Friday, July 27, 2012

On this day in history...

1789: Congress established the Department of Foreign Affairs, forerunner of the State Department.
1861: during the Civil War, Union Gen. George McClellan was placed in command of the Army of the Potomac.
1866: the first underwater telegraph cable between North America and Europe was completed.
1909: pioneer aviator Orville Wright tested the Army's first airplane, flying himself and a passenger for an hour and 12 minutes in Virginia.
1921: Researchers led by biochemist Frederick Banting announced the discovery of the hormone insulin
1980: An earthquake in Sharpsburg, Kentucky, measured 5.2 on the Richter scale
1988: Big traffic jam in Boston
2002: Hot Dad and I were married on the hottest day anyone in attendance can remember

Happy 10th anniversary to my wonderful husband.

We do...

We did!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mommy's Project 52:52 Active

I'm kind of sad that Mommy's Project: 52 is coming to a close.  I am really happy, though, that it helped me keep my blog active over the last year!  Having a topic to write about each week (I think I might have missed one or two, though, sorry!), meeting other bloggers, and touching on subjects I wouldn't have probably thought to touch on has been lots of fun.

In the last year, my daughter completed first grade, my kids turned 7 and 5, I completed my first half marathon, we took a family vacation, my husband started bowling in a league which he really enjoyed, and we're getting set to do all that again (minus the 7 and 5 thing).  In the coming year, my son will be in kindergarten, I will be working toward resolving the injury to my hip, my husband will bowl his second season in the league he joined, and the kids will turn 8 and 6 (I closed my eyes to type that because I don't believe they're going to be those ages), among many other things.  Time flies, it's amazing.

First grade
Love summer vacations

Someone's 7

A happy five year old
Big half marathon finish!

I have never been one to exercise, I'll be honest.  I used to run in college (once in a while), ran reluctantly in high school (thank you, Presidential Physical Fitness testing), but that is about the extent of the exercising I've ever done.  Every once in a while I would try to follow those "melt those love handles away with these easy exercises" from the magazines, but it's always short lived.  Once I started running in 2010, I knew I'd found something that could help me melt away stress, get myself in better shape, and handle things in my daily life better than I was handling them before.  Once I got injured in January of this year, however, things changed drastically.

Not being able to run, for much of this year, I had to find something to keep myself active, while also helping heal the injury to my hip.  Because the hip area is a complex system of more than just your waist and a place to wear your belt, I focused on work that would strengthen that entire area and enrolled in a core class.  I haven't taken a class in years.  I took yoga and pilates several years before the kids with a girlfriend, and admit that I did yoga at home on a semi-regular basis until I got married.  This core class, though, is really making a difference, and I plan to stick with it for a while, especially while I recover from this hip injury.

I play coed softball and have since I was about 18.  These days, I play once a week in a beer league that I organize at work.  Hot Dad joined our team last year, so we get to play ball together again like we did when we first met.  During summers, softball gets me out of the house weekly, I get the opportunity to socialize with coworkers outside the office, and when we can get a sitter it's a break from the kids for me.  Before running, summer softball was my only form of activity outside of chasing the kids around and grocery shopping.

The kids have also gotten in on the action by having run a couple of kids' races at races I've done.  I think they're both really liking it, and I am hoping that I can get Ethel to join me in a 5K some time next year.  Fred is taking t-ball this summer, and at summer camp I enrolled Ethel in swimming lessons, so they certainly aren't letting the grass grow under their feet this summer. 

I don't consider myself a 'blogger', per se.  I don't do it for a living, I don't write articles about hard-hitting social issues, and I don't have unending wisdom to share and make money from.  I started to blog to unload my thoughts in a media that wouldn't require a translator to decipher my horrific hand writing in a simple journal.  The conclusion of Mommy's Project 52 doesn't bring my blogging to an end, no way.  I feel like it helped me get in the routing of writing more regularly, and I look forward to the next 52 weeks, hoping to post at least weekly, if not more often! 

Thanks to Robin for putting this project together and bringing together those of us who participated.  I have enjoyed the activity, and following new bloggers and their families and adventures.  Through this process, I've met other moms, other runners, other people with a variety of common interests.  Thanks, Robin, this has been loads of fun!!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Mommy's Project 52:51 Responsible

I have started this entry a thousand times. OK, not really, more like 15. Truth is, I keep trying to write about being responsible, but, my responsibilities keep getting in the way. Kids Work Laundry Dishes Blog Yes, the blog is low on the list, as it should be given all the other things I am responsible for. And all those other things make it really hard sometimes to keep up the blog. I've really enjoyed Mommy's Project 52, and it's allowed me to keep this thing active, while giving me things to write about when I normally wouldn't have taken the time. I'd write more, but, I have to go be responsible for two kids and my work, which are currently competing for my undivided attention.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Take me (us) out to the ball game!

For Hot Dad's birthday back in May, I bought him us tickets to a Cubs game.  You need not question or criticize that we're fans, just accept it.  Some things in life are better unquestioned.

The game was this past Sunday, and it was the first time the kids have been to a ball park.  At ages 7 and 5, we figured they were at a decent age where they could enjoy the atmosphere, perhaps pay some attention to parts of the game, and selfishly Hot Dad and I got to enjoy a game at Wrigley for the first time in a few years.  Plus, with no diapers to lug and no stroller to push, it would be logistically pretty easy.

