Category Archives: Running

Today’s gratitude goes out to my high school tennis coach

It’s funny where your mind will wander when you’re running by yourself.

Amy and I tend to be attached at the hip when it comes to running, so it’s not often that I’m out in the park solo on a Sunday.  But this morning found me zipping somewhat speedily through endless loops and circles near the local high school.  And the feeling I always get during a really great run is GRATITUDE.  I am so incredibly thankful to have this healthy body and mind that craves running and doesn’t give out on me (very often, anyway).  Grateful always turns quickly to thoughts on who got me here: to this park, early on an overcast Sunday morning, busting out 9ish minute miles while music blares in my ears.

The list is long, of course.

But today?  It was all about Carole Scanes.

Coach Scanes took a group of gangly, goofy high school girls in the late 1990’s and created Ferndale High School’s tennis team.  We were terrible.  For real.  The Bellingham Herald printed high school athletic scores in the newspaper each day; pages of my high school scrapbook are filled with them, simply because my name was in print.  Somebody should have told me to stop doing this, as you will find (if you’re ever craving a trip down memory lane via my scrapbook) page after page of cut-and-paste losing tennis scores.  Schools with better tennis programs could barely muster the enthusiasm to trounce us, BUT.  We had Coach Scanes, this little slip of a gal, who–at what couldn’t have been more than 4’11”–threw her heart and soul in to training us.  Many of us had never picked up a tennis racket, let alone understood the rules of the game, but this was no matter to her.

Girls Tennis was a Spring sport, so somewhere around the end of February, she would gather all of us on the windy, often rainy, tennis courts after school, and practice endless drills with us.  We ran lines.  We learned scoring and serving techniques and took endless shots from the ball machine.  One notable afternoon, immediately after taking a shot from the machine at the baseline, I was sprinting forward to (in my mind) effortlessly slam the next shot right at the net, when I ended up taking a tennis ball right smack between the eyes.

I regained consciousness just as my best friend Rikki was about to dump the contents of the Gatorade cooler over my face.

These were the girls she had to work with.

We were small in number and incredibly low on the sports totem pole at FHS, so when we traveled away to let other schools cream us on their own courts, we didn’t warrant a school bus.  We piled in to two awful, smelly, boat-like Chevy Suburbans.  They were pale blue, printed with ‘Property of Ferndale School District’ (in case you were thinking of stealing them?) and to say that they were old is a gross understatement.  We’d climb in and, once she knew everyone was situated, Coach crawled up in to the driver’s seat…how did she drive that beast without sitting on a phone book?  I’ll never know.  Being one of the older and (in my mind) cooler members of the team, I traveled in the van driven by Coach and containing all of my dear friends, each of us with our own particular scent of Bath and Body Works lotion tucked in our duffel bag.  We turned that adolescent-musty-boy smell lingering in the van in to what had to be the most sickeningly sweet version of fruit salad EVER, and yet, Coach was always smiling.  Like it was her privilege to drive us to Lynden or Burlington or Bellingham and watch us get killed on the tennis courts.

Yes, before going anywhere, she’d turn to grin at all of us.  We were like her kids.  We were loud, smart-mouthed, nervous, and, as mentioned above, we smelled cloyingly sweet.  We were anxious about playing singles or doubles or exactly how bad that score would look in the newspaper tomorrow, but there was Coach, grinning at us.  “Ready to roll?” she’d ask.  She believed we could do it.

Or, as I reflect on this now in adulthood, it’s more likely that she knew we couldn’t possibly win.  She just didn’t care.  She wanted us to have the experience of getting out there on the court, sprinting and scrambling for serves we would never return, lobs we would smash beyond the fence, and–every once in awhile–that stunning shot that actually came from OUR SIDE OF THE NET.  It was those moments, really, that Coach got us ready for.  Doing something amazing when we didn’t think we could.  No matter how many games she was monitoring from outside the chain link fence, she rarely missed our (admittedly few) moments of glory.  She had her sunglasses and her clipboard and her tennis skirt (none of us had heard of tennis skirts prior to meeting Coach, and we were all appropriately awed by them) and she would give us that smile that was full of pride.

We were her girls.

She let us stop at McDonalds on the way back from our matches because why not add the smell of french fries to the permanent stench coming from the back seat?  She talked about the highlights of our matches from behind what looked like a gigantic steering wheel, while we ate cheeseburgers and giggled and groaned about losing again.

