Thursday, September 24, 2015

Running, Work and Awesomeness in Traverse City

The Bayshore Half Marathon in Traverse City, Michigan was my second half in May of 2007. It was so different than my first (the Nike Women's Half in San Francisco). There were way fewer people, and it was quiet and scenic. It was totally different. It was then that I realized three things: 1) all races are different and have their own charm; 2) Traverse City is a really great town and 3) Michael Moore is a jerk.

I've reviewed Bayshore in the past, so I won't get into the details (cliff notes version: I mostly enjoyed it but wished it ran downtown). I've also raved about what makes Traverse City a fantastic community. Michael Moore, who founded the Traverse City Film Festival and favors slovenly clothing and baseball caps, also spends a lot of time in TC. I ran into him after the Bayshore Half, and said (in surprise), "Oh, hi!" He looked at me with disdain and said, "Don't" and walked away. I was never a Michael Moore fan, but that solidified my dislike.

On a more positive more last week I got the chance to spend a week in Traverse City for work. I was struck again at its charm - vibrant downtown, sparkling waterfront on crystal clear autumn days, local businesses, and a fantastic restaurant scene. It also boasts some great running trails that are perfect for marathon training (when I haven't stayed up too late to appreciate them).

I went for a short (about 3 miles) run my first morning in TC. I got to sleep in a bit, and I can't remember the last time that happened (I'm thinking it was roughly 9 1/2 months ago). My legs felt a little stiff, but I got into a rhythm and loved running along the bay.

The next morning I ran 5 miles with my friend/colleague just before dawn. It was a gorgeous morning as the sun made its appearance over the bay. I haven't run often in the morning since the baby was born, and it felt like coming home. The air was cool and had that first smell of autumn. I felt sluggish (which might have been attributable to the cocktails the night before), but we pushed through to log the miles.

We held two fundraisers (a tavern tour and wine tour), and they may or may not have contributed to my not using the third set of running clothes I packed. I've learned though that sometimes training isn't as important as experiencing life. 

Great of Chateau Chantal winery to anticipate my arrival

I love being in Traverse City, and it was a fun week filled with friends and colleagues I love, people who love communities, and exploring one of northern Michigan's most vibrant places. Sometimes I have to pinch myself because I get to do something I really believe in alongside people who have the same passion. It's hard to be away from my little man, but the snuggles I get when I return home are the best. Focusing on work and running are part of what make me a good mom and a well rounded human. I'm so grateful for all of it. 

Returning home snuggles. So much love.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Nineteen Halfs and Counting

This weekend I ran my 19th half marathon. I thought I'd only run 17, but I looked back at my running spreadsheet (because I'm that kind of nerd), and it turns out it was number 19. Now I feel like I should run number 20 this year just to start 2016 on an even number...but I'm already digressing quite early in the blog.

I've run the Capital City River Run 5 times - the half 4 times and the 5k once. It's one of my favorite races which must be obvious because I don't often run races more than once. I love that it starts in downtown Lansing and runs the Lansing River Trail, a course with which I am so familiar because it's the site of all my long training runs. It's always impeccably organized and most importantly has great shirts and medals.

I loved waking up and walking to the race start. I met my friend at our office before the race where we stretched and chatted before walking to the start. On Saturday, the day before the race, my Crohns decided to be a situation. As we walked from our office to the start I had the realization that this could be a challenging race if I couldn't get my GI issues under control.  GI problems are a common issue for runners. There are articles dedicated to it and tons of nutrition suggestions. Despite my general life GI issues, it's (thankfully) rarely been a problem when I'm running.

The sky over the Capitol = perfection.

We started off strong down Michigan Avenue to East Lansing. Last year the CCRR added a full marathon. I didn't run the race last year because I was still recovering from my hospital drama earlier in the summer. I imagine they changed the course to accommodate the full, but it never occurred to me to check out the course in advance because I'd done the race so many times. I was surprised at how far we ran down Michigan Avenue before turning to hit the river trail. We followed the lengthy run down the Avenue by turning onto Michigan State's campus and back to the more familiar territory of the river trail.

By mile 3 I knew I'd need a bathroom stop. I was frustrated because we were right with the 8:30 pacers meaning a certain PR. I stopped at mile 6, and my awesome friend stopped with me despite my telling her to go on. We quickly jumped back into the race and had a goal to catch back up with the pacer. 

