Sunday, November 11, 2012

HCA Virginia 8K

Yesterday, I ran in my second road race ever. The HCA Virginia 8K, part of the Anthem Richmond Marathon series. The marathon is a big deal around here, and this year it was really full, due to the cancellation of the New York City Marathon. But that one was not my race.

I had hoped to be able to run the half marathon (13.1 miles), since I had such an awesome experience at the Monument Avenue 10K earlier in the spring, but it just wasn't in the cards for me this time. I am proud that I kept up consistent running after that race and through the summer, but our family schedule and my work schedule just didn't allow for me to spend the time acquiring the distance I need to be able to run 13 miles all at once. At my current per-mile pace, that means I would have to carve out at least three hours on a Saturday to get the "long run" in, and with Travis in school on Saturday mornings, well, it was just impossible. But I still have that distance in my sights, and I am hopeful that I can work it out so I can train, maybe in 2013.

So, I chose the 8K this time. The course was mostly flat, with a steep downhill at the very end to the finish, and that suited me just fine. I got up at 4:30, so I could make sure I ate something (yogurt and walnuts), got dressed (long running tights and a short sleeve technical shirt, headband, and throwaway hoodie and gloves), and packed a bag for afterward with a fleece jacket and my long-sleeve race shirt. We got downtown a few blocks from the start at 6am, and I made my way to the line as Travis found a place to park the car and get himself to the finish line to wait for me. We had no idea how crowded it would be, or how difficult it would be with so many streets closed for the three race courses that an early start was for the best, even if he was the only spectator waiting at Brown's Island for a while.

Meanwhile, I hung out at the start line, watching the sun come up and walking around. I was lucky to find a friend who was running the half, and another friend running the 8K, so I wasn't totally alone. Runners tend to be pretty friendly, for the most part, I've found, so I did have people to chat with. It was cold, but not unbearable, and I knew I would get rid of the sweatshirt at the start because there was no way I could run with it on.

The start wave I was in crossed the timing pads a few minutes after seven, and we were off, down Broad Street toward Mulberry for a couple of miles. I felt great! people were passing me right and left, but I was happy in my pace, knew what I was doing, and also knew *I* would end up passing at least some of those people later on, as they got tired. Rule #1, don't start off too fast!

When I crossed the start, I cranked up my iPod Nano LOUD. I wanted to be able to run in my own little bubble and not get distracted by anything -- especially the distance. I couldn't hear anything much but my music, and I was fine with that. Running along, listening to music, I was able to smile and feel great! I knocked out the first three and a half miles with no problem whatsoever.

Right around mile 4, the side stitch I had been feeling creep up on me began to make it's presence known in a way that felt like I was being eviscerated on my right side. It was awful, and I was seriously beginning to worry about my ability to run across the finish. I had not stopped to walk, not once, and I was bound and determined to NOT STOP at all until I crossed those timing pads at the bottom of 5th Street and Tredegar. But I could hardly stay upright, and my tricks for mitigating the cramp were not working at all. At one point, I doubled over and walked about ten seconds to try to clear it, but then I felt like a total weenie -- this race was only 4.97 miles, come ON! -- and I knew I didn't want to show up in any race photographer's photo like that, so I stood up and ran on. My legs actually hurt less if I ran, so that sealed it. I kept telling myself, look you, it's barely a mile left. Seriously. Barely a mile. Come on.

Finally, finally, I turned the corner and saw the start of the downhill to the finish. I knew Travis would be there, someplace, and I also knew I was going to run across those timing pads if it killed me. As it happened, I saw him, AND the timing clock at about the same time. he was cheering, and the clock read 58:03 and counting. The finish was in my sights, and I was going to, GOING TO cross it before that clock turned over to 60:00. Somehow, I turned on some speed, forgot the stabbing going on under my ribs, and RAN like everything depended on it. I crossed the finish at the 60:00:00 mark.

THEN I walked.