She led us in strength training in the gym on days that were too rainy to practice outside.  It rained every single day in April of my junior year.  Coach, desperate for something to keep us busy, and no doubt sick of entertaining 16 squirrely high school girls in a muggy gym for the 12th day in a row, decided one day to teach us some hybrid sequence of yoga and Pilates stretches.  Bridge pose was ultimately her undoing.  Imagine, if you will, 16 hormonal and slightly bored high school girls raising their hips up and down in unison, led by a spunky and slightly clueless blessing of a Coach shouting out verbal cues such as ‘up and down ladies!’ and ‘squeeze those rear ends!’.  She completely lost us.  Just…wheels off the bus.  I don’t remember who called out the most inappropriate comment (my money is on Rikki) but we were no longer bridging, we were shaking with laughter.  Red faces, giggles turned to howls, and Coach.

“Girls.”  (Very stern.)

“Girls!  LADIES.”  (Losing the stern.)

“Oh for…”  (She couldn’t help it.  She was totally blushing and losing her cool.  She laughed right along with us.  Then we went to find something else to do.)

I don’t remember any yoga/Pilates exercises after that day.

I have nothing but fond memories of Coach Scanes.  She invited all of us tennis stars (looking back, I realize we were all just a big bunch of nerds) to her yearly summer BBQ at her house.  It was very hip to be invited to a teacher’s house.  I still have the awful, tacky, gold plate I won at some competition at her summer party.  She took pictures of us out on the courts and even hired me to help teach the Summer Enrichment tennis class for elementary schoolers.  (No doubt she was thinking it would be nice to start grooming some potential winners from a young age.)  She brought us snacks and made us sit out when the sun got to us and turned our faces in to glowing red tomatoes and monitored our grades to make sure our academics weren’t slipping.  She tried really hard to admonish us when the talk in the van got especially raunchy.  And one time?  Because she likely had a screw loose somewhere?  She took us to a tennis tournament on a Saturday at Whidbey Island High School.  Yes.  16 girls.  2 dilapidated vans.  A ferry ride and all that lotion smell.  One kid who got seasick.  (Me.)  An entire weekend day she would never get back.

It was epic and one of my very favorite, fun days from high school.  I still remember it like it was yesterday.  We ate too many cupcakes and pretzels in the back seat of the van and talked about sex.  It was the stuff of teenagerdom.

And it was all orchestrated by this tiny little force field we called Coach.  I’m quite certain she never got paid what she deserved and she devoted far more time to our ragged little team than she probably should have.  She was our mother hen and the person we wanted most to please while out on the tennis court.  She gave us something constructive to work towards in the days of adolescence when it would have been all to easy to fall off the map or find other, far more unhealthy ways to spend our time.

So thank you, Coach.  I want to find you and tell you that, in some ways, I am a runner today because you proved that if you want to do something, you CAN.  Doesn’t mean you’ll do it well, but you can still try.  It won’t be pretty and it sure as hell won’t be easy and some days it will feel worse than getting car sick in the back of a school district SUV, but in the end it will be WORTH IT.

Rikki and I are running a 250 mile relay this summer.  Because why not?  You taught us that piling in to a large van with most of your friends and setting off for adventure can be the very best way to spend your time.

Bless you.

Ode to Amy

Amy turns fortyish today and it’s high time I paid tribute to her, my BRF (Best Running Friend, for those of you not in the know).  We see each other almost every day…we work together, run together, even live near each other.  We keep each other sane at work and, more importantly, we hold each other accountable when it comes to gearing up for another race or just getting through that extra mile or two on a long Saturday run.

We talk about our running adventures at work so often that I’m pretty sure our co-workers (runners and non-runners alike) are over it.  This stops us exactly zero percent of the time.  Planning out a future race or hashing over the details of what went right or wrong on our last outing fills our days and occupies our minds when our jobs get a little boring.  Race details provide a pleasant (for us) and much needed distraction from yet another poor colon prep.

Side note, and a warning to sensitive readers: you may want to skip this next paragraph.  It is one of my very, VERY FAVORITE Amy stories and it is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach.  My BRF is well known in our center for being one of the most badass GI nurses around.  This stems from a certain incident several years ago, during a particularly bad prep, in which we were playing our favorite game, Name That Food.  This game is every bit as disgusting and thrilling as it sounds.  The whole point of Name That Food is to identify a partially digested food particle appearing on the screen as something you think your co-worker might be about to consume in the very near future, in an attempt to gross them out of eating said food.  Some nurses are easier targets than others, and we prey on them mercilessly.  But my friend Amy?  Oh no.  Someone (might have been the doctor) identified (correctly we think, based on texture and smell) egg salad.  It was close to lunch time.  Amy promptly went out and purchased an egg salad sandwich at Starbucks and proceeded to eat it in the break room, to the joy and astonishment and gags of all around her.  She not only solidified her status as Ultimate Badass GI Nurse, but also set the bar for Name That Food just a little bit higher.  It was epic.