It was, and the kids had a blast!  The Cubs won which made it that much sweeter.  Here are some pics from our adventure!

Our first time riding the El!

Lunch at Sports Corner

Short nap to recharge

Cool helmets!

Add caption

The train ride was the highlight of the day

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

In which the marathon slips out of reach...

I have not a single regret about doing Ragnar.  It was a great experience, I made some great new friends, and proved to myself that I could push myself and get it done.  I also proved that my hip wasn't in very good shape. 

I took that Monday night off from the group run, and went to core class on Tuesday.  I have never been so inept at doing basic movements, like sitting up.  Honestly, I was in so much pain I nearly cried several times while trying to just get into a sitting position from lying on my back.  Even modifying the exercises didn't work, and I left feeling deflated, to put it kindly.  The next night, I couldn't get myself through a lap around the track at the track workout, and sat on the side for the entire workout.  I knew something had to be done, my hip was probably out of place and I needed it fixed.  So I called and got myself and appointment with the PT for the 20th.  With two numb toes, a swollen right foot, and regional pain on my right side, something was really not right.

I admitted to all the miles I'd put in over the previous three weeks.  There was no reason to hide it, and I knew this was the reason for my pain.  When the therapist asked me to bend at the waist, as if to touch my toes, I was barely even hunched before he said, "Wow, that's really out of place".  He adjusted me and got things back in place, and when he did, my hip gave a nice loud pop, and I felt the slip of the tendons over the front of my hip.  An adjustment hasn't felt that good in ages.  It's also never been that loud.  He explained to me that my pelvis had gone so far out of place that it was causing a pinch in my L1/L2 area of my lower back, and this was what was causing the pain and other symptoms.  Quite simply, I increased my miles so quickly and so drastically that the stabilzer muscles in the hip could not keep up, and they gave out, allowing the pelvis to slip out of position.  I'd done quite a number on myself.

With the hip straightened out, he said that the pop my hip gave, which was quite emphatic and loud, could be the result of a tear somewhere in the hip area, possibly a labral tear.  Rather than jump right to that conclusion, though, he advised not running for several days at least, then starting back up very slowly.  What I think I can do - do half.  Do the stretching and strengthening exercises each day, as I had been, and keep track of every mile of running.  Start very slow, working up incrementally each week.  Take the conservative approach to see if that helps things.  I was on board with this plan, and headed out to follow his instruction.

I didn't run for over a week.  I got a pinch runner the one time I got a base hit in softball.  I did my exercises.  I was feeling so much better.

The week of July 4th I laced up and took it easy.  I ran Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but went slowly and kept the miles low.  It was super hot that week, so aside from the Monday night group run, I ran pre-dawn so I could beat the heat.  Running in the early morning is so wonderful, I really miss it.  I wish I had time during the week to run before getting ready for work, but our schedule just doesn't have the space for that.

Three miles Monday night, 3.6 Wednesday morning, and about 3.5 on Friday morning.  Those miles felt great, and being able to come home, water the plants outside, enjoy some Nuun, then some coffee - this is how I'd like every morning to be.  Start with a run, savor the morning, then get on with the day. 

In my elated state, I signed up for a 5K on the 14th.  {I bet you know where this is going} pretty bad ass about my self control (ie: not running like Forrest Gump right out of the gates), I returned to the store on Monday night to join the group run.  I figured an easy 3-4 miles would do me some good.  My running buddy, suffering from some nasty IT band annoyance, and I set out slowly and chatted as we ran along.  Less than a mile in, though, I knew I couldn't keep going, and wouldn't get to our 3-4 mile goal.  We started back to the store at a mile, and I could tell something wasn't right.  Sadly, we only got in 1.9 miles that night.  To say I was disappointed would be a gross understatement.

How the hell could I go from doing some easy 3-ish miles runs to barely squeaking out 1.9?  What the hell is going on here?  And I had a 5K to do.  Great.  Looks like another week off from the track and other running so I could get to that 5K.

I started having sharp pains when I shifted my weight from one side to the other.  I started having difficulty whenever I would have to lift my right leg.  It wasn't consistent, but when it struck, it was sharp and it showed on my face.  I stuffed myself into my little capsule of denial and still did the 5K.

The first couple miles of the 5K were fine.  I had my best first mile probably ever, at sub-8, but since I didn't have my Garmin set to splits, there is no evidence of that.  I wish I could project my vision of what I saw when I looked at my Garmin at the first mile.  Maybe someday there will be an app for that.

The last mile of this race were a challenge.  I could not slow down much because I knew my hip would want me to walk, and getting back to even a trot would not happen even with an act of Congress.  I had to keep running.  I had to let others pass me.  I had to finish.  Come on, it's only 3.1 miles! finished.  I was in pain.  I won't post the picture that was taken of me heading to the finish line.  Mostly because I hate pictures of myself running, but in this case my face is a full window to the pain I was feeling in my hip.  My teammates were amazing and supportive, helped me stretch, reminded me to go easy on myself, and committed to forcing me to stretch after every run we would do together moving forward.  They were sympathetic of my pain, but, we all knew this meant that my hip wasn't and isn't healed.  <sad face>

My gut told me that I needed to take the next step.  I need to heal this hip. 

