Friday, September 25, 2009

Slow and steady

That's me in the blue shorts, running a 10K race (6.2 miles) in June (I think Aaron shot this around mile five??) I was hot and sweaty and sore and ready to be DONE. I thought that race was so incredibly hard. Clearly I am crazy, because I will be running TEN MILES in a week.

I’m running the Twin Cities 10-mile race on Oct. 4, and just thinking about it fills me with a mix of anxiety and excitement. I get a nervous knot in my stomach when I picture myself getting to the Metrodome around 6 a.m.—when it’s still dark outside—and trying to navigate my way to the starting corral. (The race starts at 7:05 and I don’t want to be scrambling to get to the starting line, esp. with 6,000 other competitors.) I know I’m going to be too nervous to eat an entire banana or muffin that morning, even though I will need the fuel. I get the same way before I board an airplane. I try to eat when I’m anxious, but it’s a challenge when the food turns to cardboard in my mouth and I get a lump in my throat as I swallow. I hope I don’t have to go to the bathroom a billion times before the race starts.
I can picture the other runners around me, stretching or hopping or listening to their iPods or chatting with friends or running to the bathroom or quietly observing. Maybe I’ll befriend another loner, someone else who seems as nervous as I am, someone who can joke with me about getting to the finish line in one piece.
I wonder what the weather will be like that morning as we line up on Portland and Fifth (pleasepleaseplease no rain!) I wonder what I’ll be thinking when the starting horn goes off. (Maybe something along the lines of “HOLY SHIT! I’M GOING TO RUN FROM THE DOME TO THE CAPITOL—MINNEAPOLIS TO ST. PAUL!!! WITHOUT WALKING!?!”)
Will it be a massive stampede of runners as we head toward the Mississippi River? At what point will the crowd start to spread out? And what about that hill on Summit Avenue? That loooong hill between miles five and six? Will I even notice the beautiful homes on Summit (probably not)? Will I keep a consistent pace or peter out?
I’ve been training with my running coach, Aaron, who pushes Adam in the jogging stroller, so it will be weird not to have them alongside me, pacing me. It will be weird not to hear Adam singing “Farmer in the Dell” or “Itsy Bitsy Spider” as I struggle through another mile. Aaron won’t be next to me in a physical sense, but I’m sure I’ll hear his words of advice as I run: “Short, choppy steps uphill … long strides on the downhill … if you can run five, you can run six … if you can run six, you can run seven … you can do this. I know you can.
I never would have thought, at the start of this summer, that I’d be running 10 miles in October. The most I had ever run was a 10K (6.2 miles), which was enough of a challenge. I huffed and puffed my way through a 10K in June and just about died. Obviously I didn’t learn my lesson, though, because in a little over a week, I will be huffing and puffing my way through 10 miles. Am I a glutton for punishment or what?

I decided to sign up for this race because:
A) The opportunity sort of fell in my lap. Our magazine is a media sponsor, so we were able to sign up a media team after the original deadline (other runners were selected based on a lottery).
B) Being part of a team would hold me accountable and prevent me from backing out.
C) I like having a goal to work toward.
D) I would love to have another baby in the next year and I’m guessing I won’t be running much during pregnancy/when that baby is little. Now or never.
E) I used to be friends with running, and I missed that relationship.