I gratefully accepted a water bottle from a volunteer, and got my finisher's medallion from another volunteer, which I immediately put around my neck. I saw my neighbor, John, who had come in just a few minutes earlier, and we chatted until Travis joined us. After some post-race food for me, we walked back to the car. A stop at Starbucks and then a trip to the farmer's market at Forest Hill (which took longer and involved more walking, as the marathon was going on through there!), I finally made it home and into a HOT shower. The rest of the day involved me thinking it was hours later than it really was. The side stitch evisceration flared up and reasserted itself ALL DAY, even with the buckets of water I drank. But I hung my race bib on the fridge with the rest of my bibs, and felt really proud of my accomplishment.
I think I was asleep by 9:30 that night.

This morning, I am very sore, all over, and I can still feel that side stitch, which is now thankfully just a pocket of muscle soreness. But I am thrilled with my official time -- 58:10, much faster than I expected I would be, and definitely under the 60 minute mark. My neighbor and I are planning to run the Powhatan Christmas Tree 10K in a few weeks, and I am already looking to see what I can do about upping my mileage in 2013.

I still don't LOVE running, but at least I've gotten to a point where I can feel pretty good doing it, most of the time. And I like racing.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Frustration, and Age, and Fear

I had my weekly riding lesson this morning, which is usually myself and a young girl, maybe in her early 20's, who has been riding at my barn for years. She rides Landie, my instructor's Hanoverian mare, and I have been riding Promise, one of the boarder's Thoroughbred mares. Being horseless means you ride whatever is available, which can be a great thing, because it teaches you to adjust to many different horses and their way of going. After a twelve year hiatus in my own riding, I've been back at it once a week since early July.

My riding fitness is definitely improving; I'm not crippled by muscle soreness for days afterward anymore, and things that used to exhaust me (endless 20m trot circles) don't anymore. Adapting to a difference in riding instructors is taking a little more time. I like and enjoy my riding instructor a whole lot, she is fantastic as an instructor and as a person, and I am SO glad she is teaching me and my children to ride and develop their horsemanship. But my physical self is significantly different than the last time I rode consistently, and I am having a hard time translating what she tells me into actions that produce the desired result in the horse I am on. I am trying, so very hard, to ride with lighter hands and a lighter seat, and to give the correct aids and to be balanced and stable in the saddle. But this 42 year old body just doesn't seem to work the way it used to (I know, shocking). For one thing, I have discovered that I have absolutely no stomach muscles anymore. I think that a couple of things are at play -- one is the fact that I am older, and less muscular overall, two is the lack of 'real' work my abs have had in the past few years, and three is my last pregnancy which resulted in a c-section. I did some research on the aftereffects and lo and behold, the slicing into of a muscle results in reduced effectiveness and strength once the muscle is healed. Joy.

I'm having trouble with my seat -- allowing myself to ride like a hunter, more forward and not sitting on my 'sit bones' with my weight over my hips and ankles. My low back kills me after each ride because the counter muscles -- abs -- are not working together for my postural stability. This results in stiffness when I'm in the saddle, which translates to decreased dynamic balance and strength, which increased the compression and concussive effects on my joints. I know this, and yet, I can't seem to get past it.

Also, I have never had weak ankles, ever in my life. But I can't ride at more than a walk for more than ten minutes without ankle support for BOTH ankles! My left one just plain quits working and rolls to the outside in the stirrup if I don't wrap it well before I get my boots on.

I have found that the old ghosts of past fears seem to be still haunting my mind. I am afraid of being run away with -- of being on a horse who is cantering or galloping, and who is not listening to my demands for a decrease in speed or change in direction. And I am scared to jump because I am scared to fall off, even though I have been successful at 2'6" fences in the (far away) past. I hate not feeling in control, and in both of these situations, I really have always had to fight to maintain a sense of calm and not panic. Freaking out on the back of a galloping animal does nothing good.