I e-mailed my PT Monday afternoon.  I outlined my mileage, symptoms, and asked for his thoughts on what I should do next, and how seriously I should consider the possibility of a tear.  His response was that I should have it looked at and get some diagnostic tests, if for nothing else than to rule out a worst case scenario.  I am going to be calling him to get in for an adjustment, too.

The pain has subsided, for the most part, and today I can tell the pelvis is out of place again, but, the pain is entirely different than what I've been experiencing to this point.  Monday night I began to have what felt like spasms at the front of my hip, and those have all but gone away.  Walking is easier today, but not great.  I am slightly limping, and my lower back and pelvis are dying for another adjustment.

Finally, I have decided to drop out of this year's Chicago Marathon.  It has taken me quite some time to come to this decision, but I know it is for the best.  I need to get my hip in shape so that 2013 is my year to run the marathon the way I want to run that race.  For now, I won't be running and will be working on getting stronger so I can heal up. 

I am oddly OK with my decision, but know that I'll probably fall apart as the marathon gets closer.  Still, I know in the end that I'll be running that marathon next year.  I'll be a better, stronger runner, and this is just a minor set back. 

On to the next chapter...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Testing limits, Ragnar style; Part 4, Call Us Crazy

Leaving the yellow tank top girls and the rest of the Ragnar refugees behind at the exchange, we made our way to find meet Jo and get on relaying. With darkness setting in, we got to break out all our fun reflective gear and all the accessories we'd brought along for our night runs.  Glow sticks, glow wand, glow green foam thingy which we gave an inappropriate name, Carols flashing hair tie, it was pretty funny at the time.  And while we waited for Carol, we had someone snap a shot of us.

My overnight leg was pretty uneventful.  I'd had a headache and taken a couple Excedrin before running.  The headache was long gone before I ran, and the caffeine made me slap happy.  I don't think Phil will ever offer anyone in his company an Excedrin for a headache.  Just sayin'.

The leg was short, only about 4.6 miles, so nothing too terrible.  Along the way I passed a few runners, but only got passed once or twice.  I describe this leg as the Stand By Me leg.  While the route wasn't on the tracks, it was along the tracks.  The whole way.  We crossed two streets, otherwise we were alone on this long stretch of path next to the tracks, separated only by bushes.  Kind of cool, though.  At the end of my leg, the path to the exchange was a little disjointed.  As I learned later, they had some issues with volunteers (or lack thereof).  I passed a headlamp on the ground at one point, and I couldn't help but wonder if it had been on the head of a runner who'd been attacked by a wild animal, if a runner dropped it, or if some local kids were leaving lights along this path trying to direct us to the pond filled with leaches.  Regardless, I made my way over, under, and through this twisted path and found the exchange where my van mates were waiting. 

I felt good!  My hip held up and I stretched well after I finished.  It was reaffirming, and I was confident that I'd made the right choice to go ahead and do this relay.

So the night running was turning out to be OK, just as the whole event had.  We were quickly finding, too, that some teams were writing on other vans, "tagging" as it's apparently called.  We found a few stray comments on our van, as if it were a Facebook timeline that people could leave their comments on.  Of course, we knew the yellow tank top girls had 'tagged' us, fueling our desire to beat them to the finish in each leg, especially at the final finish.

Eventually we made it to another refugee camp major exchange where we would greet our teammates in van two and have all six of our van mates together again.  This time, we had the promise of several hours ahead of us, and the option of a place to sleep.  Not since my children were infants has the promise of more than an hour of sleep been so exciting to me.  Our time was shortened by the search for a lost (and eventually found) cell phone, but eventually we made it to the YMCA in Racine, Wisconsin.  For $2, they offered a floor to sleep on and showers.  That shower may have been the best one I've taken in years.  I wish I could say the same about the sleeping arrangement, though.  While quiet and air conditioned, I clearly wasn't as prepared for sleeping on the workout room floor as I should have been.  I believe I dozed a little here and there, but, don't think it was more than an hour total sleep.  My hip certainly did not appreciate the hard sleeping surface, and it was difficult to find a comfortable position to sleep in.

Sunrise over Ragnar in Racine
Waterfront property
Van one was now on the road completing their third and final legs of the relay.  It was a hot day, no doubt, and we were all so tired.  And Call Me Maybe had us all at the brink of insanity.  One by one, we exchanged runners and kept going.  Just before my third and final leg, I think we hit that "this is ridiculous and we need to let off some steam and be idiots for a few minutes".  For me, it was a release of the nerves that were trying to derail my attempt at a decent final leg.  And then this happened

Back to the race.

My third leg would take us over the border from Wisconsin back into Illinois.  My van mates agreed on when they would meet up with me, and what they would have for me as far as water and such.  It's a good thing because the water stop was out of water.  Yes, out of water.  This old guy at a folding table had an assortment of beverages that other teams had contributed, so he had at least something to offer us.  That was it.  A couple miles down, there was a team that had left water and cups, so I grabbed one and downed the water.  My hip was killing me.  I walked a lot.  I fought with myself.  A lot.  It sucked.  I was proud of myself one minute, and hating myself the next.  I blamed myself for the demise of the team's overall time goal (which we didn't have, but remember this was all in my head), I envisioned my van mates being so disappointed that I hadn't done better, and I beat myself up over anything and everything.  I knew my hip was in bad shape, and it was honestly killing me.  My whole right leg, and my whole body, compensated for the bad hip and threw in some IT band pain, stressed shoulder muscles, and numb toes.  Awesome.