But I digress.  This story is about the importance of having a sucker by your side to make those long miles seem shorter and things like 200 mile relays seem not only like a good idea, but fun.

Most of you know that neither Amy nor I came to running early in life or in anything that could be described as a pretty manner.  The beauty of our friendship is based on the fact that we have real, normal bodies that nobody would ever pick out of a lineup as belonging to a runner.  And yet, here we are.  RUNNERS.  We’ve been through hot yoga and PopSugar Fitness videos and some misguided attempts at regimented training plans together, and it’s rarely pretty, but we keep showing up together.  She is my friend who has covered for me while I’ve peed just barely off the trail; the one who, mid-contorted-yoga-stretch, I can holler to from across the room ‘do you feel that one RIGHT HERE?!’ as I grab some nether region buried in my ass, and not only is she not disgusted (see above paragraph: nothing disgusts this girl) but I usually get a resounding ‘OH HELL YES’ in response.

Our closets are full of matching race shirts and we frequently show up for a quick little hill run on Wednesday morning wearing the exact same shirt, without having planned it.  Our chatter is near constant, despite the fact that we see each other nearly every day and you’d think we would have run out of things to say by now.  The one exception seems to be the hill climb on Wednesday…it’s our one nod to formal training, and we try to be religious about putting one day of hills in to our workout week.  It’s a relatively short route, only 3.something miles, but the climb begins right before you hit mile 1 and doesn’t stop until you’ve cleared mile 2.  During these miles, amidst all the wheezing (me), hand tingling (her), and slow plodding of feet (both of us), all you will hear is silence.  Any communication comes in the form of gasping curse words that would make my mother blush.  The swearing is how we check in with each other and make sure we’re still alive.  I love her but I’m sure as hell not turning around on that hill to go back and get her.  A well-timed f-bomb lets me know she’s right on my heels.

So, happy birthday to the girl who is Thing One to my Thing Two, the gal who knows important things like how many city blocks are in a mile and how much distance is left between this long run and my triple shot latte.  I wouldn’t be the runner I am today without you there to meet me on the corner of 128th and 86th.  I wish you yet another year of fun and craziness in the world of running!

A Valentine’s Day Tribute to My Running Shoes

Dear Running Shoes,

On the eve of the most overrated holiday on the planet, I’ve been giving some thought to romantic love, and it’s place (or lack thereof) in my life.  And I came to the conclusion that I have nothing to despair over, for I have you, my friends!  My relationship with you is far better than any boyfriend I could ever hope to find right now.

I found you shortly after everything in my life came apart in huge, gaping chunks.  Divorce.  Single parent status.  That dream of working part time and devoting my creative soul to writing?  Gone.  Co-parenting with a drug addict?  Total joke.  Father suddenly, although not unexpectedly, dead?  Check.  It took less than a year for everything to crumble, and while I didn’t know it at the time, you were waiting patiently for me to find you.

And to think I had scorned your presence in other people’s lives for so long!  It took me 32 years to get to you, but it was love at first painful, wheezy mile.

We started slowly, as all strong relationships do.  A two-mile out-and-back from my apartment, a couple times a week, with a lot of walking thrown in to the mix.  How I longed for those stoplights to linger on red, so I could catch my breath but still look as though I belonged with you.  Keep on driving, you!  Nothing to see here.  Just waiting for the light to change!  Out for a run!  I only appear to be dying of an asthma attack, and I’m sure I’ll be able to get upright again very shortly!  Long runs on the weekends were maybe 3-5 miles and you carried me, limping, back to my door step.  I ached from shin splints and just knew I would never master the whole synchronized breathing/running technique (who knew this was an art?), and yet…I kept coming back to you, again and again.

You were never pretty but I don’t want you to worry about that.  I’ve fallen in love with good looks before and it’s gotten me, frankly, nowhere.  Your wide base and sturdy arch support and ability to accommodate my left peg leg are all attributes laughed at by friends but secretly loved by me.  You are strong and steady and dependable, so dependable in fact, your colors rarely change.  Every six months, a new pair; every six months, the exact. same. blue.  Once, about a year ago, you tried out purple.  I swooned.  But, purple or blue, you are the same shoes every time.  You are exactly my type of boring monotony.

