Monday, October 26, 2009

Look and Find, Pet-Style

Do you see Wally the Cat?

Yep... the dog is laying on TOP of the cat. And the cat didn't move. Allllll night.

Tiny Baby Jesus

Tiny Baby Jesus book review and giveaway at Mama in Pajamas Reviews!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My First Half Marathon on the Trails

Also Titled: The Reason I'm Keeping the Ibuprofin Companies in Business Today

I wanted to get this down before I forget. I'm guessing it will be a while before my muscles forget what we accomplished yesterday, but my memory is amazingly fickle. I'll blame that (and my muscles) on my advancing age.

I've been running since January. January 1st to be exact. I wanted to be a runner. I wanted to know that I could head out the door any time, any place, and burn some calories. I wanted to feel strong and healthy again. In ten months, I've done all that and more. I've also gained this amazing community of running support. Friends I've met as I've progressed from barely able to keep my body moving for five minutes at a time to moving continuously for almost 4 1/2 hours yesterday. Amazing neighbors who not only tell me I can do it, but celebrate with me when I have done it. Strangers that I see only at races, but who still smack me on the back and give me high fives as I come across a finish line. Running store owners who not only put on the best races ever, but who have never once told me I wasn't capable of accomplishing my goals.

Since January, I've run several 5k road races, but my favorite events have been the trail races out at a local state park. The four race series started with a 5k in March and then progressed to two 10ks (one at night in July), and finished yesterday with a heavy half marathon. I've been eyeing this half marathon since the beginning of the season. I wanted this half marathon. I wanted to do all four races in the series and I worked my rear end off to make it happen. Yesterday, it was finally time to stop thinking about it and start running it.

The race started at 8:00 so the husband and I were both up at 6:00, waiting for the babysitter. I had everything ready, so we were out the door by 6:40 and drove around the corner to our neighbors' house. D & K have run all the events in the series too, and we always drive out together.

We got our race numbers and pretended to stretch and made one last trip to the bathrooms. We grinned at some of the other participants and hugged a few friends. But mostly, we tried not to freeze to death. It was bitterly cold - about 34 degrees at start time.

After a few words from the running store owner/race director extraordinaire, it was time to head down the hill. Because, you see, it's not enough to simply run 14 miles. That wouldn't be enough of a challenge! First we must run up the road that leads to the trails! This is my least favorite part of every single race. I lined up near the back with my friend, T, who was running her first ultra (30+ miles - go T!) and soon we were following 5k-ers, half-marathoners, and 50k-ers up that darn hill. Maybe it was the cold air or maybe it was T's company or maybe I'm just getting crazier, but it wasn't as bad this time.

We were in the trees in no time and I was rockin' along, sticking with T until we reached the first aid station. I glanced at my watch and realized I was in big, big trouble. I had done the first 4.8 miles in around 70 minutes. If I was doing a 10k and had continued at that pace for another 1.5 miles, I would have trashed my previous PR by about 15 minutes. So, while I was feeling really excited about how well things were going, I knew I was going to pay for it later.

Getting to the second aid station (at 8.8 miles) was more challenging, mostly because we hit a section of the trail that was all rocks and hills. I had barely left the first aid station when I fell, but I knew I was going to fall at some point and was congratulating myself for not breaking anything when BOOM, down I went again. This time, I did a bit of damage to my knee and twisted an ankle pretty good. I may or may not have cursed out loud, brushed the mud from my pants as best I could, and hobbled off down the trail. Luckily, the trail leveled out before the 2nd aid station and I had some nice paths to run before I hit aid station #2, manned by a well-known trail group out of K.C. I have to say, the volunteers yesterday were all amazing but there's something way cool about having Bad B filling your water bottle and telling you that you're rockin' the course. Now, I knew I wasn't anywhere close to rockin' the course, being (at that time) second to last in the half marathon, but when you're almost 9 miles into a 14.2 mile course, being lied to isn't all bad.