"It hurts up to a point and then it doesn't get any worse."   - Ann Trason

Run, Forrest, run!
The final mile of this leg were clear as mud.  We were in a more residential area by this point, and there were several turns to make.  There were some directional signs, but they were spread rather far apart, so following one didn't mean you were necessarily going to see the next any time soon.  I hoped my team hadn't been waiting for very long, and was ready to face their questions about why it took me so long, why I ran injured, and all the rest of the stuff I made up in my head, which I knew wasn't going to happen.

"TEAM 165!  TEAM 165!!"  The volunteers called out our team number as I approached the exchange, and I looked for Natasha, runner five.  I kept looking, thinking they were all busy talking and not expecting me since it had been a fortnight already.  "TEAM 165 your runner is here!", they called, and as I got into the chute, I realized - I think I beat them!  I turned a couple times to find the parking lot, and when I did, they were all just getting out of the van!  I HAD BEATEN THEM TO THE EXCHANGE!!  Are you kidding me?  That miserable performance got me to the exchange faster than they predicted?!?!  Wow, maybe all that hateful self-talk was for naught!

"Find your limits and exceed them." - Lynn Strickland

My van mates were all impressed at my arrival time, which exceeded what they had predicted it to be.  They knew I was hurting and it was a seriously hot morning, so they knew I would need to take it easy and stop for hydration, which they kindly provided me two or three times along the leg.  I have never felt so supported or received such positive energy as I did after completing that leg.  I think that because I'd been so hateful to myself in my head for the entire 7.7 miles of that leg, their kind and positive words were more than enough to make me realize that I did it and I had not let a single person down.  Part of me is still trying to believe in myself as a runner, and being injured doesn't really help that happen.  So hearing them say how well I'd done really meant a lot and made me feel much better.  I stretched and we got on our merry way to exchange Natasha for Phil and kept on moving.  Before long, we were at the last major exchange.  Van one had completed all three legs, and were done.  Done!

As I mentioned, it was hot.  Very hot.  We had an idea of how long it might take van two to complete their third legs, and had a target time for arriving at the event finish line.  In the meantime, it was time to EAT!!  We dined outdoors at a suburban eatery, and then it was time to head to the city.  To greatly condense the rest of the afternoon, we stopped to let a couple city dwellers unload their belongings at home, we discovered that van two was having a difficult time, and our anticipated finish time was going to be later than originally thought.  Again, we weren't in this for time, but it was a very hot day, we were all tired, and we were now worried about our runners in van two, hoping they were not falling prey to the effects of the afternoon heat.  We did our best to remain positive, while having to rely on the occasional text updates from van two.  We headed to the post-race party to use the facilities, get some water or other form of hydration, and wait for van two.  Finally, we met up with van two and all waited for Josh, our final runner, to arrive and we all crossed the finish line together. 

We found some space to sit and enjoyed some free beer, compared notes, and generally pretended that we weren't each about to collapse.  We got our medals and got some pics together.

We finished!!  Go Killer Bees!!
Would I do another Ragnar?  Um, ya!  Was it tough?  Hell yes!  Worth it?  Definitely.  My team was amazing, some of us ran the best runs of our lives, and all of us pushed ourselves harder than we knew we could. 

And remember the yellow tank top girls?  I found some of them online, here and here.  We all faced challenges in this Ragnar, and everyone ran it for their own reasons.  Yes, I still sneer in their direction for their perky demeanor, cheerleader-y dancing, and perpetuating the ear worm, but have to give the yellow tank top girls credit for the amazing race that they ran, given what they were up against according to these two blogs.  After reading what they went through to get through in this Ragnar, whether they crossed the finish line before or after us makes no difference.  OK, it still does.  You have to give them credit, though, for a race well run.

Testing limits, Ragnar style; Part 3

"Some running is good, more is better, and too much is just enough"- Steve Jones

Once we were on the road, I had a little time to keep obsessing thinking about how I thought I would perform in this race.  Still sore from Monday's run, I knew that the combination of running, living in a van and not getting enough sleep could sabotage any hopes I might have had of running the kinds of legs I wanted to run.  I had told my team about my injury and ongoing recovery, which some of them already knew about, and admitted my nerves about the whole weekend.  It wasn't long before I was reassured that nobody was expecting anyone to run 5 minute miles in this.  We were in this for the experience, not to win.  Everyone agreed.  This did give me a little comfort.

Still, I couldn't help but question myself as to why I was going through with this.  This race could go really well, or end badly for me.  I wavered between the two for most of the ride to Madison.  At this point, there was no turning back, literally, so I just talked myself into believing that it would all be fine.  My hip would be fine.  I would finish my three legs.  And if, for some reason, I couldn't, I knew by this time that my team would have my back and we'd band together to get the job done.  It was obvious on the ride to Madison that I was in the company of some great people who would have each other's back in any situation we might be faced with.  We were not only prepared with gear, but, prepared to help each other, support each other, and enjoy this relay to the fullest. 

This didn't stop me from being all mental about how I would do, but, at least I knew they wouldn't be leaving me on a trail in the middle of Wisconsin just because I wasn't pulling my pre-injury 8:30 miles.

At the hotel, we divided up and headed to our rooms.  After some showers, bed bug inspections, chit chat and race wardrobe comparisons, we finally got ourselves to bed.  Our start time Friday morning was 7:30.  Bright and early.