If Brooks ever goes bankrupt or stops producing its line of running shoes geared toward large flat feet, I will mourn as though I have lost a family member.  That’s how dear you are to me.

Like any long-term relationship, we’ve had good times and bad.  You’ve ushered me through races that came off so perfectly, it can only be described as elation.  Every Rainier to Ruston relay we’ve run has been perfection, even if immediately after last year’s event, I crashed in a glorious burning fury of neck injury.  And that 4th of July 5 miler last year in Sedro Woolley?  Remember how we paced ourselves just perfectly, lagging behind in the beginning, only to kick it in to high gear in the last mile as we picked off runner after runner before cruising across the finish line?  Those events where it’s just you and me and a paved path somewhere in rural Washington state have been our best bonding moments. It is those moments that remind me I have everything I need.

But, in the interest of full disclosure, I think it’s important to remember those super shitty times we’ve had together.  Remember that godforsaken race we ran with Rikki down in Oregon, the one that took us through wine country and ended with wine sampling, which was so sad, because by the time I finished climbing all those billy goat hills, I was so sick and tired I couldn’t even stomach the thought of wine?  That was my first official bonk and it was not pretty.  Not pretty at all.  But you were still there for me, never judging me in my moments of cursing and climbing and sweating and nearly barfing.  And then, of course, there was every single race we did in our first year together.  Oh, the wheezing and the peeing of pants!  I like to imagine that you could have quietly carried yourself out of my closet and out of my life in that first year if you wanted to, as it must have been embarrassing to be associated with such an un-pretty runner.  But you didn’t.  You stayed with me and, while I’m still rather uncoordinated, I like to think I’ve got my act together more than I did in that first year.

I apologize for all those wayward snot rockets and for kicking you off without untying my laces first.

Running Shoes, I have so much to thank you for.  Thank you for bearing witness to my dehydration, my uncertainty on the downhill, and the tears that always seem to surprise me when I hear a song that reminds me of my dad.  Thank you for showing me strength I never knew I had.  But mostly?  Thank you for giving me back a sense of peace and faith I thought I had lost forever.  Turns out, it was waiting for me all along, in a shoebox, in a running store, in a place in my life I never would have guessed I could find.

Let your anger fuel your run

So hey, work sucks lately!  But you know what’s great about that?  You run much faster when you’re good and pissed off.  Amy and I have tapped in to Kara Goucher reserves we never knew we had, just for this reason.

Oh sure, it’s not just work.  It’s taking your kid to the pediatrician only to find that a) they are not contracted with your new insurance (translation: hope you brought your checkbook!), and b) the lump behind your child’s ear lobe that she has been complaining of for weeks is actually cellulitis (translation: in the words of my charming sister, “ew, dirty people get cellulitis!”), AND THEN c) the 10 day course of antibiotics doesn’t work and….well, you get the point.  It’s been an expensive week in my house, complicated by the sheer volume of first grade homework and the bottomless depths of first grader attitude.  Work has just been the bullshit icing on the cake, really.

But I’m writing this to force myself to look on the bright side.  The lump on the child’s ear lobe isn’t cancer.  I am healthy enough to pour myself in to my running shoes and pound out my frustration on the pavement.  I have many things to be thankful for, and I’ve listed them out for you here:

1.  I wear Danskos to work.  Nurses aren’t allowed to wear shoelaces, the risk of suicide by hanging is too high.  Bonus:  sprayed bodily fluids wipe nicely from the Dansko surface.

2.  A good hot shower will likely scour all the sprayed poop off your body even if you feel like your soul will never be clean again.

3.  This is the best one!  Say you normally run a 10 minute mile by yourself, closer to an 11 minute mile with your BRF on a particularly chatty day.  (Side note:  all days are particularly chatty.  We never shut up.)  Lingering anger from a shitty day at work will allow you to shave 1-2 minutes off your time!  Last Thursday we did 3 miles at a 9:20 pace.  Ditto for today, except Paul came along because I’m pretty sure he was craving a nice leisurely jog through the park with his two slow friends.  Poor guy.

4.  Wait.  No, this one is way better.  Today is the only day I have ever out run Paul.  It will likely never happen again.  So I’m taking it.

Well.

Allow me to sum up the past four months of my running life: my springtime training plan went horribly awry, leaving me with neck pain and headaches that took forever to ease off; Amy and I ran only one half marathon all summer; long runs are now 6-7 miles as opposed to the double digits of last year; I discovered (and fell in love with) arm warmers…and I’m looking in to buying a set of knuckle lights and a reflective vest because I just can’t stomach the thought of heading back to the track at the Y merely because darkness now falls at 7 p.m.