Off to aid station #3, at mile 11.3. The knee was making its presence known but the trail was a good mix of runnable and oh-my-good-gracious-that-is-a-big-hill and I actually hit this aid station in good time, quite a bit ahead of my mental predictions. After a quick peek at the knee and a refill of the water bottle, I headed out for the last 3 mile stretch. This is where the wheels completely fell off the bus. Stomach cramps, calf cramps, quad cramps - you name it, I had it. I struggled to walk the majority of this leg, forcing myself to break into a run when the terrain allowed and doing my best to not aggravate whatever was going on with my knee. The half marathoner behind me finally ran past and I was on my own. I was mad that things weren't going perfectly but I was going to finish the darn race!!!

As I turned onto the trail leading to the finish line, I could hear the band playing (LOVED the live band at the finish line!). I knew I was close and then I saw the race director and another volunteer walking toward me, checking to be sure I didn't make a wrong turn (evidently, a few other runners took the wrong trail right at the end). Soon I heard yelling and cowbells and I made it past the line of cones leading me to the official finish line. I did it in 4 hours and 23 minutes, 7 minutes faster than the goal I had set.

The husband gave me a big hug, the race director gave me a hug, I wasn't sure the race director's wife was going to let me go, she hugged me for so long! It was amazing to see how proud they were of me and if I hadn't been completely drained of all energy, I probably would have cried. I honestly can't figure out how to put it into words - that welcoming committee at the end was an incredibly special thing.

I drank some chocolate milk, forced down a little food, and the husband drove me home. I slept most of the afternoon, physically wiped out from the effort. Today, I'm a little slow and I think I'll be popping ibuprofin on a fairly frequent basis, but I am so proud of myself. Yesterday rocked.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

One of These Things is Not Like the Other

Heh. I just noticed that the last blog entry mentioned NASCAR and Martha Stewart in the same post.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sister Weekend

Once a year, my sister and I sneak away from our husbands and kiddos. We meet in Lincoln, go to a football game, do a little shopping, and enjoy a bit of 'girl time'. Last year, we discovered Glittens (which I still say are one of the best inventions ever) so expectations were high for Sister Weekend 2009!

We get approximately 24 hours together before we have to head back home (about 3 hours for me, 2 1/2 hours for her - in opposite directions, of course) so we pack in a lot in that short time. We continued our tradition of meeting at a local Shopko, where we stimulated the economy and, I'm happy to say, my sis helped me find a couple of things for that upcoming business trip I was telling you about. A quick lunch was followed by hotel check-in and the application of Husker tattoos (temporary, of course). Things were going well until I applied one of my sis's tattoos upside down. Luckily, I noticed fairly quickly and we were able to remedy the situation before heading out to grab the bus to the stadium.

Game day in Lincoln is a sight to behold, and we were pretty darn excited to be going to the game. It was a gorgeous day for football (no Glittens needed) and Texas Tech was coming to town. The game, I'm sorry to say, did not live up to the hype but we hung in there til the end, cheering on our Huskers.

A side note here: I have never been so disgusted with Nebraska football fans in my life. Our fans are supposed to be known nationwide for being respectful, understanding the game of football, and recognizing the effort taking place on both sides of the ball. On Saturday, we heard boos (at least the fans were booing our own coaches, and not the opposition). We heard fans, primarily in the student section, chanting for a quarterback change. And all of that was heard on national television. Yes, it was a disappointing football game. Yes, our offense was completely ineffective. Yes, it probably was time to try someone different at quarterback. But honestly people! These are 18-22 year old kids, playing a game. If you can't cheer for them, win or lose, then next time I'd prefer that you stay home. And Go Big Red. That's all I have to say about that. :)

After the game, we grabbed a bite to eat and then headed back to our hotel room. It wasn't long before we were lounging in our jammies, watching NASCAR (my sister's guy sucked once again... I'm sensing a pattern), and paging through a pile of magazines. We laughed at overly complicated recipes in Martha Stewart's magazine, tossed perfume samples back and forth, and talked talked talked. It was great! And it went much too fast. Morning came and we eventually crawled out of our beds and headed home (after a couple of quick stops for additional shopping opportunities).

