursday – rest
Friday – 3 miles on treadmill (9:15 pace)
Saturday – 8 miles outside (yeah!) (9:01 pace)

Total – 19 miles

I’ve been feeling my calves the last few runs, I’m not sure if it’s from ramping up miles (and running a bit more often) or something else. It’s not too painful, just a “hey, we’re still here, don’t forget us!” type of ache.


learning to fly

Almost a year ago, I was out for a run when I had one of those experiences I will remember forever.

I ran with a bald eagle.

And, since that day, it hasn’t happened again. Not that I would expect it to, because bald eagles in this area don’t stay year-round.

Last week while driving past my usual running spot, I thought I might have seen the eagle again. Today, I saw it for sure.

So this time, I took pictures. (Excuse the photo quality, I don’t run with a DSLR…)

Eagles hold a really special place in my heart. My best friend, Brian, lost his battle with leukemia when I was in college. Brian was a runner. Brian was also the smartest person I have ever met. We were also a lot alike, more than I realized at the time. He loved Star Wars, he loved science fiction. He loved Pink Floyd. He longed to fly. During his cancer treatments, Brian said to me once, that if he beat cancer, he was going to change majors from mechanical engineering to aerospace engineering. “Why not?” he said. “I might as well do what I love.”

One of the songs that he used as the signature on his emails to me our freshman year of college was from the Pink Floyd song, “Learning to Fly” – “A dream unfrightened by the morning light, could blow this soul right through the roof of the night.”

I’ve always imagined that his soul is now soaring like an eagle, free of gravity and free of pain. In fact, that’s exactly what is on his headstone: an eagle. The first time I visited his grave after the funeral, a robin kept hanging around, hopping much closer to me than birds usually come. I had a feeling that somehow, that bird was linked to him. Often I find myself looking at a particularly precocious robin and actually talking to it (I am the first to admit it seems a bit crazy, but heck, we’ve all got our quirks).

So when the eagle soars 10 feet over my head, lands in a tree branch overhanging the path, and looks down at me, I can’t help but think somehow, this means more. Somehow, somewhere, my friend is okay. And he’s checking up on me. And that makes me feel really good.


nightmare marathon

I’m sitting here at the computer, 9:00 on a Saturday morning, and I’m still in my PJ’s sipping coffee.

Not running.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to be out there, but just haven’t gotten up the motivation yet. I did get up from the computer once, to start the process, and picked up the Garmin to realize the battery was almost dead. So, it’s nestled in it’s charger on the kitchen counter, and I have a reprieve, for now.

We’ve had a warm winter so far this year, either we’ve been lucky or we’ve been unlucky, depending on who you talk to. My coworker hates this weather and wants a blizzard. I can’t complain about 40-50 degrees, but I wouldn’t mind a nice snowstorm, either. There’s something about a snowstorm that makes me really appreciate a warm house, soft slippers, and hot coffee. Plus, it forces us to slow down and really enjoy time with the family. (periodically interrupted by bouts of negotiation, arbitration, and mediation between three very active boys).

So as I sit and wait for the Garmin to charge, I am enjoying a few moments of peace (not quiet, no, not that. I’m a mom of three, remember?)

I had a nightmare of sorts last night. Not a “wake up in a cold sweat, screaming” type nightmare, but a nightmare nonetheless.

I dreamed I was with a group like Team in Training (I did TnT in 2009), getting ready to toe the line at a Disney-like marathon. In my dream, there was a staggered start, so I wasn’t concerned about being at the starting line right when the race started, and neither were most of my teammates. Then, all of a sudden, two teammates came over, despondent. “We got kicked out,” they said. “They won’t let you stay on the course if you can’t maintain a 10 min/mile pace.”

I rushed to get to the starting line and realized that there was nobody there. Nobody. The race had started 45 minutes ago, and I was running alone. I took off and tried to follow the course.

As I ran, the course went through (I kid you not) restaurants and exhibits at the theme park. I was elbowing my way through people eating at a bar, looking for small 8.5×11 laminated signs with arrows to tell me where to turn. I was running down flights of narrow stairs, in and out of buildings, and in back alleys. I ran into three other women running the race, all of us in our purple team shirts, and all of us equally as lost. We were trying to stay on course and to stay ahead of the “cutoff” time so we could finish.

I was four or five miles in, thinking about quitting the race, and feeling very disappointed, when I woke up. At first I was still locked into the emotions of the “non-race,” even though I knew immediately that it was a dream. I have the most trippy, psychedelic, un-realistic dreams, so I never think they are real. Even when I’m dreaming I usually know they are not real.

So, that was quite an interesting way to start the day.

Now, I’m off to check and see if the Garmin is charged enough for a run…enjoy whatever adventures await you this weekend!


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