I was pretty gung-ho about documenting my running life earlier this year.  And I expected, as we headed in to the nice weather of summer, that I would have more time on my hands both to run when I wanted to and write when I wanted to.  Not so, the universe reminded me.  And it wasn’t just my troublesome neck that reminded me I’m not cut out to be an intense, training-plan-following, running-6-days-a-week type of mother runner.  My daughter finished kindergarten back in June and OH MY GOD.  This summer left me longing for the days of dropping her off at daycare in the morning and picking her up there, at the same spot, each evening.  The season was a blur of ‘Where Is She Going This Week’.  Summer camps, college kid babysitters, a few weeks of driving her back and forth to Oma’s in Mt. Vernon…combined with trading daycare with other parents so that my every Wednesday off left me with not one but at least two and sometimes three antsy 6 year olds.  It was my debut summer as parent-to-an-elementary-schooler and by mid-July I knew it was going down in history as a Fail, AND WHEN DOES SCHOOL START AGAIN ANYWAY, but we’ll do better next year.  The chaos definitely shoved my running habit to the back burner.

However, the season was not a total loss.

I mentioned those weeks the little one spent with my mom, who lives two hours away.  I won’t admit this to my child until she’s grown and has children of her own…but those were the best weeks of my summer.  You want to know why?  Without my daughter here, I could roll out of bed just as daylight was breaking, force Amy to do the same, and go for a 3-4 mile run BEFORE OUR DAY EVEN STARTED.  That’s right, folks.  I fell in love with checking the running box first thing in the morning.  I always hear about moms who say they have to make themselves get up at 5 a.m. because if they don’t run early, they won’t fit it in to their day at all.  Let me just say that if that’s a luxury afforded to your life, I am completely jealous of you.  It is glorious to step out your front door just as the sun is rising, when the only sound in your entire neighborhood is your feet pounding the sidewalk.  Meeting your BRF on the corner a few blocks away and checking off the running box together?  Even better.

So there you have it.  A summer of running highlighted not by training for and running a litany of half marathons, but by the short little early morning runs that I could squeeze in at irregular intervals.  This is my life right now and it’s taken me four months to come around to the idea of accepting it, but I’m getting there.  Someday, my daughter will grow up and need me just a little less, and this will open up new doors (and timeframes) for running.  Running doesn’t have to be intense, going up a size in jeans is not the end of the world, and WHO KNEW ARM WARMERS WERE SO AWESOME.

(Seriously.  Go buy yourself a pair.  You won’t be sorry.)

(And it will motivate you to keep at the free weights, because the arm pudge oozing out the tops of the warmers is not. pretty.)

Always in my head

Dear Zoey,

I was standing at exchange #8 yesterday, getting ready to run my second portion of the Rainier to Ruston relay, 50 miles with five of my good friends.  I had run 4.something miles only an hour and a half prior; I was waiting to run another 3.something as soon as Maggie came in.  The sun was out, and while it was a pretty day, running in temps that are pushing 70 can be challenging.

So I stood off to the side, getting my playlist ready to go and soaking in the excitement of all the runners around me.  Just as we could see Maggie off in the distance (there she is!  She’s almost here!), the song 22 by Taylor Swift popped in to my ears.  It had to be a sign.

Remember last weekend, when we sat on my bathroom floor, and you were giving me one of your famous pedicures?  You told me you were getting my toes ready for my race.  We had music blaring in my bedroom and you were applying layer after layer of multiple bright colors, plus small flower decals and a clear top coat “because Mommy, this will help the colors stay on and not get chipped”.  And when the song 22 came on, your new favorite, you started singing while you were painting, and I laughed because the lyrics coming from your mouth just sounded so sweet and funny.  (It’s miserable and magical oh yeah…a perfect chorus for running with a neck injury and the beginnings of a blister on your little toe.)

Anyway, you were singing and I was giggling and I promised you that, next week, when I heard this song come on during my run, I would smile and think of you and my pretty, pretty toes.

So you were in my head as I slapped hands with Maggie and took off for 3ish miles in the sun.  You were in my head the whole time, really.  Sara Bareilles sang about being Brave and the group Fun told me to Carry On.  I thought of you clomping around the house in my high heels and turning cartwheels in the living room.  I thought of you snuggling up to me in the mornings and riding your bike up ahead of me while I run in the evenings.  I thought of everything about you that I absolutely love, your perfect little six year old personality.

