Sunday, September 12, 2010

Gen and Haakan rock the half marathon

Funny the things that change when you have children.  I've commented many times that my 23 year old self would have been horrified that, for example, sleeping until 8am qualifies as "sleeping in" these days.  What qualifies as a date, apparently, is Haakan and I getting up at the crack of dawn to run 13.1 miles, which I'm sure would be considered anything but a good time to many, but I have a soft spot for this particular half marathon.  It's the Ikea Montour Trail Half Marathon, and it was the first half marathon I ever did, 2 years ago not too long after I started running.  It's a really nice out and back course, the first 1.5 miles (more or less) is downhill, so you can build up a little cushion, the rest is fairly flat (though the subtle up hill from mile 6 to the mile 7 turn around is easily the longest feeling mile of the race), and it's on a trail with a good bit of shade.  It doesn't hurt that the weather always seems to be fabulous for it, too.  I bagged on it last year - I was 16 weeks pregnant and had a full on panic attack in the car just thinking about it, so I switched to the 5k and ended up with a PR - but I was determined to do it and do it well this year.  Given my recent races, I knew going in that this was probably going to be my slowest half marathon, but with that in mind I wanted to just run it in a smart way, and set a reasonable goal.

We almost didn't make it to the race since my mom, who graciously agreed to wake up early and come watch the kids, was pretty late getting to our house, but it all worked out since we weren't ready to leave when we thought we would be, anyway.  Everyone woke up right as we would have been waking out of the house, so we had to attend to their various needs.  Barely making it to the race in time seems to be a theme with this particular race, but we got there about 10 minutes before the start, got our chips, and didn't have time to be worried or nervous.  Though I'm sure Haakan wasn't all that nervous - he might not have done the distance in a while, but since he runs his training runs quite a bit faster than I run mine, I knew he'd be able to do it and be just fine.  This is the man who did this same half marathon in 1:31 and change last year, so I was pretty sure he'd be able to keep up with my 10+ minutes per mile pace.

I have to say, the first 8 or 9 miles of the race were very pleasant.  The weather was beautiful, our pace was well chosen, and I just plain felt good for that distance.  The lack of a water stop from miles 6 to 8 was rather unfortunate, but we survived ok.  Haakan turned to me at one point and said, "This is just so *nice*, you know?" and I had to agree, it's just really such a nice race.  We saw the leaders come through right as we hit mile 6 (so they were two miles ahead of us at that point!) and I always love seeing the leaders.  It must have given some of the runners around us a burst of inspiration because we got passed by a bunch of people and I remember thinking "where did *you* come from?", as I usually think when I get passed like that halfway through a race.  The last three miles were kind of rough, which we were both expecting.  I hadn't done more than 10 miles in quite a number of weeks, so I knew I was going to have to just gut it out for the last three.  Haakan was very encouraging, kept chatting to me about different things to take my mind off of how tired I suddenly felt.  I had to stop and walk after the last water stop because I managed to swallow a bunch of air and my stomach felt like it was going to burst.  After I burped like 5 or 6 times (yeah, running is a sexy sport, let me tell you) I felt ok to keep going, and just sucked it up until the end.  The last 2 miles were totally a mental game of me telling myself that as much as I wanted to just walk it in, I didn't need to and should just keep going.  I had gone in with finishing under 2:30 as my first goal, going under 2:20 as a secondary goal, and going under 2:15 as my "all the stars align and I somehow pull out a faster pace than I probably will" goal.  when we passed the mile 12 guy and he said we were at 2:07 and change, I knew we were going to make it in under 2:20, and the pressure was off for a sub 2:15 finish, since that just wasn't going to happen.  I had nothing left in the tank for a last mile sprint by then, but if we just kept going, we'd make it easily under 2:20.  I managed to pull out a final burst of speed to cross the finish like at 2:18:50, making it my slowest half marathon, but one of the best races I've run since Charlie was born.  I came out exactly where I should be, performed exactly according to expectations, and I had nothing left by the end.  I can truly say I ran the best race I could run for the shape that I'm in right now, and I had a good time doing it.

On a side note, I had some fun with my addiction to lululemon running gear and Haakan and I played "spot the lulu" for the first 8 miles of the race.  I saw more than a few pairs of speed shorts, and one girl passed me in the savage green run: swiftly top that I've been kicking myself about missing out on ever since they sold out a few months ago.  One of the lead women was in head to toe lulu, wearing the same shorts I was, just in the citron color (which I like better than what I've got, truthfully, but oh well).  We also had some fun with the old railroad tunnel that we ran through around mile 3, joking that it would definitely be nice if it was *really* a time tunnel (if your kids watch "Dinosaur Train" you totally get that one), unless it took us back in time rather than forward, because that would obviously suck during a race.  I'm sure the other runners around us thought we were crazy, but at least we were entertaining!

