Thursday, November 28, 2013

Race Report : Sugar Land Turkey Trot

Today the entire family ran/walked the Sugar Land Turkey Trot.  I chose it from the three Houston area races because it is the smallest and therefore the easiest to handle with a big family of young kids. I started having some misgivings the night before when the forecast was 31 degrees at 7 a.m., but I found every pair of gloves and hat I could and managed to cobble together a warm outfit for each of the kids.  #4 is the luckiest, since he's still not walking and got to ride in the toasty warm Chariot running stroller.  When the clear vinyl rain cover is closed it stays surprisingly warm.  We've previously taken babies up to 10,000 feet snowshoeing in Colorado with the ski base attached to the stroller and it stayed 60 degrees inside -- I hung a tiny thermometer inside to be sure.  With clothes settled, I made a batch of cider-cinnamon muffins to get everyone fed in a festive way and out the door on time.

Race morning was incredibly chilly, but we made it out the door just 10 minutes behind my ideal schedule.  The sunrise this morning was gorgeous!  The race start is at Finish Line Sports in Sugar Creek Center, so there's plenty of parking.  We had a three minute walk to the start line and there were plenty of police keeping the area completely clear of traffic.  Thanks, officers!

I did this race as #4's engine, since the mile race is for kids 1-12 and he still doesn't walk.  The kids' race course was an out and back with a water station at the turnaround.  They had the kids line up by pace and strollers in the back.  #1 and #2 took off in the middle of the pack and #3 walked with me and #4.  For the first third of a mile, #3 was not feeling it.  There was sitting down, there were miniature steps, there was cajoling.  Finally she informed me she "found her energy" and set off with her signature sprint/walk combination.  I love out and backs for kids' races because we get to see the older boys as they come by.  #1 came by first, looking strong but still feeling the effects of a lingering cold.  #2 was spotted a few minutes later, holding a steady pace while chatting with an older boy.  It turns out they were talking about "banishing Dora the Explorer."  When we saw the turnaround, #3 really got excited and sprinted to get her cup of water.  She also didn't like that people cheered for her at the end and tried to hide behind me.  #4 crossed his first finish line today!  Note my mismatched cheap gloves because I gave my good ones to the boys.

The kids were able to choose the color of their finishing ribbon.  I love it when they have something race-specific.  My kids would take a custom ribbon over a generic medal any day.

We finished with a few minutes before the 5 mile race started so I was able to get a shot of Christian, ready to race.

He was predicting to go slightly sub-8's, so I headed off with the kids for a while.  #2 was really cold so we went into the Fiesta Mart in the shopping center.  It was full of runners and everyone working there was super friendly to the kids, asking them about their race and what they're doing for Thanksgiving. After we grabbed a few groceries and popped them into the minivan, we headed back for the Shipley donuts the race director had told the kids would be delivered at 8:30.  Exactly on schedule, the donut delivery guy showed up and the kids were in the donut line so quickly.  We were headed over to the finish line, but my favorite local roaster, Katz Coffee, was there with a special blend being promoted by a boxer whose nickname was "Baby Bull."  It's a presweetened Mexican-style coffee and it tasted really good.  I bought some to take home and the boxer guy even autographed it.

I thought we had plenty of time to get to the finish line and set up to get a photo of Christian, but within seconds of getting to our vantage point I saw him passing by!  I'm just glad we got to cheer for him, since he finished just under 38 minutes!

The race shirt is just a plain t-shirt, but the kids really love to wear them as play clothes -- now all four of them can match.

We had so much fun that we are planning to do this race again.  Everything was kept on a tight schedule, the crowds were very manageable, and there was even a grocery store right there to warm up and get a few last minute Thanksgiving ingredients.  This is definitely our new family tradition.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Running vs. Walking

Should I run or should I walk now?  If I walk there will be trouble, and if I run it will be double...

I can run for short distances and not very frequently.  Every time I try to ramp up the running, I end up with acute pain in my knees that sends me straight to the ibuprofen and those incredible knee wraps that heat up.  In my most recent ramp up, I had made it to alternating quarter mile laps of running and walking on two of my weekly workouts.  The recovery from them was taking longer each time and shifting from soreness to pain.  I finally had to ask myself why I assign an inherently higher value to moving my feet in a different, only slightly faster way.  Am I willing to jeopardize my ability to finish a half marathon just so I can run a 5k?  I'm never going to be a 6-minute miler, so why am I so desperate to join the middle of the pack instead of the back of it?

With my current walking paces, I should be able to do a 3:15 half marathon.  The courses for two of the races I'm entering close at 3:30.  There is something challenging about being so close to the cutoff that I can't let up and have to strive for my best throughout my entire race.  My husband sent me this article the other day about different types of marathoners.  He's a "top thirder" and I'm a "just finisher," for half marathons anyway.  I really liked this line that shows how hard some of the just finishers have to work: "They started their training plan months earlier with one goal: Get to that finish line, no matter how long it takes to get there."  I have put in my time and this truly is the best I can be right now.  I put in more than twice the time on the course as the winners do.  When I cross that line I'll get the medal for my effort, which in no way diminishes the value of the medal the fast people get.  I've learned to avoid reading running forums because there's a lot of negativity toward the back of the pack and (gasp!) walkers in some of them.  Shouldn't we just be glad more people are choosing to get up off the couch?