Thanks, Zo.  You always keep me going, even when you’re not with me.

 

Setback

Week 5 of our training plan has brought some very unwelcome setbacks.

And it was a relatively easy week!  We planned it that way, getting some of the more difficult workouts done last week, because today we run the Rainier to Ruston 50 mile Relay…and we wanted to be fresh and ready to go.  This is a race Amy and I have been looking forward to all year–we ran it for the first time last year and had a blast.  So there has been much anticipation and excitement and, basically, I’ve been up since 4:30 this morning because I’m ready to go and I can’t wait.  (I’m excited to write a race report later this week.)

So.  Let’s just talk about my neck for a minute.  That ugly, pesky little herniated disc has started causing problems again, but hey, only when I actually have to MOVE my head.  It all started Tuesday, after our hill-repeat-in-the-muggy-evening run.  I had a dull headache afterwards but brushed it off.  Wednesday morning greeted me with the same headache that I tried to ignore and pretend it wasn’t a migraine but, of course, it was.  And then, BAM, Thursday I woke up and my neck felt all cranky.  Add another migraine to the day and I was officially sidelined and a little panicky that I wouldn’t be in good shape to run our race.

I’ve been dealing with this injury since I started running three years ago.  I’ve listened to all sorts of smart professional people tell me I really have no business running in the first place.  However, I have found that with the right blend of anti-inflammatories and stubbornness, I can keep going.  But this training plan, and it’s increased intensity, has started to take it’s toll.  I’m wondering if I need to back off or quit all together.  I want to keep running for a long, long time…a 10 week training plan that leaves me with faster miles but constant neck pain just isn’t worth it.  But then again…maybe if I just back off a little bit, and rest, I can be back in the swing of things by next week.

It’s always a balance, always a gamble.  I ran my slowest 3 miles in quite some time on Wednesday, and took Thursday off altogether.  Zoey and I made it through 27 minutes of Family Circuit class at the Y last night before my neck started whining again, so we left.  I woke up this morning feeling, so far, okay. I’m nervous that running today could really screw up my head, in more ways than one.

 

Laundry

Can we just talk about laundry for a moment?

Running five days a week has put a serious toll on the washers and dryers living in our houses.  Especially when it comes to sports bras and running shorts…you might think I am constantly running these machines because I am keeping up with my six year old who changes her clothes on a whim, but you would be wrong.  She, naturally, has enough clothing stuffed in her closet to last until the end of third grade.  Her mother, on the other hand, has twos pairs of running shorts and only one running skirt she feels comfortable wearing in public at the moment.

And sports bras.

Amy and I both own a hierarchy of sports bras, ranging in fit and comfort from super-snug-and-supportive to why-bother.  It costs a lot of money to keep the girls from swinging up and punching me in the face, so my rotation contains only three bras.  The oldest, and most stretched, resides on the bottom of the pile, so that when I pull it out and buckle it on (yes, buckle, as in 11 hooks from top to bottom), I know it’s time to run another load of laundry.  Way back in February, I swear I never even reached the bottom of the bra pile.  Now, thanks to a training plan and unexpectedly gorgeous weather early in the year, I’m wearing my why-bother bra more often than I would like.

So, when you come to visit my house, and you hear the hum of the washing machine in the background, take pity on the machine.  It’s been so overworked lately.

I didn’t die during the first week of our training plan…it’s a miracle.

I almost started this post with the line “Amy and I decided we needed to start a rather intense training plan because our running life has been a little ho-hum lately…” but I knew she would be quick to correct the statement by saying WHATEVER LADY, THIS WAS ALL YOUR IDEA.  She would be right.  I was re-reading one of my running bibles, Train Like a Mother, and I stumbled across the ’10k: Own It!’ plan and thought hmmm….THIS sounds like a good idea!

That was a few weeks ago.  We’ve completed Week One, and it’s been an exhausting (and achy) week.  My favorite day so far has been Friday, which was the freaking rest day.

Monday wasn’t bad.  An easy three miles.  No sweat.  We came home from work, grabbed the kiddos and their bikes, and hit the trail.  Interval training was on tap for Tuesday but we’ve done that before, right?  Yeah.  Right.  We started with the one mile warm up, chatting as usual while Dash stopped to pee on every twig and branch he saw, slowly making our way toward the local high school track.  And that’s when things turned painful.  We were supposed to all-out sprint for one minute, followed by a one minute recovery of a slow jog or walk.  AND THEN REPEAT THAT TEN TIMES.  I’ll let you guess how many recovery minutes were spent jogging and how many were a feeble, stumbling walk as we attempted to catch our breath.  Oh, and guess what, you’re supposed to cool down with a one mile slow run, which we couldn’t skip because we had to get back to our cars.  Probably best, now that I think of it, because if we had parked at the track we would have surely collapsed in our vehicles as soon as the awful sprinting was over.