Today's lesson took place on a beautiful morning, although it was a bit windy. Promise was apparently in a particular mood, or else I was doing or NOT doing something that annoyed her because most of the time I spent on her back involved me dealing with her incessant head-flipping, head-tossing, ignoring-the-bit ways. Oh, there were a few beautiful moments of her looking fantastic and going beautifully, but for the most part, I could not ride her worth a damn. I wanted to feel fearless and determined and get the job done with her and NOT let her get away with anything, but I don't think I got there. I wanted to get off. Getting corrected for a number of things I was pretty sure I was doing correctly, or didn't understand I wasn't supposed to do, wasn't fun either.

Plus I am having real difficulty changing the way I ride. I've always been taught certain things, like half-halts to get the horse to submit to the bit and not allowing them to rein back with their head in the air, and to use an opening rein to help an inside bend, not lifting the inside rein to get the bend. I don't remember riding with my hands so low and buried in my lap, but that's the way the horses I ride now seem to go. I spent so much time in a dressage seat before -- looong stirrups, lots of bending, lots of leg-yielding, and lots of work at the walk and the trot, with and without stirrups. I love dressage. If I never jumped another fence, but could ride on the flat forever, I'd be okay with that.

I'm also having difficulty cutting myself some slack and accepting things as they are. I can't do better than I can do, once a week. I'm better than I was in early July, but not where I wish I was. I'm not even sure I have *time* to ride more often, particularly if it involves at least a half-hour ride out to the barn and a half hour back. It's just frustrating, that's all. And I am so very grateful that things have worked out to where I can ride AT ALL, than I can't complain. But I needed to write this all down so I could get it out of my head and stop being upset by my perceived failures today.

Riding makes me feel so powerful and so peaceful, and I just want to feel that way all the time.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Here and There and Everywhere

Once again, it's been a while since I have committed any thoughts to virtual paper. The summer was busy, and just when I thought I'd get something of a break with the kids headed back to school -- wham! A couple of BIG work projects ate entire weeks of my life. Can't complain, though, the extra hours in the paycheck were certainly nice.

I've been riding once a week since July, and really really loving it, although I feel desperate at times when I realize there is no practicing in between lessons. Wren continues to do fairly well, and even Kira has gotten into it, starting lessons with our trainer a month ago. With the increased time spent at the barn, we've really started to think about a house with land so that we could have horses at home.  I want to rescue a horse or two from the slaughter pens, but we need our own property to be able to do that, as board is expensive. We rescued all our dogs and cats, and our two guinea pigs, so why not continue into the realm of equine rescue? I can't stand the thought of good horses and ponies going to slaughter for no other reason than they are temporarily homeless.

Oh, the horses. I love them so.

Kira rides Lily!

 I haven't made hardly anything in glass in the past three or four months. Over the summer, and through September, it couldn't be helped, but now I am hoping I can wrangle some 'regular' work hours, or try to set myself a schedule so that I can torch at least once or twice a week. I made some Halloween beads for a friend....

 ...and I need to make more. I love Halloween, and there are more pumpkins to make, and some black cats, and maybe a bubbling cauldron, and some more of those awesomely cute ghosts! Maybe this week I'll get a couple of torch days.

I've started my regular touring schedule at the museum, and that is going fabulously! I love it. I really, really love it. So far, I've given tours to school groups about our Greek and Roman artwork, and a tour about Virginia history, and one about the history of jewelry to a group of jewelers. Tomorrow I am giving a tour on the art of glass to a teen group. It's so much fun! I also scored a huge stack of exhibit and permanent collection catalogs for CHEAP at the museum's book sale in September. Yay! I knocked a couple of things off my wishlist with that little shopping excursion.

I've been thinking about school, too. Originally, I thought I really wanted to go back for a master's degree in art history, or museum studies, but the thought of truly specializing in any one subject or particular area long enough to write a thesis about it just stresses me out. I love ancient Greek and Roman history, but I also love the Medieval period, the Byzantines, early Christianity....the Vikings and Celts....I love the history of religion, and material culture of everyone, and Neoclassical art, and the history of glassblowing, and jewelry and food....and what I really love is the hunt for information. I love to do research. I like to write, but I love the hunt for information more. So it occurred to me recently that I could consider library science. I've been doing quite a lot of research on it (ha!), and I've found there are MANY programs that are completely online (as well as ALA accredited). So that's where I'm thinking I might be headed. If I could find a scholarship or grant or something, it would make the decision a whole lot easier. The cost of school is what's really holding me up. And fear. Major obstacles.