I was a varsity sprinter all four years of high school and a sprinter and triple-jumper at UW-Eau Claire, and I will always have a soft spot for track and field (I even thought about coaching at one point). Some of my best high school and college memories revolve around track … the friends, the workouts, the coaches, the parties. I loved sprinting. Short distances, though, are one thing; distance running is a whole different beast. I was on the cross-country running team in junior high, and I was pretty good (my best mile time was 7:15) but I didn’t love it. I quit CC in tenth grade and never looked back. I still had gymnastics and track so I didn’t miss it (although I did miss the fact that it kept me in shape. I gained 15 lbs. between my freshman and sophomore years).
Distance running is such a mental game. Such a small part of running is the competition. It's really an individual sport (unless you're an elite runner or something). First of all, you have to mentally commit to the run so you don’t think of last-minute excuses to back out. (Thursdays and Sundays were the days Aaron and I designated as training days, with some Saturdays thrown in, too, and we were good about keeping that schedule. When I woke up Thursday morning, I knew I would be running four miles after work. When I had a longer training run on Sunday, I mentally prepared for that run all week.)
Then, once you start running, it’s a mental game to keep running—it’s a race against yourself, a race against the clock—esp. when you’re tired and dripping with sweat. But when you finish, it’s such an awesome feeling of accomplishment.
Aaron finished Grandma’s Marathon in 2005 with an impressive time of 3:27, never stopping once for a drink of water or to catch his breath, just running, running, running for three and a half hours, and he—the Natural Runner—has even said that the best part of running is when you’re done.
But before you can be done, you have to conquer all those miles and all those thoughts. I don’t run with an iPod (they’re discouraged in the majority of longer races because of safety reasons), and sometimes it’s annoying peeling the layers of my mind. If you were able to get inside my head those first few runs, it wouldn’t have been pretty. I read somewhere that if you start a run with a negative attitude (which I used to), you will find yourself in the Bite Me Zone, thinking negative thoughts like: “This sucks. Am I almost done? This sucks. I want to walk. Why are those women hogging the ENTIRE walking path? Can’t one of them move out of the way? OMG. Could that dude behind me please PICK UP HIS DAMN FEET while he's running? That shuffling is driving me nuts! Why is that man smiling at me? Am I here for his fucking AMUSEMENT?”
So now I try to think differently as I lace up my new Asics and head out the door toward the lake. And you know what? It helps. I rarely enter the Bite Me Zone now because I remind myself that it was my choice to go for a run, and it was a good choice.
“I will do the best I can. The first mile is always the hardest; it gets a little easier after that. I really am fortunate to be able to run when there are so many people who can’t. I am taking charge and doing something good for myself. I could be sitting on the couch, but instead I'm burning calories. Keep going, keep going, keep going. Slow and steady wins the race. (Well, maybe not WINS the race, but at least finishes the race.) Remember that guy you met who ran a 10K just weeks after a hip replacement? Think about him and how he fought through the pain. Remember that story about the cancer patient running a marathon? Think about how tired she must've been. I will feel SO GOOD when I cross the finish line. I had a baby, how much harder could another mile be? I can do this.”

Wish me luck. I think I’m ready, but I’m still nervous and could use some encouraging words!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Gettin' DOWN with Shakira

Last night, Shakira performed on “America’s Got Talent” and while I don’t normally watch the show, I couldn’t tear myself away from that performance. Shakira looked amazing, the song was catchy (She Wolf, just in time for Halloween!), and OMG the girl can shake it on the dance floor. As soon as Adam heard music, he ran over to the TV from where he had been playing with his “choo choo,” planted himself in front of the screen, announced “She’s DANCING!,” then promptly began IMITATING Shakira. Oh how I wish someone else had been there with me to witness it! (Aaron was playing softball.) She bent forward, he bent forward; she bent back, he attempted to bend back (2-year-olds don’t typically do a whole lot of back-bending, ya know? I think he was surprised to realize that he could bend back without tipping over); she put her hips in motion, he shook his; she dropped down to the floor and put her leg over her head, he watched like “Huh?”; she did some crazy belly dance contortion move; he finally gave up and walked away. Adam has no idea how sexual Shakira’s moves are, so I was trying really, really hard not to bust out laughing when he was imitating her. I’m fairly confident that he could’ve won some prize if I had videotaped his “performance” for Funniest Home Videos.

Adam is a funny little dude, and from what I’ve been told, he’s very verbal for having just turned two. Sometimes Aaron and I look at each other like, “Where did that come from?” when he puts two or three sentences together.