After mile 9 I started to fade. I was fighting the need to stop again, and I urged my friend to go on as I dialed it back just a notch. I saw another bathroom (the most disgusting one I've ever been in) at mile 10 and had to stop again. It was so frustrating.

As I rounded the turn to the finish I saw my time on the clock and knew I was close to my PR. I dug deep and pushed hard to the finish. I heard my friend and my husband yelling for me. My rockstar friend took several minutes off her PR, and I am so proud of her. I was 15 seconds slower than my PR, a mark I would've broken if not for f*&#(@g GI problems. 

Post race with one of my two biggest fans.

I love the CCRR: the course, the energy, the crowd. It's one of my favorite days of the year, and even though I don't quite love the new course as much, it's still pretty great. Other than the aforementioned problems while running, my body felt great afterward. I had a moment where I realized I'm well on my way to being in marathon shape, which is reassuring.

I haven't been thinking about a running plan past the New York Marathon because logging training miles becomes all consuming. Now I'm thinking about half marathon number 20, the Mid-Land half in Midland, Michigan the weekend after NYC. 

On Sunday evening we joined friends at the newly opened Creole restaurant in Old Town. I've been waiting with bated breath for the opening of the Creole. The kitchen isn't fully open, but we were able to have delicious cocktails. The gin fizz is an amazing drink. I highly recommend it.

We left the Creole to get food at Cosmos, also in Old Town. I'm not eating gluten right now (remember...I'm that person), so I couldn't eat their delicious pizza. I could, however, eat mussels and duck fat fries. It's rough being me. 

It was a late Sunday evening, but it was a perfect day of running, napping (I also had a two-hour nap!) and delicious food/cocktails. It's been real, CCRR. Until next year! 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

All People Care About are Touchdowns and Injuries

This is my fourth time training for a marathon, and three out of the four have been during the fall. Marathon training is challenging in and of itself, but with my insistence that it doesn't rule my life, it creates an added level of busy/pressure. When I was running my first marathon, training took over our life. We went to bed early on Fridays so I could do a long run Saturday. I needed a nap on Saturday after said long run. While my husband didn't sign up for a marathon, it ended up affecting our entire life. I remember falling asleep (I mean really asleep) during a Michigan State/Notre Dame night football game. Running you're pretty amazing, but messing with college football is where I draw the line.

Now my training challenge is fitting in college football (with two sets of season tickets in East Lansing and Morgantown, WV) and marathon training. It's a fun way to make marathon training harder! (Is that sarcasm translating?) Two weekends ago we went to Morgantown for the opening weekend of college football. I got in a solid long run the morning of the WV game (which thankfully was a night game).

This past weekend was the home opener in East Lansing. I was up hours before dawn to get in a long run which I ended up having to do on the treadmill because it was so dark outside. Are there many things more brutal than double digit miles on the treadmill? The answer is no. The monotony is remarkable, but the miles are on the books.

I was home, showered and ready for football before 9 am. It was our son's first time tailgating, and we spent several hours hanging out with friends. We park nearly a mile from the stadium, and I headed back a few hours before the game to pick up our sitter and take her and the baby home. That walk to and from the car (twice that day) was surprisingly brutal. I've discovered that sitting on metal benches for three hours during a game takes on a whole new meaning when your legs are sore for a long run.

Tailgating like a baby boss.
During the game. My eyes look SO tired.

We're early in the college football season, and I'm loving every minute of it. With about six weeks left until my marathon I alternate between feeling like I'm in a good place and being terrified that I'm nowhere near ready. So goes the mental yo-yo of training.

We'll be in Morgantown four times this fall, three of them before the marathon. I'm in Traverse City this week for my work's conference, and I'll be in Chicago in October for a girls' weekend. I'll be logging some serious miles in beautiful places, and it helps me remember why I do this. Six weeks is an eternity in marathon training. I've got this, and I've got other important autumn things to focus on. Now let's go Mountaineers!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Perspective

When you're dealing with life's challenges, sometimes it's hard to feel grateful. It can be difficult to appreciate that what you're going through isn't the worst thing anyone is going through. I have work regularly to put my challenges in perspective.