HOWEVER.  I must say, I felt a runner’s high that I haven’t felt in a long while, the high that comes from pushing yourself farther than you thought you could go.  I didn’t even care that I was stinky and sweaty and headed to Winco to go grocery shopping.  So that’s saying something.

The real problem came a few hours later, when I tried to go to bed.  My body was exhausted but my achy hips and knees wouldn’t let me settle in to sleep. I had the same problem Wednesday night, even though we only did an easy three miles that day.  My body seemed to be in a constant state of WTF-are-you-doing-to-me?  It couldn’t get comfy enough to rest.

And then we got to Thursday.  I can’t remember the last time I so desperately wanted to skip a run.  Amy and I worked in the procedure room together that day, which meant we were on our feet from 7 am to 4 pm.  Then we were off to the Orting Trail for our first ever tempo run.  The term tempo run was a little confusing to me up to that point.  I had read about them, understood the general concept.  Run a set portion of your workout at 75-85% of your max effort.  Run hard enough that you’re barely able to talk, but not so hard that your lungs feel like they might cave in.  So…somewhere in between a fun run and a sprint?  I had to actually get out and do it in order for it to make sense, but trust me, I wasn’t wanting Thursday to be that day.

But we did it anyway.  4 pm:  time to switch the Dansko clogs for the running shoes.

I’m pretty sure I was driving Amy nuts by constantly looking at my phone (I run using the Map My Run app), because normally I strap it to my arm and don’t check it again until we’re all done.  But I’m neurotic and for some reason, I had to make sure we were doing this workout ‘right’.  Also, I won’t lie, I wanted to be CERTAIN we didn’t go one measly stride over the prescribed four miles.  1-2 mile warm up, 1 mile at tempo pace, 1-2 mile cool down.

It turns out, running at a tempo pace was pretty much what I expected–far less fun than our typical run, where the gift of gab flows freely, but far less painful than sprinting.  AND, while checking the Map My Run stats later on, I discovered our tempo pace was 9:15!  Very impressive for two 10-11 minute mile girls.

Also, after completing four days in a row of training, I did not feel one bit guilty for my huge dinner and early bedtime on Thursday night.  Because by that night, exhaustion won out, and I slept like a rock.  And now here we are at Sunday, and after two rest days in a row, I’m definitely ready to tackle our six mile long run.

2012: My year in races

Here we are, folks, the post I started December 20somethingish and am just now getting around to finishing.  I spent all of December, in fact, kicking around the idea of posting about the cool races I took part in during 2012.  Because posting a year-end wrap up for a banner year of running seems like a clever idea in December.  Now, in January, it seems a little lame.

But I am here at the library on a Tuesday evening and I can’t go home until at least 8:30, the time I am certain my aunt Cindy will have Zoey tucked in and sleeping.  I have an hour and 10 minutes to get this written!  So, in your minds, pretend like New Years Eve is just around the corner and we haven’t actually started 2013 yet.  Everyone around you is full of New Years resolutions and thinking fondly back to their favorite moments of 2012.

But first, flash way way back to December 2011, which is when I made MY 2012 resolution to travel more in the name of running.  I was ready and excited to branch out of Pierce County and participate in some races that took me out of my comfort zone.  I should warn you that I take my resolutions pretty seriously.  So I started with a bang by booking a flight to Washington DC to meet my long-time pen pal, Erin, and two of her friends to run the Cherry Blossom Race April 1, 2012.  Yes, I was flying across the country to run a race with a woman I had never met.  Yes, I was signing up to run 10 miles right at the beginning of spring, when my legs were likely to consider the five mile loop from my house a ‘long run’.  But no matter!  As I described to my co-workers just days before I left, “this is either going to be one of the coolest things I’ve ever done or a total, complete disaster”.

Lucky for me, it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.