We looked at a FABULOUS house this past weekend. Like, perfect for our family, has everything we want in a house, and is on ten acres of land. The price is a bit high, but the realtor thinks we could offer much less given the last price of the house a year ago. But our house is nowhere near ready to go on the market, and we could not buy without selling first. I want to stay positive about this, because we aren't really planning to move right now, but sometimes I just wonder if we'll ever get to our farm. It just seems like so much to do with so much uncertainty.

Maybe I'll trade torch time this week for cleaning up the kids' rooms and getting rid of a bunch of junk.

I should probably stop looking at available rescue horses on the internet.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Explaining dressage, and a rant

I was just reading an article, an essay, really, about the sport of dressage. The author of the essay does the sport no favors at all by trying to paint the picture of what is required in caring for a high-level (Olympic level) dressage horse, but instead makes it sound even more elitist by discussing high-level horse needs (which are many, and significant), and nothing about how you can access the sport at a low level yourself.

She talks entirely about the horse, but spends no language on what the rider is required to do. A large portion of high-level dressage is having the right horse, yes, and that is an expensive and not-easily-accessed situation. But if you are not skilled and highly trained as the rider, that highly trained pampered six-figure horse will do nothing. These riders are not just coming to the sport, they have been training for years, riding daily, riding hundreds of different horses, working hours and hours a day to perfect their ability to communicate with the animals through seat, and legs, and hands alone. Riders are not some rich kids who arrive at the barn impeccably dressed and are handed their groomed, tacked-up, turned out mount for their daily ride, as is the popular stereotype. Most high-level riders I know have spent years cleaning stalls, training other people's horses, teaching lessons to make ends meet in order to get better training, and better riding skills and work their way up to this level. Horse are a 24/7/365 commitment.

Riding is a mentally and physically tough discipline. You have to be physically fit to handle a thousand-plus pound animal, to sit in the saddle under a moving horse for hours on end. For dressage, you need to be able to support yourself on the back of the moving animal silently, physically quietly, and be able to use your hands, arms, legs, and body all independently of each other without flopping all over the place or inadvertently banging on the horse's back or mouth. This requires incredibly strong abdominal and core body muscles, and leg strength you can't imagine. Not powerlifting leg strength, but the kind of strength like a dancer. This is the strength to position yourself, and then press on the horse's sides to help them bend, or change direction, or lift a leg in a certain way. It's functional strength, and if you've EVER ridden, you know just how much your leg muscles are worked, even if all you do is sit there.

You must be able to be cool and calm in the face of a recalcitrant or nervous horse, who naturally has a strong flight response to perceived danger. You cannot be afraid. Animals are well-known to be able to 'read' human emotions, and sitting in direct contact with a horse while you are angry, or nervous, or frustrated is a recipe for difficulty. You have to understand and accept that sometimes the fact that you are dealing with an additional nervous system besides your own sometimes means things will not go as planned. (See Canada's rider, David Marcus and his horse, Capital, eliminated in dressage after Capital had an unexpected meltdown)

The ignorant comments on the essay I linked to (which I know I should not read anyway, and included much discussion about how you just have to sit there while the horse does all the work) make me angry enough to want to vomit. Most people who have NO experience with horses typically have the "all you do it sit there" belief, because they don't know any better. I can excuse that, because ignorance is a lack of education. This author had a prime opportunity to explain why this sport is so well-loved by the people who participate (myself included) at the lower levels, and how even though there are these seemingly rich elite people out there playing at the high levels, there are many, many, MANY more who are doing the best they can with what they've got. She completely blew it. It makes me angry that the general assumption is that the only people who ride horses are the 'rich' people. If you ride, you must be rich. And the problem is, essays like this one further that ridiculous belief without ever discussing the thousands and thousands of people who ride who are NOT in that socioeconomic category. I will never even sit on a six-figure horse, much less ride one. Heck, I won't even ever sit on a $10,000 horse. That's fine, I will make do with the horse I can afford, and still love my sport. I also won't make the Olympic team, because I have not, and will not, devote my life to the sport.