In the last week I've had two IV infusions: an iron infusion and my regular biologic therapy infusion for Crohn's. The iron infusion didn't go as planned. Instead of a 30 minute infusion the doctor changed the medication at the last minute.  I was there for four hours and had to cancel my afternoon meetings. I was pre-medicated with Benedryl that knocked me out for two hours. The WiFi wasn't working properly in the doctor's office, and the giant list of work projects I needed to get through would have to wait until I got home. I was frustrated that I was stuck there most of the day. 

I forced myself to take a step back and think about it. The work was still there when I got home, and thanks to my awesome husband taking over baby duties I was able to get through it all in a few hours. I was able to get my second iron infusion in a week, and I'm already noticing a difference in my energy level. I was being infused at a blood and cancer treatment center, and I wasn't there to receive chemotherapy like many of the other patients. My inconvenient day suddenly felt less inconvenient. I found myself thinking about the things for which I was grateful instead of the ways the day had gone wrong.

I've gotten a biologic therapy infusion for Crohn's for 13 years. It's sometimes inconvenient, but they're scheduled six weeks in advance. I know I've just got to block off the time and do it. There's no other option. Sometimes, in weeks like this week, it's frustrating to be stuck to an IV for large chunks of two days, but it can't be helped. I'll be in Traverse City for our conference next week, and it's more important that I am 100% for a week with members than being in the office all day every day this week.

It's a regular struggle to put things in perspective. Sometimes I want to kick and scream and feel sorry for myself for having two infusions in one week. I want to go home and lie down in bed because I've had two IV infusions. Nobody else I know had to have two infusions this week. Why can't I just relax? Why do I have to go back to work? Why can't I sleep the day away? That's not an option for me. This is my normal, and it means I keep going. I keep pushing. Because that's who I am. 

I am grateful that there is medication that keeps my Crohn's in check. I'm grateful that these iron infusions will help give me the energy I've been lacking the last six months or so. I'm grateful that while I do have a significant health issue, it could be worse. It can always be worse. I have so many things to be thankful for. The right perspective makes the difficult manageable. The right perspective makes the impossible possible.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

I've Got to Keep on Moving.

I thought my life would slow down once I had a child. Other parents may scoff at that, but I really did. In some ways it has (we're home way more in the evenings and on weekends), but we're still on the go a lot. Little William is a consummate traveler at nine months old. We've taken him everywhere - dinner, road trips, tailgating - since he got home from the hospital. He's comfortable with it. So while we've slowed down slightly really our life is now basically being as busy before and throwing a small human into the mix. It's exciting/fun/exhausting all at the same time.

When it came time to renew our West Virginia season football tickets, it was a no brainer. Of course we would. Four weekends in a three month span with a 14 hour round trip drive with a baby? Let's do this sh*t. 

Last weekend was our first trip, and it was slightly easier because it was Labor Day. It gave us an extra few days to hang out and enjoy being in Morgantown. We left just before our son's bed time on Thursday evening and drove into the night. We hit a crazy thunderstorm that looked like a beautiful light show over Lake Erie and felt like a nightmare for an hour on the Ohio Turnpike. Thankfully we arrived in Morgantown around 2 am without incident and a relatively on schedule small person.

The downside to driving late and letting the baby sleep is that he still wakes up on time around 6 am. I was groggy after only four hours of sleep, but it was nothing copious amounts of coffee couldn't handle. We spent the day lunching with family, buying WVU baby gear at The Book Exchange and relaxing at my parents' house.  

On Saturday morning I headed out on the Deckers Creek Trail for a 12-mile run. I last visited the trail in June for the Deckers Creek Half Marathon where I shattered my half marathon PR. I love running the trail. It's flat, well kept and most importantly runs through one of my favorite places in the world. As I was running I was thinking of some really fun college memories like the crazy drunken millennium New Years Eve and cramming into the Mountainlair Plaza to see bands like Fuel and De La Soul. 

Art work under a bridge

Beautiful Deckers Creek
It was one of the best long runs I have had in recent memory. I'm not sure if it was last week's iron infusion or being in Morgantown, but I felt amazing. I came home and showered just in time for my sister, brother-in-law and niece to arrive from Virginia. It was so much fun spending the day with my family and appreciating how much love we have. We're not perfect (we definitely put the "fun" in dysfunctional), but they're my crazy and I love them.