Is it time for Sister Weekend 2010 yet?

Friday, October 16, 2009

The One Where I Have Nothing To Wear

It's that time again - time to load up the laptop, pack a bag, and fly off to a business conference. Well, it's almost time. I've got two weeks. And that's good because once again, I have nothing to wear. I did manage to purchase a new top or two, a pair of chinos, and a pair of jeans a couple of weeks ago but none of that (with the possible exception of the chinos) will work for the business conference.

I'm fairly sure that the ol' standby grey striped trousers and solid black pants will be coming out of the dusty depths of my closet for a return trip to Indianapolis, but I definitely need a couple of new sweaters to jazz up the ensembles. And my shoe selection is also woefully inadequate.

There are a few things that come together to create this perfect storm of no-clothes-itis. The first problem is that I have three children... all girls... and it's much more fun to buy things for them than it is to buy for me. So I just... don't. The second problem is that when I go into the office, I usually wear jeans and a sweater. Sometimes jeans and a sweatshirt. And on rare occasions, a sweatshirt and athletic pants. Because hey - why dress up if you don't have to?!?! This leaves my closet rather bare of anything cute or trendy or appropriate for flying across the Midwest for work purposes.

The third problem? Have you seen how much clothes cost these days? I know what I like and I'm even occasionally able to find it but then I look at the price tag and think about the number of children's clothing items that translates into and I just can't pull the trigger.

Anywho, I'm going to have to suck it up and buy some new clothes for this thing. I don't have to be fancy or even all that business-y. I'm a writer for heaven's sake... I'm expected to be somewhat quirky in my apparel choices... but still. Ugh.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wednesday = Productivity

I love Wednesdays! On Wednesdays, I take the two older girls to school and drop the little one off at daycare. And then, instead of driving over to the office, I head back home. I set up the laptop on the kitchen counter, pull up a bar stool, and settle in with a cup of coffee. I scan my email, write out my To Do list, and dive in. I LOVE Wednesdays!

I'm so lucky to be able to work from home three days a week, but two of those days, I also have Miss P in the house. That means I end up with plenty of breaks to fix snacks, dress the baby doll, and put together a puzzle or two - all of which are fabulous but not exactly productive.

On Wednesdays, I'm in the house all. by. myself. That never happens! And now? Now it happens every Wednesday!

Sometimes, life is grand.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

One Mile, Two Mile, Three Mile, Four

In 16 days, I'll be running the Rock Creek Trail Series heavy-half marathon. A half marathon is 13.1 miles, but due to the way the trails wind around and the fact that the people putting this event together are crazy, the actual course will be about 15 miles long. Thus the "heavy" part of the heavy-half marathon.

I've been doing my best to prepare for this. I've logged several 6 mile runs and one 8 miler, I have a 10 mile run planned for the weekend, and I've done more 3 and 4 mile runs that I can count. I'm very slow, and I don't actually run the entire distance - I run until I hit a big hill or my legs just won't go any further and then I walk for a couple of minutes before starting up again. But I've steadily been able to run further, and I've been amazed at how my lung capacity has increased, decreasing the amount of wheezing other runners hear when passing me :)

Because of the technical nature of the trails I'll be running (i.e. rocks, tree roots, and steep hills), I fully expect this 15 mile jog through the state park to take 4 1/2 hours. I'd love it if I could manage it in a bit less, and I'm praying it's not too much more, but you take what the trails give you and do your best. I'll be one of the slowest, if not the slowest, runner out there, but my mantra is simple:

Slow and steady may not win the race, but it will finish it.

When I started running in January, it was a struggle to run for 60 seconds. Now, a 60 minute run doesn't seem unreasonable. Even more satisfying is the change in my attitude. I make my running a priority. It doesn't happen every day, but if I go more than two days without lacing up my shoes, I get antsy. Even on the days when I dread heading out the door, I know that once I'm out there I'll be so glad I made the effort. It feels good to do something for me.