As much as having a Romney-owned horse has somewhat raised awareness about this sport simply because "someone we know about" is involved, and Stephen Colbert has all made us laugh about it, I'm not sure that association has really done the sport any favors at all. The Romneys are obviously wealthy, and continually playing up their connection with what has already been perceived as an 'elitist' sport, doesn't do a single thing to explain that real people ride, too. I'm sure this rant of mine hasn't been as well-reasoned as it could have been. I guess I'm just trying to stick up for the legions of regular people who ride and love horses and help the rest of the population understand the sport I love so much.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Point in Time

It's been a while since I had anything of substance to say here. Not that my life hasn't kept rolling along as the adventure it is, it definitely has. I just haven't felt inspired to write about it all in a long time. It's been the usual: busy with the end of the school year, and epic vacation/road trip for our entire family to Miami to visit my Dad, and then the round of the summer's pool visits, swimming lessons, trips to the library and the museum, and all that comes with staying home with two small kids.

It's been great fun, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't wish I could escape it sometimes.

Oh, I am absolutely grateful for the time I get to spend home with my kids, and grateful that Travis has a job now that allows me to do so easily. I've been home with my kids so long now (almost five years!), that I have a hard time seeing myself working full time again, going to an office or a clinic or whatever. I think about all the things I don't have to be hyper-organized about these days (meal planning, kid schedules, housekeeping stuff, pet care, etc), and I can't imagine how I would function if I had a 30 or 40 hour a week job thrown in there. I know one of these days I'll go back to work, but I can't imagine how or when or what kind of work I'll do when I make that decision. We don't really have a plan for that; I think it's something that will either become apparent, or will somehow, magically, 'be the right time'. It's not the right time, right now. And that's okay.

I've been writing, working on blog posts for Studio Mothers, and writing a little for A Hot Piece of Glass, and I've been sewing a little. I made a new tote bag/purse for myself, but I have yet to put the straps on it, so it sits in my sewing space, waiting. I joined Postcrossing and the Great Big Stitched Postcard Swap to boost my creativity in areas other than jewelrymaking, and to expand my horizons a little. I think that's the root of things sometimes. I need something new to spark my energy and get me going again. I've certainly been exercising and physically moving a heck of a lot more than I have in the past couple of years -- regular running, some yoga and some resistance work for my flabby muscles. There's been no glassworking for at least a month or so, because it's just too damn hot, and I don't want to overwhelm the house air conditioner with the kiln and torch heat. Fall weather is highly anticipated around here, even though we have been enjoying the community pool daily. 

Overall, this summer has been, and continues to be, a pretty darn good one. We've been busy, but with a fairly relaxed pace, so it's not been hard to keep up. I certainly haven't felt pressure to get involved in anything other than what we had planned with the kids. Next year will probably be a different story, as I expect Noah to attend pre-kindergarten summer program, and I'll likely find a day camp for Wren to go to for at least a week. She'll probably swim on the pool's swim team, too (Go, Shenandoah Sharks!). Life rolls along, with both the feeling that it's all going to fast for me, and also moving at a glacial pace. It's almost August now. School will start soon, and we'll be whizzing through another year. 

At least we get to slow down in summer a little.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Ukrop's Monument Avenue 10K

I ran in my first real road race this past weekend. It was the Monument Avenue 10K, held each year here in Richmond, and it was so much fun!

It took me a few days to really process the whole experience before deciding to write about it, and now I want to capture some of the details before I forget, so some of this will be poetic musings about me, and running and conquering personal goals, but some will also be race details and training information so I don't forget it for the next race.