My husband and I went to the West Virginia game relatively late, leaving my parents' house at 6 for a 7:30 game. Our son is cutting his first tooth, and he was really fussy all day. It felt rather self indulgent to leave him with his grandparents and aunt while we went to have a good time. We drove downtown and took the PRT (personal rapid transit) to the game. Thanks for funding our state Sen. Robert C. Byrd (RIP)! The PRT is a monorail that is free on game day. It's the perfect way to miss game traffic although you'll hit student bar traffic on the way out. Worth it.

My Mountaineers were kicking off the season with Georgia Southern, a division 2 team that, let's be honest, we had no business playing. Thankfully we shut them out, put up a pretty good defensive showing, and like most first games got a look at what we need to work on. As is the case at every WVU game I was choking back tears from the minute we walked into the stadium until the ball was kicked off to start the game. The nostalgia is strong with this one.

Wearing sunglasses in the dark so you can't tell I'm almost crying.
On Sunday we had a belated birthday cookout for me. We had steaks and salads, and I cheated on my FODMAP diet for a cupcake. Okay two. Sue me. My husband and I headed back to the Book Exchange (because our son needs a LOT of Mountaineer gear) and I shopped with my sister and niece for a while too. After Will's bedtime my husband, sister, brother-in-law and sister-in-law headed out for some childless time and cocktails. It was a perfect Sunday.

Will was up a lot Sunday night and woke up teething and fussy on Monday at 6 am. Nothing would soothe him, so I decided we'd take a long walk on the trail. Unfortunately we didn't bring the jogging stroller so I was stuck walking, but it was a really nice way to get in some exercise and spend time with my favorite little dude. It was a beautiful morning, and we walked three miles on the quiet, shaded trail. Will's fussiness dissipated as soon as he was strapped in the stroller, and he looked around and seemed to enjoy the quiet too. It was perfect. 


My trail buddy
We took off after brunch with the family. We were nervous about how Will would travel during the day, but he was an absolute rock star. He slept for a few hours and then played the rest of the time. He cried for a few minutes when we were about 20 minutes from home, but that was it. What a champion. It was the perfect end to a busy and fun weekend.

"I'm keeping it together, but I'm NOT happy to still be in the car."
We came home to a rush of laundry (his bedding isn't clean for school!), unpacking (because I unpack immediately always) and running to the grocery store for Tuesday essentials. I really thought having a child would slow down the pace of life, but I now realize that blistering pace is who I am. I wouldn't have it any other way. Now who wants to join me for a run?    

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Strong is the New Awesome

For a lot of years I've been told that I look strong, and I used to bristle at being described that way. I thought strong meant I looked like a bodybuilder or a professional wrestler. Women in those sports are generally extremely muscular. It's not a bad look, but it's not the look I'm going for.

I'm pretty skinny, but I have curves. I am really muscular. The women on TV I looked up to while growing up in in the 90s (I'm looking at you Jennie Garth and Heather Locklear) weren't exactly bringing bootie back. Now with the rise of cross fit women are praising looking strong like never before. "Strong is the new skinny" is the fitness phrase of 2015.

I've heard women complaining that we've just replaced being "skinny" with being "strong" as the new ideal. As a result this still alienates women who aren't the "strong" ideal. I get it ladies, but when you've got a really strong body, celebrate that sh*t. We should all be working towards being our strongest self. Strong is the new awesome.

Last weekend I turned 37. I'm not the kind of person who laments getting older. I loved my 20s and had a great time, but I'm stronger (mentally and physically) and happier now than I was then. As I reach the downward slope to 40 I know myself better than I ever have. I appreciate myself more than I ever have. I've discovered I'm stronger than I ever thought possible.

I spent the weekend being active - 15 mile long run, trying paddle boarding for the first time, kayaking, long bike ride. We went on long family walks with the dogs. My bestie got me a massage, and it felt like heaven on my post-long run sore muscles. I had my fair share (maybe more than my fair share) of cocktails and snuggles with my boys. Turning 37 isn't what I would've imagined a decade ago; it's so much better.

Paddle boarding for the first time. So fun!
When I first saw the photo of me paddle boarding I thought, "Ugh my butt looks big". Old habits die hard. But then I looked again - strong core, strong arms, enjoying myself. Yup...I have a butt. It's that strong butt and legs that keeps me running marathons and running after my precious little baby. I'll keep it, thank you very much.

It may have taken 37 years, but I'm happy to be described as strong. In the marathon of life there are lots of tests of strength. I love being able to conquer each challenge and come out stronger than I was before. Here's to many more strong birthdays! 

Loving family time on the boat.