This trail series, put on by my fabulous local running store, has been a big motivator. It started with a 5k in early Spring, built to 2 10ks during the summer months, and now peaks with this fall event. It's hard to skip a training run when you know a race is on the horizon. Also high on my list of things that keep me going are the people I know. I have a coworker who has been running the series, neighbors who run with me, and staff at the running store who have become friends. But I could never have kept with it if the husband hadn't stepped in. He's cooked countless suppers while I've squeezed in a run after work. He's put the girls to bed so I could get in three miles on the treadmill. And he's run them to all sorts of activities so that I could get some time in on the trails.

I'm both excited and nervous. Mostly, I'm proud of myself and the effort I've made. And I know that in two weeks, when I come up the trail toward the finish line, the cowbells will be ringing, the other runners will be cheering me on, and there will be margaritas waiting.

That, my friends, is a reason to run.

Monday, October 5, 2009

My First NASCAR Race

Yesterday, I went to my first NASCAR race - the Price Chopper 400 at Kansas Speedway. My sister and brother-in-law are big NASCAR fans and they came down from Nebraska for a weekend of racing. We left bright and early on Sunday morning, with my sister bouncing off the roof of the Tahoe in excitement and my brother-in-law dodging traffic on the turnpike like a pro.

We arrived at Speedway three hours before the famous, "Gentlemen, start your engines" signalled the start of the event and I could not believe the number of vehicles flooding into the area. Cars, pickups, motorcycles, RVs... you name it, it was there. And, more than likely, sporting a flag or decal trumpeting a favorite driver. Huge tailgating parties had sprung up, complete with barbecues and awnings and portable showers.

We waded through the masses and made our way to Souvenir Alley, where semitrucks were filled with tshirts, tote bags, beer coozies, and more. As I told my brother-in-law, NASCAR was obviously my type of sport... they had integrated the oh-so-important shopping element! After doing our part to stimulate the economy, it was time to enter the gates and find some food. My sis and I dove into some serious nachos - thumbs up on the whole race day experience so far!

We found our seats about an hour before the engines started revving and took in the sights. There was plenty of people-watching to do, and the action in the infield (is that what they call it? The center of the racetrack with the garage and RVs and such) was fun to see. My sis and I climbed to the top of the grandstand and took a ton of pictures, and then we persuaded one of the event staff to take a few pictures of us. As soon as she downloads all the pics, I promise to share!

While waiting for the starting flag, I decided I needed to follow 'a guy' in order to really enjoy the experience. My sis is a big Dale Jr. fan but I wanted someone different and, after she told me who a few of the drivers were, I picked Tony Stewart -- primarily because he does those Burger King commercials where the guy from CHiPS says, "Estraaaaaaada" and I find that funny :)

The race itself was pretty darn cool. I'll admit that there was one long stretch under the green flag where there wasn't a whole lot that interested me on the track, but I kept myself busy with my sis's camera and watching the action in the pits and playing with the fun Fan View thing my sis had rented. It was a combination of headphones and a little handheld tv set thingy that let you listen in on the radio broadcast, change channels to hear what the drivers were saying to their crew chief, check stats for each driver, and watch the race from the perspective of cameras positioned in certain race cars.

The caution flags were my favorite part, because then the pits were hopping. It was so cool to watch the cars come in for fuel or tires, and then speed out again to take their place on the track. There was one car I was a little concerned about. He was involved in an early crash and spent the rest of the race trying to win the trophy for most pit stops in a single event. Still, he kept me entertained so - Thank you Home Depot car! Heh.

As an added bonus, 'my guy' ended up winning the race. How's that for beginner's luck?

I still can't say I'm a huge NASCAR fan (although I do think I need a 'my guy' tshirt!). But the atmosphere was great, the skill needed to maneuver those cars at such high speeds was impressive, and the nachos alone were worth the trip! I had a lot of fun yesterday, and I loved being there with my sister. I'd definitely go again!