I'm not sure if the wish to run will ever go away.  Since regular life and walking also put some stress on my knee, it's all about managing it.  Maybe in the future I'll gain strength and I'll be able to run, but right now I am realizing how wonderful it is to be able to walk for hours, bringing my particular breed of walking happiness to the back of the pack.

Monday, November 11, 2013


I'm in the middle of doing something that I've never managed to do before.  I have five scheduled workouts a week, carefully inserted into the family calendar so that I still get all of my mom work done.  I've now made it through twenty-five of them without missing anything.  I'm nowhere near the people who have run every day for decades (really, there's a website and everything -- United States Running Streak Association, Inc.), but I'm so excited to be on a roll.  Christian is impressed, because even when I was young and fit I never had this kind of dedication.

When you've done this many walks in a row, you really think twice about skipping.  This past week I ended up having to go to the gym at night after taking the kids to soccer practice, throwing dinner together, and leaving Christian with a hasty reminder on which timer was for the pasta and which was for the broccoli.  I also had to do my medium and long walks at the gym this past weekend, squeezing as many miles as I could into the two-hour nursery time limit on my long day because I sent Christian off to Team RWB Trail Running Camp for four days.  To fit these workouts into the weekend nursery hours at the gym while still meeting the many, many soccer obligations required taking four kids to a Mass without nursery care all by myself.  These situations would have previously made me skip a walk, thinking it didn't matter.  Now I'm so motivated and I see how much better I feel when I give myself the time to exercise.

I know that eventually I'm going to get hurt or sick or have some parenting obligation that will truly prevent me from getting my miles in.  Until then I'm going to keep watching my streak grow and know that I will not let one missed workout stop me from getting right back to it.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Training : Where + When : Part 2

Christian and I have vastly different running preferences.  His happy place is a technical trail with rolling hills, so he is always doing something just a little bit different throughout his run.  The focus on the trail combined with the exertion of running and being out in the (sort of) wilderness is just his thing.  I like predictability and bathroom access.  When I get the chance on the weekends, I love to walk in our neighborhood.  My workout starts the instant I walk out the door and I'm never more than 10 minutes away from home.  I also don't do hills well at all with my knees, so the flatness of our sidewalks is a plus.  I also love being able to pick up or drop off a headlamp, extra layer, or water bottle right into my mailbox.  I have my own little aid station and drop zone right in front of my house.  

This is not to say that walking my neighborhood is at all boring.  For starters, we have clay soil that expands and contracts with the weather, so there are always sidewalk obstacles to contend with.  We're talking 2" dropoffs between sidewalk slabs.  I'm not going to admit how many times I've almost bit it right here at home.

The other nice part is getting to know my neighbors a little better.  Once I stopped and chatted for 20 minutes with a 96-year-old who was out getting her paper.  Another time I was nicely motivated by a guy taking out his trash while I was out walking in the dark, who said just one word to me as I passed.  "Determination!"  I also get to recognize the early morning weekend dog walkers.  It turns out that the one neighbor we'd seen dozens of times is a former ultrarunner.  What are the odds there'd be another person who thinks that running for lots of hours is such fun just two doors down?  We can be so insular in modern life and it's nice to get outside of my four walls and see the people passing through life in the same place I am.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Meet my husband

The weekend I met my husband, Christian, we ran a 10k together -- the Rio Rancho Dash for Trash.  He lived in Colorado and I lived in Iowa, so the altitude in New Mexico was making me slow.  We were at a college kid job interview weekend for Intel and the previous day he'd gone running with my friend who ran cross country for Iowa State.  She found the race and talked us into entering it with her.  She won the women's race, Christian ran at my pace so he could stay with me, and the rest is history.

Christian's always been like a big dog who needs to be exercised all the time.  He played rugby and ultimate frisbee in college.  He'd show up for afternoon seminars drenched and filthy after running up to South Table Mountain from campus.  Here he is running the Boulder Backroads, his first half marathon, when our oldest was a tiny baby.

When we moved to Texas and had a ton more kids, it was very easy to rationalize our way into not running any more.  It's hot here.  Compared to Colorado it seemed like there was nowhere to run.  I needed his help with the kids more and more in the mornings and evenings.  He finally got back into running late last year and set a goal of doing another half marathon.  In college he'd always run in the late afternoons, but anyone who stays at home with kids knows that the pre-dinner hours can be very trying, so I asked him not to do any post-work running.  He was trying to figure out how to train for distance and still have me like him at the end of the day.  

One of our friends is a super marathoner and also has a busy job and a family.  He would post when he would run at 5 a.m. on facebook all the time with lyrics to a song.  My morning-hating husband decided that if this guy could do it, so could he.  One new headlamp later, his cell phone alarm could be heard going off on the quietest setting at 4:45 most mornings.  In April he finished the Davy Crockett Bear Chase half marathon in just under 2 hours, almost 7 minutes faster than the one he'd done years ago.

Christian's new goal is to be an ultrarunner and his goal race is a 50k this December.  Up until now he wouldn't let me use the ultrarunner label on him.  Today he did a 27 mile training run.  While he's still never raced an ultra, I think if your training runs are longer than a marathon I get to call you an ultrarunner.  I'm so glad to have someone so supportive of my training and helping me set a great example for our kids.