Somewhat rested, we all met in the lobby, grabbed some coffee and food from the breakfast spread, and made our way to the starting line.  The parking lot(s) at the starting line were filled with vehicles of all sizes, in various states of decoration.  Some made it obvious they were there to take the rest of us down, while some indicated that there may have been a late night leading to what ended up drawn on the van.  Part of the fun, though, was seeing what other teams had done to their vehicles to make themselves known as Ragnar runners.

We look fierce, don't we?
Being the first van, we had to bring proof that we'd prepared for overnight running and weren't going to be invisible in the dark.  After a safety briefing, exhibiting our reflective and illuminating gear, we shopped in the Ragnar Store tent, and waited for 7:30 when we would send our first runner off, not having any idea where she would be until we saw her at the first exchange.  I was a little nervous for Jo, to be honest.  If you're not familiar with Ragnar Relay, the legs are mapped out and maps and directions are printed and given to the teams.  You've got a fighting chance as long as you know left from right, and can read the directional signs set out on the course.  And as long as nobody has messed with those signs.  And if you get to the exchange where the next runner takes over, you hope that your teamnmates in the van have the same skills and find the location to meet you.

Obligatory starting line pic
Elwood: It's a hundred and six miles to Chicago, we've got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses.
Jake: Hit it.

Actually, we were 198 miles from Chicago, we had two full tanks of gas, no cigarettes, it was daylight, but yes, we did have sunglasses.

We said good bye to the other half of the team and set off to find Jo.  Well, not really, just to find the spot where we'd pick her up and drop off Carol, our second runner.  Map and directions in hand, we were off.  The first exchange went smoothly, and we realized that this whole exchange thing wasn't as complicated as we thought it would be.  Drop off a runner, drive to the exchange, exchange runners, and repeat.  Not rocket science.

Navigating between exchanges wasn't all that tough.  We all tried to keep track of how many runners we passed and how many passed us.  It was kind of fun identifying the other teams, and we quickly identified one team of women that we knew we wanted to beat, if it was possible.  There was no real reason, just that each of our runners saw them on the course, and it was a passing game between us.  You gotta  have a target, I guess, and we picked them.  So we decided to try to beat the girls in the yellow tank tops.

"It's rude to count people as you pass them. Out loud." - Adidas

I admit that I was very nervous about running my legs.  My first leg was 7.6 miles, mostly on a trail, labeled "very hard".  Josh was able to reassure me that this didn't mean the route was super hilly and filled with obstacles, but it was labeled such due to the distance.  There were only slight elevation changes, so I felt pretty good that I would be able to tackle this.  Still, I was nervous about my hip and how I would do.  At this point, though, I couldn't question myself too much, and finally it was my turn at the exchange, and Beth slapped the bracelet on my wrist and I was off.

I truly hate pictures of myself,
especially from the back
I had not updated my playlist, but had a decent arsenal of music to get me through the miles.  I had a bottle of water and a snippet of the directions for my route, and tried my best.  I felt really good starting out.  My directions were way wrong from the start, but I have the good fortune of being able to read the directional signs, and also saw two runners ahead of me and followed them.  I'm not a follower, per se, but when left in the middle of Wisconsin with only one way home, I had to do what I had to do to make it to the exchange where my ride would (hopefully) be waiting.

Once I got myself on the trail and started to feel the groove, I came upon a nice couple of guys who were running about the same pace as myself.  We got to chatting a bit, I took their picture, and learned that one of the guys had just been run over by a car while on his bike the week before.  His injury was merely a sore and swollen ankle, but, holy heck!  The other guy had some sort of hip thing going on, but looking at these two guys running, they were having so much fun just running, and running together, taking pictures of each other along the way, it really lifted my spirits and made me realize that this event is about having fun, and that's when I shifted my focus to fun, instead of obsessing over my form, my hip, and what I would do if I couldn't continue.  I purged those thoughts.  For the most part.

After those guys smoked me, I ended up coming upon a guy and pacing with him for quite a while.  It helps so much to have someone to run with who is going at the same pace.  I am less apt to want to slow down or even walk.  He was going at a perfect pace for me, and we hung for about a mile or better.  

At the water stop, I took a water and walked with it so I could drink it and not end up wearing it.  It was hot enough to warrant pouring it over my head, but, that wasn't what I wanted, I needed to hydrate my body from the inside.  It was hot, and the Ragnar powers that be were already bombarding us with messages to support our runners and reminders for everyone to respect the heat, hydrate, and hydrate some more.  Unfortunately, the guy I was pacing with drank and got going again before I did, and I never could catch up to him.  Drat.

From the trail, we entered a little downtown area of some town in Wisconsin, and I navigated my way along this main road, across the street, along the sidewalk, and finally made it to the exchange where I handed over the bracelet to Natasha, and tried to catch my breath.

My teammates were wonderful.  They were there ready with encouraging words, making sure I was OK, and helping me out of my shoes and taking whatever I needed them to take off my hands.  We had some time to kill before having to load up in the van and get to the next exchange, which allowed me time to stretch and rest a minute.

I also had time for this:

After taking pictures and getting settled in the van, we headed out to find Natasha, where we would then send Phil out on the longest individual leg of the relay, putting him out in the heat and blazing sun for nearly 11 miles.  At about 11AM.  On the way to collect Natasha, we mapped out where we would meet up with Phil to give him more water and assist him however he needed us to.