Having not run this (or any, really) race before, and knowing there were going to be 42,000+ people downtown, I knew we'd have to get a decently early start. Thanks to our awesome friends, the little kids were able to spend the morning at their place, rather than be subjected to getting dragged all over the Fan and the VCU campus, waiting for Mommy. Kira opted to stay home and be a teenager (i.e., sleep in).

I got up really early (6:00) and got dressed, making sure I ate breakfast and had my coffee by 7:30, so I wouldn't be full by my 10:03 start time. Yogurt with honey and walnuts, and a toaster waffle was all I could stomach. I wanted that waffle really badly, and as soon as I ate it, I wished I hadn’t. Interesting side note: When I was getting dressed early in the morning, I looked out the bathroom window and noticed my neighbors' lights were on in their bathroom and downstairs. I guessed they were running the race, too, and I was right, as we met up with them after the race.

On our way down to the start line, it started to rain a little, which wasn't terrible, but it was chilly, and I didn't have anything to wear before the race but my well-loved black hoodie. Next time, I will remember to pack a trash bag just in case. I knew Travis wasn't going to be able to wait with me at the start, so he dropped me off a couple of blocks from the finish, and I walked, with a couple hundred other people, over to the starting area on Broad Street.

In my long shorts and short sleeve technical shirt, I wasn't totally frozen, but it was definitely chilly. I'd left my hoodie in the car, as I knew the only thing I could do with it would be to ditch it at the start, and I knew I would need it for afterward. It wasn't terrible, though, and I wasn't the only one without a jacket.

Getting close to the start area, I could hear the other waves getting on the course. The music was blasting, there were hundreds and hundreds of people all in a party mood, and I was walking into the midst of it all. I have to be honest and say that I was already starting to get all emotional. It was very powerful. I made my way down to Broad Street, and did get out of the rain for a while, both at the VCU bookstore, and in a small storefront church that had opened its doors to runners waiting for the start. The heat was on in there, and the company was nice; I spoke to two ladies for a while, and we talked about running and about the Disney marathon series. :)

I got into my wave group (WC) at around 9:30, so I could get a good position on the right side of the road. Originally, I was supposed to be *walking* this race with a group of therapist friends of mine, but it happened that each had developed issues along the way that prevented them from participating. I still looked around, though, in hopes of finding someone I knew. No luck. A sweet lady standing next to me offered to take my picture and text it to my husband, which was nice.

Before I knew it, it was time to go. The announcer was getting the crowd pumped up, and we were all jumping up and down to Van Halen's 'Jump'. It was still sprinkling a little bit. I set my stopwatch, and remembered my plan to walk the first mile, made sure my energy gels weren’t going to fall out of my sports bra, and off we went, cheering as we crossed over the start line. All I could think was, "Oh my God, now I *have* to do this!" I turned my music down a bit to listen to the people cheering, but as I rounded the corner and got out to Monument, I turned the music back up.

I walked the first three-quarters of a mile, until we got out on Monument Avenue, and then I started my (slow) run. I spent the first 2 miles frustrated by the number of people walking who were blocking the way. The rule is, only two people across, and stay to the right if you're slow, but there were lines of people four to eight across the road, all walking, and those of us slow runners were zig-zagging all over the road to get by. It made for a really irritating experience, but there was nothing I could do except be polite and try to get around. I would say that in the first three and a half miles, most of the walking I did was forced on me because of the crowd. No help for that, except to register for a faster wave next year. I think I ran about 7 miles total, though, with all that shifting back and forth across the road.

Miles 2 to 4 were good. My legs did not hurt, my pace was decent, and I was able to take a Gu (energy gel) and get a sip of water without any trouble. It was nice to feel good. I ran most of that distance. At one point, I debated taking off my music, but I opted not to, ultimately. As much as this race is one big concert and party, it was still going to be a physical challenge for me, and I needed to be able to deal with that. Music helps me crawl into my head and keep my focus away from the physical effort. The ability to dissociate is a powerful skill to have, and I haz it.