When he’s crabby, he can be very contrary. His favorite word right now is either. “I don’t want to drink my milk, either.” “I don’t want to wear my jacket, either.” “I don’t want to sit in that shopping cart, either.”

His favorite nursery rhymes are The Muffin Man, A Tisket, A Tasket, and Farmer in the Dell. I love it when he sings. I especially love it when he sings this stanza:

The wife takes the chai
The wife takes the chai
Hi-ho the dairy-o, the wife takes the chai (tea?)

Or when he belts out A Tisket, A Tasket and sings “I wrote a letter to my love, and on the way I dropped it.” (You wrote a letter to your love? Wow. And here I didn’t even think you were potty-trained yet!)

And another favorite is Old Macdonald, who has either a cow or a moose on his farm and that’s it. If I try to suggest another animal “How about a chicken? A horse? A pig?” he adamantly responds, “NO! A cow! NO! It’s a moose!”
I don’t know about you, but I don’t know ANY farmers who raise moose.

He likes to be given tasks, and if I forget to give him the honor of throwing something away, he whines. Sometimes I have to “create” garbage (pronounced as "guy-bidge" by Adam) so he can take a trip to the trash can. He also wants to sweep whenever I get out the broom, which is both sweet and somewhat annoying all at once. Oh, and the DISHES. He must help me whenever I do the dishes, standing on a chair next to me, getting about a gallon of water on the floor, announcing “MOVE!” or “’scuse me!” as he tries to wash his sippy cup (again) or his fork or bowl or whatever he’s “helping” me wash. I now realize that doing the dishes will be a loooong process, and plan accordingly.

If there’s dirt, he will find it. And get covered in it. And eat it. And get it stuck in places dirt wasn’t meant to be.

He still loves playing with balls and can now (sometimes) hit a T-ball off the T. His other favorites include his tool bench, tackle box, just about any type of animal, books about animals, puzzles, bubbles, his bubble lawnmower, his doctor’s kit, trains, trucks, and motorcycles (he has a scooter that he proudly calls his motorcycle, and whenever he hears a motorcycle, he stops what he’s doing, gasps, says “Motorcycle?” and wildly searches for it). He also loves marching bands, watching nursery rhymes on Cable’s On Demand Channel 1 (Baby Boost), “driving” those little Fred Flintstone foot-pedal cars (he’s too little to reach the pedals on Big Wheels, but he can zoom around all he wants when he’s relying on his feet to push him from A to B), riding the carousel, the park (pronounced "pike"), going for long, slow walks, going for runs in the jogging stroller, eating cheese crackers or hummus with pita chips or meatballs or pizza or ice cream or string cheese (he’s finally over his milk protein allergy! Hooray!), and those darn Nuks! We’re going to have to wean him from pacifiers soon, and it’s not going to be pretty.

After constantly talking about going potty, and announcing when he was going to poop, and asking us if we had to go poop, we bought Adam a potty chair, just to get him used to the idea. I quickly realized that he’s nowhere near ready. When I was in the shower, I came out to find his potty chair covered in about half a roll of toilet paper and a small bottle of lotion, my face powder, a little yellow candle from his bedroom, a Mickey Mouse figurine, a rubber duck, and a pair of Adam’s shorts.

He is still absolutely terrified of the vacuum.I mean TERRIFIED. He has been known to hide behind the couch when I pull it out. I wonder when he'll get over this fear?

He is now 25 months old and weighs 24 lbs., which puts him in the tenth percentile. Adam’s cousin Max is the same age and weighs 37 lbs., which puts him in the 90th percentile. I think of them as Small and Tall. His cousin Morgan, who is also the same age, is taller than him, too. If it’s true that you double your child’s height at age two to discover their adult height, Adam will be about 5-feet 6-inches tall. I don’t know how accurate those “predictions” are, though.

When I pick him up from daycare, and he races toward me, his little floppy sun hat bouncing on his head, his arms outstretched for a hug, it really is the highlight of my entire day.