I did not envy Phil.  This had to be the most miserable stretch of a run one could have had to do.  There was little shade, there were some decent inclines, and it was looooong.  Each time we met Phil, he was quite specific about when we should meet him next, how much water to pour into his bottle, and what color Gatorade he wanted when he was finished.  It became a nice little joke that we carried with us the rest of the race.  Note: if you ever support Phil, make sure he doesn't get red Gatorade, and you only fill his water bottle 1/4 full.

Phil was runner six, so when he was done, so was our van for at least a few hours as we handed things off to van two.  After briefly greeting the other half of our team and letting Phil regroup after his grueling run, we went in search of food.  Our search landed us at Hi-Way Harry's.  The name of this eatery does not immediately bring to mind waterfalls, mahogany accents, and cloth napkins, does it?

After enjoying a nice meal, we decided to just get to the major exchange where we'd greet van two and send Jo off into the unknown once again.

These major exchanges look more like refugee camps than stops along a running race.  Sleepless, sweaty, tired runners trying their best to find a comfortable place to rest.  Or, making a video.  It was them.  The girls in the yellow tank tops.  And by now, that song was a major ear worm that we couldn't seem to shake.  These girls didn't help matters, and we watched with great disdain as they cranked that song and danced and smiled.  We were hot.  We were tired.  We were sick of the song.  We were not smiling.  We were trying to beat them.  We sneered in their direction and made fun of their cheeleder-y dancing.  Then we moved on.  And we exchanged runners.

And the adventure continued...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Mommy's Project 52:50 Forgetful

Nobody says it like Maxine...

Testing limits, Ragnar style; Part 2

Somehow I got a decent night sleep before waking to what I feared would be a disastrous day.  I had packed, for the most part, and just needed to close things up and make sure I had my iPod charged and playlist updated.  OK, it wasn't updated, but the iPod was charged.  Out of all that I had to worry about, I figured I'd done pretty well.

I got up and worked for an hour or so before the kids got up.  Then the painter arrived.  Then I fed the kids.  Then we took Ethel to school.  Her last day of first grade {sniff, sniff}.  We would get home, I'd work and Fred would play, then we'd go back for the assembly, leave that early and get home so I could keep working, go back and get Ethel, say goodbye to classmates, parents, and teachers, go home, eat lunch, work, wait for the sitter, move furniture with the painter, make sure everything was in order for the next two and a half days for the sitter and Hot Dad and the kids, and finally - my ride arrived.

With respect to the last day of school, Ethel had an awesome first grade year.  She came home with a boat load of papers, supplies, and notes from the school year.  We were able to say goodbye to her teacher and several friends we knew we won't see over the summer, and got a few pictures.  To say Ethel loved first grade wouldn't hold a candle to her feelings about it.  I will foreshadow a bit and tell you that the next day, Ethel wrote a note to her teacher, through tears in her eyes, telling the teacher she missed her and wanted first grade back.  I am still trying to identify Ethel's real mother, because that isn't anything she would have gotten from me!

Back to my departure.  With the painter all set and the sitter instructed about her day and a half with the kids, notes left for Hot Dad, and myself finally signed off from work, I loaded my duffle bag and pillow (yes, I chose a pillow over a Pillow Pet) into my buddy's car and we were off to meet up with our team.  This would be the first time our whole team would be together, and most of us would be meeting each other for the first time.  We would soon be keeping company in a van for two days.  To say I was unsure of what was to come would be a gross understatement.  I'll run down the connections (those which I remember, there are many).

I am a member of a racing team.  So is Carol.  Carol runs with a group from CARA.  So do all the rest of the team, except (I believe) Natasha and Jo.  They each know someone else on our relay team, although I don't recall exactly who tricked talked them in to this mess race.  Beth subbed in at the last minute for PJ, who had to bail due to work.  Josh, my buddy who picked me up, used to live next door to my mom, and we've found a common interest in running.  I first learned about Ragnar Relay from Josh in 2011 when I was a volunteer for the ultra team he was on that year.  Earlier this year, I'd posted something to my racing team's Facebook page asking if anyone was putting together a team (Josh and I having already agreed to be on a team together for 2012) for Ragnar Chicago, and through PJ, also from the racing team, I found Patty, our team captain. 

None of that makes sense.  It doesn't have to.  

"Good things happen when you meet strangers."
Yo-Yo Ma

 Josh and I made our way to Sarah's house and met a few of the team members who were already there.  There were more coming, and two had gone to get the vans.  We chatted and got acquainted with each other, commenting on the nice sign that Sarah's roommate had made for us, wishing us well for the relay.  We discussed who had what gear, snacks, drinks, and shared our nerves about different aspects of what we were about to face.  It was reassuring to know that many of our anxieties were shared.  Josh, a Ragnar veteran of one relay was able to answer some of the questions that some of the others had.  The one question that remained, though, was about logistics.  Josh did a one van, 6-man team last year.  Ours was a two van, 12-man team.  We honestly had no idea what we were getting ourselves in to.

Fast forward about an hour and we were outside packing up our van.  Still, we were one team member short.  Phil was driving in from the city, no easy task on a week day.  So we waited.  We got occasional updates from him via text with his location.  All I know is that if it had been me, I would have been on the news with a bad case of road rage.