The mile distance between marker 4 and 5 was an ETERNITY. So much so, that I was wondering where the hell the 5 mile marker was, and then was thinking I somehow missed it! I walked more here than I wanted to, just because I was having trouble with cardio endurance at this point. My legs still felt great, so that was frustrating. Usually it's the other way around.

FINALLY, I came upon mile 5. I had been looking for my photographer friend, who had stationed himself at the intersection of Monument and Belmont, and I wanted to try to get him to take a picture of me, but as I struggled with mile 4 to 5, I lost track of the intersecting streets, and passed him without realizing it. He didn't see me, either. :(

At mile 5 to 6, I was just hoping I had enough in me to finish at a run. I let myself walk just a little to catch my breath and get re-organized, and by the time Monument turned into Franklin, I was running again. My iPod put on Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)", which was perfect for the end of this race. The run down to the finish was incredible! I could hear all the people cheering even though I had my music up loud! What I didn't know was that Travis had made his way to the finish, and was yelling for me all the way over the finish line, 'Go, Chris!' poster in hand! It was awesome. Really really awesome. I really had to work to keep from crying as I ran over the timing pads and into the finish area.

I was completely unprepared for the emotional feeling of "I can do ANYTHING!!" that came over me after I got through the finish. It was incredible, and I felt really overwhelmed. I know I said to myself, "I am SO doing this again!", and I am pretty sure I also made up my mind to try for the half marathon in the fall.

Not expecting Travis to find me right away, I went off in search of food and water. Yay for Ukrop's White house rolls and bananas! Food in hand, I wandered back over to the family meeting area, and Travis found me easily after that. He took some great video of me exclaiming over what I thought was my race time, only to found out later I was off by ten minutes. But he told me over and over how proud he was of me, and I almost cried. Of course I know my husband is proud of me, but this really felt like I did something big. We wandered around for a while, debated on whether or not I should eat a funnel cake (I wanted one but opted out), and then we headed toward the parking garage. Along the way, we ran into our backyard neighbors who both had run the race! By this time, I was really starting to get sore and stiff, particularly in my low back and left leg. Not horrible, but not comfortable, either. It was tough to slide into the car, and my ice packs were there, but not as cold, and it had been a while since I stopped running.

Travis dropped me off at home so I could shower and unwind a little while he went to retrieve the little kids. Kira, much like most teens, hadn't even gotten out of bed yet. I, however, had run six miles!

The rest of the day was full of kid activities (Easter egg hunt at our church), dinner out (MmmmMexican!), and me trying to avoid eating ALL THE THINGS!! I finished up the day with a celebratory beer, got briefly teary-eyed over my official time (which was ten minutes slower than according to my watch), but then reminded myself of the huge thing I had done, and resolved to be faster next time.

I still don’t like to run. I love what it does for me, and I love feeling as powerful as I did when I finished that race. That’s good enough for me right now. I learned a lot while training for this race, and I know now just how helpful it is to have experienced friends and other runners to help figure out what to do.

I know that there is nothing more comfortable than ‘real’ technical running clothing when you’re running.

I know that I really CAN do this running thing.

I know that racing is so much fun, even if there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that I’m going even come close to winning.

I know that most runners are incredibly friendly, helpful, and supportive, even to 41 year old, slightly pudgy beginner runner moms.

I know about the incredible power of the ice pack/ice bath immediately after a run.

I know that there is strength in numbers. And in me.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pre-Race Jitters

The Monument Avenue 10K race, which I am running on Saturday, is my very first 'real' race. Oh, sure, about 13 years ago, I completed the Charlottesville Women's 4-Miler after doing the training program. I don't remember my time, but I do remember I didn't stick with running after that.

There will be 42,000 people running this race, all cramming themselves into the Downtown/VCU area on Saturday morning. I am more stressed about the logistics than anything else. parking is going to be a small nightmare, which it always is downtown, and we aren't going to bring the kids (except maybe Kira, if she can haul herself out of bed in time), because they won't have anything to do for an hour or so while I run. But I haven't figured out what we ARE going to do with the kids yet, and I'm not sure how Travis is going to get me anywhere near the start of the race, and how I am going to find him after the race. I'm worried that he won't be able to find parking and will have too far to walk on his recently surgically-dealt-with knee to meet me at the finish. Basically, running the race itself is stressing me out a lot less than the logistical effort of getting there and leaving there.