Here's us after our 13.1.  This was actually about an hour later, I'm sure I looked more like a tired pile of goo immediately after the race than I do here, when I'd dried out a little.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Gen vs. the double jogger

Today was my fabulous 5 year old's first day of kindergarten.  Isn't he adorable?  Kind of amazing to think that the next 12 years of his life are mapped out, at least where school is concerned.

Since I only had two kiddos for most of the day (can you believe he goes to kindergarten from 9:05am until 3:51pm?  For kindergarten!) I decided to celebrate the gorgeous day and take baby Charlie, 6 months old today (awwww) out for a run.  Elliot, my 3 year old, was all for it, and really, he's great to run with.  He chatters happily, pretends to count my laps, says encouraging things like "Go mommy!", and narrates everything he sees, ie: "Look mommy!  That girl running!  That boy walk!  He no run, he walk!"  It's all said with a super cute lisp, and with great excitement.  Charlie, unfortunately, has not yet found the jogging stroller love.  Still, they were both good sports while I loaded them into the double jogger, waited patiently while I tracked down the bicycle pump and inflated the tires, and even smiled and giggled happily all the way up to the reservoir.  Of course, once we passed those fabulous art deco statues at the entrance to the park, all hell broke loose.  Charlie began with a bit of whining, but quickly escalated to a full on wail.  I tried to calm him down, but then decided to just give it the old college try and see what happened.  What he's done in the past is calmed down once he found his thumb, since I knew he was tired, so we gave it a shot.

I've said it before, but it bears repeating.  I hate being "that woman" with the screaming baby in the jogging stroller.  Before I had children, I used to wonder who these people were who would run with a screaming child in the stroller.  And now I know, they're moms and dads just like me, who are desperate to run on a beautiful day and have a good feeling that their child will, sooner rather than later, calm down and probably go to sleep.  I stopped a few times around the upper loop to calm Charlie down, and got some amused comments from sympathetic passers by, but as soon as I'd put him back, he'd just start wailing again.  So I ran to finish my lap and headed home, since running was the quickest way.  Close to the entrance I checked on him again, stuck my finger in his mouth, and felt not one, but TWO sharp little teeth poking out on the bottom.  Miserable mood explained!  Poor child, teething sucks.  I adjusted the seat and put him back in, and he was happy as a little clam for about two miles.  I did one loop around the outer track, which is pretty hilly, and got a couple of "You go, girl!" comments, which are always nice, and even managed a full lap and a bit around the upper track before Charlie got restless again.  I heard Elliot say, "I help mommy, I tickle baby!", which I think woke him up, so I just threw in the towel after that and headed for home.  Amazingly, I managed to get 4 miles done, and fairly speedy for having the jogging stroller with me.  I guess that screaming baby is pretty motivational!

Haakan and I have the Ikea Half Marathon this weekend, so I won't be attempting another jogging stroller run until next week, but hopefully it'll go better the next time.  I had been planning my exercise thinking about how to run with just Charlie, but if Elliot's willing to come with me, too, that kind of puts a new spin on things.  Haakan and I also checked out the new Urban Active fitness club, which is enormous!  It seemed very sci fi with all the tv screens and such, especially after the teeny tiny gym I go to for pilates, but I wasn't impressed with their offerings for yoga and pilates, so I'll probably end up passing, or just getting a winter membership at BodyTech so that I can run on the treadmill and have someone else watch the kiddos.  It seems kind of stupid, though, since we HAVE a treadmill, we just don't have a good place to put it, so I can't use it early in the morning, or while Charlie naps, because it wakes him up.  Doh!  It's like a logic puzzle trying to figure it all out!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Running = Sanity