While we waited for Phil, we decided to decorate our vans.  Nobody wanted to pull the first punch, we all hesitated about drawing on the two brand new vans that we were about to christen.  What should we draw?  Who would draw?  Who has decent writing?  Where are we going, again?  Who thought it was a good idea to rent new vans to a relay racing team?

Midwest geography at its best

Score keeper, van 1

Drink recipes are key in a relay
Once Phil arrived, albeit frazzled to the max, we loaded ourselves into the vans, agreeing to stop at a tollway oasis to grab a bite to eat.  We divided up into our respective vans, and hit the road.

And so the journey began.....

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Testing limits, Ragnar style; Part 1

"I decided to go for a little run" - Forrest Gump

Once the 5K was behind me, my nerves about the upcoming Ragnar were kicking into high gear.  I was sore, limping, and I was beginning to doubt myself.  Still, I went on my regular Monday night run with my team.  I needed to be with other runners, and it would be my last run before Ragnar that weekend. 

That run was not a good one.  I made it through four miles, but not without pain in my hip and a feeling like I had tree trunks for legs.  It was bad and I wasn't happy.  I then spent the week limping, and sitting at my desk didn't help matters at all.  Desk jobs aren't of much benefit when you're trying to keep limber.  

I had Ragnar heavy on my mind, but, I had so much to do before leaving for the race.  I had a parent meeting for Ethel's summer camp, Ethel's last day of school, and Fred's 'graduation' from the pre-k program at day care.  In the meantime, a friend of mine is a painter and I'd asked him to paint a couple ares in our house.  Of all weeks, he had the end of that week free to come paint - the days I would be gone!  :)  

At one point, I'd found the time to look up some info on runner reviews of the Ragnar Chicago.  I was trying to get some details about my specific legs and what others had said about them, but, ended up finding information that was much more valuable.  This blog showed me how to pack!  What a great idea to pack one outfit for each leg and put them into gallon sized resealable bags!  The next challenge was making the time to pack.  Hm.

My obsession with my three legs of the relay was quickly replaced with making time to pack, what to pack, and how to pack it all.  What bag would I bring?  Would I bring a pillow, or a Pillow Pet?  How many pairs of underwear?  Should I even bother bringing my toothbrush?

I tend to work best under pressure, and up against a deadline.  Given too much time, my ADD kicks in and I end up doing almost everything but the thing I should be doing.  Like right now I'm blogging, but, should be {insert household chore here}-ing.  See?

"The will to run is not as nearly as important as the will to prepare" Luis Escobar

After narrowing it down to two small duffle bags, I started by laying out three outfits, one for each leg.  It took careful thought, as one of my legs would be an overnight run, so I had to prepare for the possibility that it might be chilly.  It might rain at some point,  It might be blazing hot.  The beauty of the midwest is never knowing what to expect from Mother Nature.

I should have taken pictures of my stuff all laid out.  But I didn't.  I knew I'd forget something!  I decided to wear my running skirt for my overnight run because it has a pocket where I could keep my phone, in case a wild animal jumped me, in case I got mugged, or in case my hip gave out suddenly and I was so far ahead of all the other runners that nobody would pass me for hours.......what, can't a girl be prepared?

Anyway, with three outfits carefully chosen for each of my three legs of the relay, I was left to figure out what to bring for the rest of the race.  Obviously, I wouldn't want to sit in my sweaty, smelly clothes for hours on end between legs.  I also wasn't sure what kind of time or accommodation there would be to actually change into non-smelly clothes at any given point.  So I chose to pack yoga pants, two additional tech shirts, and three other pairs of underwear.  I did pack my toothbrush,  and threw in a hair brush and some sunscreen.  Next, I raided my cabinet of Gu and half filled a resealable bag with assorted Gu, chews, gels, and a tube of Nuun tabs.  Can't be too prepared, I figured.

I knew sleep on Wednesday night would be critical, as Thursday night would be spent in a hotel and the following 48 hours spent in a van.  I got myself to bed in the neighborhood of 10PM and agreed to obsess about packing it all up for good on Thursday.  After watching my baby girl finish her last day of first grade.  Please tell me, where does the time go?

Where Ethel beats Mommy in a race

Thanks for sticking with me while I update all the racing I've been doing so far!

June is my favorite month of the year.  It has the longest day of the year, school ends, and summer begins.  The days are long, the sun is plentiful, and the grill is going almost non-stop.  On top of all that, there are so many races, it's hard not to race every weekend.  Well, for me it is.

I was not 100% in the week following Soldier Field, but, I did feel better each day, which led me to believe that my body was getting stronger and adjusting to running again.  Sure, I know SF10 was a lot of miles, more than I'd done since, basically, October, but, I did it and felt good.  I watched my body and didn't push too hard (aside from doing 10 miles, of course).  So when it came to whether or not to sign up for a 5K race that counted toward my racing team minimum, I bit the bullet and signed up.  I figured a 5K couldn't be that tough, especially since I just managed 10 miles (well, 13.5 for the weekend if you want to be picky).

My first race of June was a community based 5K benefiting a local Tourette Syndrome organization.  I signed the kids up for the kids' race part of the event (0.6 mi) so that we could make a family morning out of it.  It was a warm morning, but, not too hot.  I should have known this wasn't going to be my race when I realized at the starting line that I'd forgotten my iPod in my bag back at the team tent, and it was too late to retrieve it when I figured this out.  I was so wrapped up trying to make sure I got to the bathroom in time before the start, that I completely forgot to go back for the music!  Whatever.