But I went and picked up my packet this afternoon. I got my nifty white official t-shirt, and a bunch of other things, stickers, a water bottle, keychains, and brochures for all kinds of other races and events coming up in 2012. I got a blue cowbell from Anthem, which Noah loves, and I wish I had gotten one for each of the kids, because when does life ever NOT need more cowbell? But then I remembered this is my family I am talking about and more cowbell is probably not necessary. I spoke to a woman from the local running club, who encouraged me to join their beginner group runs, and I talked to a gentleman who assured me I COULD do a half-marathon, seeing as how I was already going to be doing half that distance on Saturday.

I'm thinking about a half marathon.

It's been a long time since I reached for a very large, very challenging personal goals, and a half marathon just might be the thing. I crave doing something physically demanding.

I'm thinking about it.

But first, I think I am going to tackle the six miles I have in front of me on Saturday.

Friday, March 16, 2012


I don't really love running. Not the act of slapping one foot down after the other, getting out of breath, feeling my lower legs decide to turn into rocks. Nope, I don't love it.

I love what it does for me.

I love that I burned 568 calories in 37 minutes this morning. I love the little head games I play with myself to get through my route (currently 3 miles). I love that not only are my legs getting stronger, but apparently so are my arms and abdominal muscles. I love the extra energy I have in the day of a run, and the feeling of being completely, contentedly tired at the tail end of a running day. I love mild muscle soreness, because it lets me know I did something physical. I love beating back my mental demons. I love thinking -- even for a little while -- that I am an athlete.

I haven't gotten to the point yet where I can truly release the physical effort and spend some time in my head, but I can tell that might be coming. A former dancer's power to dissociate is still powerful, and I find myself using it often. "Just to the black mailbox. Nah, go farther than that. To the end of the road."

Two weeks from today I will start the Monument Avenue 10K race, a HUGE and very popular race in Richmond. It's 6.2 miles I have never done before, but by this time on Saturday 3/31, I will have done it. My goal is to finish in under 95 minutes, which shouldn't be too difficult, but I am entertaining other thoughts now, like running 75% of it (4.65 miles) in total. I'm signed up in a walk/jog start wave, mostly because I was sure I could do that, and because my girlfriends who I was planning to do the race with were planning to walk it, but my training has really taken off and gone well. Now I'm planning way more running.

I have a 5 mile run planned for this Sunday, then two more running days of 3 to 3.5 miles each, and then one last long run of close to six miles before I start tapering down the week of the race to a couple of 2 mile runs. I'm really looking forward to it, I'm really excited.

I can't wait to see what I can do.

PS. I am so VERY proud of my training partner, Kim, who is running the Instant Classic Half Marathon trail race tomorrow! GO KIM!!!!!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Wren Rides

I said it last summer, when I took Wren to a local big horse show, that I was probably cultivating another horse lover in the family.I was right. Wren is completely horse crazy. We considered a number of different types of activities for her, but she loves horses, and she wants to ride. And so, she will.

This is Wren and her instructor, Kathy, leading the pony, Keepsake, back to the barn for her riding lesson. Keepsake is the perfect pony to learn on, a venerable 25 year old veteran of horse show, lessons, and hundreds of bouncy kids.
First, grooming and getting the mud off. It IS spring in Virginia, after all. There's LOTS of mud.

And you have to brush the horse's tail, too.

And you definitely cannot forget your helmet!

And then, Wren gets right up on that pony and she rides!! Never before has walking around in circles been so exciting and filled with so much possibility! Wren was so thrilled! I was, too. I love horses and riding, and I so much want to see her do this. She'll be going back.

My beautiful Wren!
Hunter's Ridge Equestrian Center
Powhatan, VA