We all started off on the right foot by 1) me actually getting on the plane after a brief moment of “I can’t leave my child for all the reasons stated in the above paragraph” panic at the airport, and 2) Erin and her friend Jen actually showed up at the airport to pick me up (one of my nightmares having been that I would be left stranded on the east coast and needing to immediately find my way home).  It was one of those freakish, rare moments when you instantly like someone (in this case, two someones) and feel as if you have known them all your life.  I actually flew in to a small town in New York near where Erin and Jen live, and we spent all day Friday road-tripping it to DC to stay with Emily and her very patient husband, Jason.  Erin, Jen, and Emily were the greatest people and the most fun to be with for an entire long weekend.  We ran a great race that Sunday.  I remember pacing myself so well in the beginning (which is my optimistic way of looking at the fact that I started a little slow and sluggish) that I actually had ‘gas in the tank’ at the end, enough to sprint across the finish line and feel like a million bucks.  And then I remember eating huge burritos at Chipotle and spending the remainder of the weekend holed up in Emily’s apartment watching the entire first season of Downton Abbey.  It was basically the best vacation ever.

Amy, Carrie and I foolishly signed up for the Wenatchee Half Marathon at the end of April, thinking it would motivate us to train through the late winter/early spring slog that is Pacific Northwest Weather.  I can’t remember now (probably because it’s January and not December) why Carrie couldn’t run the race in the end…injury, maybe?  At any rate, I remember picking up her race shirt.  I also remember really not caring much for the race shirts.  Far too busty.  Anyway!  It was our first half marathon of the year and a camping trip to boot.  (See?  I told you.  I’m not messing around with my resolutions.)  We drove to Eastern Washington in Amy and Scott’s RV with Zoey and Allison in tow.  (Allison is Amy and Scott’s now-nine-year-old daughter.)  Scott generously offered to watch the girls the morning of the race and we set off from our beautiful campground on bikes, seeing as how Amy realized a little late in the game that our camp spot was slightly further than ‘a little ways away’ from the start line.  We biked two miles to the vicinity of the start line, rushed to get our spot in line at the PortaPotty just minutes before the start time (we were banking on it being one of those races where an 8 a.m. start time really means 8ish), heard the sound of a starting gun as we still waited in line, and potty-danced across the start line without having gone to the bathroom.  Maybe that set the tone for me because this was NOT my best race.  It was an out-and-back course (my least favorite kind, as I spend the entire ‘out’ dreading the same scenery of the ‘back’.  However, this is why Amy and I stick to together.  One of us will inevitably lag during a half marathon, and it is the responsibility of the non-lagger to remain cheerful.  Which meant Amy had her work cut out for her.  The highlight, for sure, was seeing the girls (and Scott, who had made a great sign and encouraged the girls to make signs, too) twice during the race.  Of course, as we headed ‘out’ and saw them at mile 4, we were all smiles.  Doubling back and dragging big time at mile 10, we could have easily said ‘screw this’ and called it a day.  But we kept going, because you didn’t get your shirt until you crossed the finish line!  In hindsight, I wish we had skipped the shirt…mine went to the Goodwill months ago.

In early June, I was part of my first ever relay team.  I ran the Rainier to Ruston 50 mile relay with the only friends I would want to share a van with after a whole day of running (and stinking).  Amy, Paul, Trish, Amy’s friend Tasha, and my best friend Rikki were my teammates.  We recruited Paul because leg #2 of the race was described on the website as being ‘heavily wooded and isolated, strongly encouraged to have a male runner or a very strong runner for this portion’.  We at work dubbed this the Rapist Trail and set about coercing male friends to run with us.  Paul was the only sucker who took the bait and he probably regretted it later because I’m pretty sure he blew out his knee on the Rapist Trail.  (He had very successful knee surgery in August.)  I ran leg #1 and leg #7.  My first leg was about four miles of downhill off Mt. Rainier.  I won’t lie, it was a little distressing to see my teammates drive off in Trish’s Eurovan while I waited in the rain for the race to start.  But it was absolutely thrilling to round the last corner of that first leg and see all my teammates standing out in the rain, cheering me on.  My iPod playlist was blaring in my ear and I was soaking wet and praying my sports bra would dry out before my next leg.  But I have never been so happy to spend all day running and tooling around town in a van.

Amy, Carrie and I spent July and August beefing up for the You Go Girl! half marathon in September and the Run Like a Girl half in October, both of which I have already blogged about.  I felt like we all went in to these races in great shape, which obviously showed in September when we clocked our best race times ever.  Late summer and early fall are my favorite running times of the year, when every weekend is defined by a search for a new, fresh route and the evening light stretches long enough to allow for a few mid-week, after-work runs.

So many great adventures with so many great running friends led to my best year in this sport so far.  If 2013 is half as fun as 2012, I’m going to consider myself one lucky girl indeed.