These are my two older children.  I show you their smiling and shining faces because you need to see just how adorable they appear in order to understand what little hellions they are capable of turning into.  It's back to school time, and since my oldest, Oliver, is starting kindergarten on Wednesday and my second, Elliot, is going back to preschool on Tuesday, a trip to the shoe store was in order.  If you have children, you understand that there are few excursions that inspire as much dread as a trip to the shoe store.  Taking them one at a time would have been wiser, but really, I despise shoe shopping with my children so much, I'd rather just do it quick and dirty style and be done with it.  So the four of us - the baby, Charlie, had to come, too, though thank goodness he didn't need shoes - went to the shoe store and I was on a mission to search and conquer.  And my children were horrible.  HORRIBLE.  I take some small comfort that every parent who came in there with more than one child was having the same experience as I was, but still, it sucked all the way around.  They ran around, they wrestled with each other and poked each other with shrieks of "He's touching me!" and "Get your foot off my head!" while I tried to find my 5 year old's size, as well as fine the ONE pair of shoes in the whole store that I could even get on to my 3 year old's feet (poor kid has a really high instep AND wide feet - not a good combo for quick trips).  They almost knocked over a display of sale shoes and the behaved so badly, I threatened to not take them to the playground afterwards (though I did, because it would have been a punishment for *me* to not let them burn off some of that energy), and spent the whole trip getting shoes one handed since I had to keep swinging an exhausted Charlie in the car seat (he was asleep when we got there, eyes popping WIDE open as soon as we got into the store ).

Anyway, we did manage to get some shoes, and the children continued in the same vein for the rest of the day, so that when we got home from a visit to Haakan's work - where they kids also ran amok and freaked out when we left without snacks because of their crazy behavior - I informed him that our children were going to drive me to drink.  "You need to go out and run," he said.  And that, dear readers, is exactly what I did.  You've never seen a gal put on her running clothes so fast.  I ran around the hilly lower loop of the reservoir and every lap felt like a gift to myself.  It was one of those runs that was hard, yet effortless at the same time.  I did 6.4 miles and felt great the whole time.  It was a gorgeous 74 degrees, sunny in that fabulous late afternoon kind of way, and all the way around, the perfect antidote to my horrendous day.  I came home to three little kids who were *thrilled* to see me, who were fed and went to bed easily.  They even wanted to read stories with me, which is a rare treat since they're usually just all about daddy in the evenings.  A good run is like a mental sorbet, cleaning out all the nasty tasting remains of the day and leaving you fresh mentally and nicely tired and ready to wind down for the night.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Another early run, and a Run Around the Square

Horray!  Haakan no longer has the honor of having run all my slowest races with me!  We did the Run Around the Square on Saturday and it was a gorgeous day for it.  Actually even a little on the chilly side, even, which was a very welcome change.  Another nice little surprise is that they've put a mat at the start of the race, which is awesome since it took us more than a minute to cross the starting line.  But, as usual, this was a challenging race for me, and I didn't quite make it in under 30 minutes.  I think my biggest mistake was stopping twice for water.  I definitely could have run through that second water stop, and that might just have put me under 30.  And as usual, that freaking hill from 1.5 to 2.5 was so much longer than I thought it would be.  At one point Haakan turned to me and said "It's all down hill from here!"  I almost turned to him and called bullshit on it, I knew it was too early.  But we really pushed through during the last half mile of all downhill and I definitely gave it my all in the end.  So, though I came in over my goal, I'm still pleased and it was a good race.

We left the kids with my mom and sister at the big playground at Forbes and Braddock and when we ran past I heard Oliver scream "Run faster, mommy!"  Everyone around us laughed, and it was pretty funny.  Poor kid was actually tearful after the race when I told him that no, I didn't win.  Since I still had some mileage for the week to finish up, and the kids weren't ready to leave the playground, I decided to run back home and just meet Haakan and the kids back there.  It turned out to be almost exactly 4 miles, which is not as far as I thought it would be.  It's amazing to live in a city and for it to take forever to get anywhere with traffic and stoplights, and then realize that I can actually run to all these places.  It tickles me to think that I could put Elliot and Charlie in the double stroller, run to the park, let them play, and then go home.  The run itself wasn't bad once I hit the crest at the top of Beechwood Blvd.  I was flying down the hill, wondering why I was getting so tired.  Duh, I was like a minute and a half faster than my usual pace!  Which is why downhills are cool.  I'm a fan.

I also managed to get in another early run this week, which was excellent.  Charlie woke up around 5am to eat, and I decided I'd just get up and run after I got him fed.  I was up at the reservoir at 6am and had my 8 miles finished before 8am, and then felt all virtuous and fit for the rest of the day.  And hungry.  I swear, I ate like crazy all day because I just felt like I was starving!  I think I need to fuel better for those long runs, but I'm at a loss about how to do that for an early morning one.  I guess I'll figure it out.

I'm doing a 10 miler this weekend in anticipation of the half marathon that we're doing next weekend.  I'm not too worried about it.  I've been doing 8 miles pretty handily, 10 miles is only 2 more than that.  and 13 miles is only 3 more than that, right?  Subdividing the mileage doesn't make it seem quite so far.