Since it was just a 5K, there's not a lot of race to report about, aside from my very fast 8:15 first mile with a running buddy from the team, and the side stitch I ended up with for the last .75 mile.  Oh, and the pain in my hip for the last 1.5 miles.  Regardless, I was glad to get back to a 5K and finish, despite my pitiful (to me) time.

The kids both did well in the kids dash.  It was hysterical to watch the gaggle of kids at the starting line,  and despite the bottle neck at the start, they all did really well.  Ethel took off like a bat out of hell and I never saw her 'til the finish.  Fred got caught behind the diaper crowd and trotted along enjoying the scenery, but luckily didn't finish last.  He declared, "Wow, this is going to be a really long race!", with a huge smile on his face.

We're happy to be here, Mommy

 Ethel got a 3rd place finish in the 7-8 year old division and received a nice pint glass.  Mommy, of course, thinks it's a great Summer Shandy glass for summer.  For Mommy, of course.

Pretending not to be beaming about her prize

I was pretty sore after this one, I'm not going to lie.  I stretched as much as I could that day, and tried not to focus on the pain and the time, but some things are easier said than done.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Mommy's Project 52:49 Sad

Last This week's subject for Mommy's Project 52 is "Sad".  I have always been hesitant to blog about an aspect of my life which often brings out all my emotions and anger. For some reason, I've always felt like I needed to protect certain people from it, or not let out dirty laundry where everyone can see.  I waver between the part of me that throws caution to the wind and just does things, and the part of me that tries to please everyone and not cause any ripples in the water.  It's a difficult balance most of the time.  I'm ready, though, to throw caution to the wind.

Sad is a parent who tosses their family aside for the flavor of the month.  Sad is a parent who misses out on the incredible children they brought into the world.  Sad is that parent never knowing their grandchildren.  Sad is that parent, because they live their life in a manner that contradicts everything they taught their children when they were young.  Sad is exemplified in this picture.

Harold Murtz
Harold A. Murtz
That person is my father.  He is the one who could always make me laugh.  His chest is the one I leaned on when I had to put medicine in my ears as a kid.  He is the one I watched funny TV shows with.  He's the one who made us all laugh at dinner.  He is the one who taught me how to change a tire.  He is the one who broke all our hearts for the sake of a good time.  With another woman.

When I was in college, he revealed that he'd been seeing someone for several years, and was essentially done with his marriage to my mom.  He wanted us to be happy for him.  He had a history of such behaviour, which I was unaware of until this time, and this one happened to blow up on all of us.  He said and did horrible things.  He lied.  He was hurtful.  He didn't understand, or care about, our pain.  He left.

We have not spoken since 1999.  He removed himself from the lives of all his friends and family, most notably his only two children.  I believe the last words I had for him began with an 'f', and left my throat raspy, to say the least.  It's been many years since then, and many wounds have healed, but obviously there are some that will always remain open.  At least for me.

In the last two years, there have been two instances where his name has reappeared in my life.  Thanks to the internet and social media, finding people you've lost touch with is a little easier than it was 20 years ago.  Of course, when you don't really want to find or connect with that person, it's also pretty easy to find out who that person knows, and contact them.

In early 2010, I received a phone call from my mom's second husband.  Long story short, his daughter had received a message, via Facebook, from my father.  Seriously?  This woman and I know each other, our mother and father were married, but, there is no intimate connection between us, and at the time, we weren't even connected via Facebook.  So why the hell would he write to her??  It was basically a plea to help him find out more about his two kids, and a request for help connecting with us.  When she attempted to reply to the message, his profile was gone, and she was unable to send a return message.  She couldn't find him on Facebook anywhere, so the issue died in the water as quickly as it arose.

Strike 1

Fast forward to June of 2012.  While at work on a Tuesday, I got an e-mail from a familiar, but most unwelcome, name.  His wife.

Strike 2

She had sent me a message via LinkedIn, the professional networking site that connects business people from all walks of work life.  I admit that I don't use it really, but, have heard from some of my connections when they navigate the difficult waters of job searching.  The most activity I get on LinkedIn is when someone requests a connection to me on the site.  Needless to say, I was shocked to see her name in my inbox.

Her message was short and simple (as I view her, but that's the only personal editorial I'll include here): "I would like very much to bring you and your dad together, if you are interested. Let me know what I can do to facilitate that.".  Hm.

In a period of about 24 hours, my mind raced and raced, not knowing what to make of this whole thing.  My first reaction was to reply and be brutally honest with something like, "Are you f-ing kidding me?  What, is he dying?".  I did my best to calm down quickly and collect the thoughts I could reach and try to sort them out.  I decided to sleep on it and give it a few days to sink in and really figure out what I wanted to do.

My decision was to ignore the message.  Just this morning, I clicked "ignore" on the invitation, a step which I hope will help me put the name and message behind me.  My reasons for this are many, but quite simply I feel that if my father really wants to reach out to me, he can do so himself.  If he still needs to rely on this woman to do his communicating, as he did throughout his divorce from my mom, then he is still the coward who didn't fight for a relationship with his daughters.  Plain and simple, he isn't helping matters, he's simply muddying the waters.

Strike 3

I am well past the pain, the sting of the open wounds, and the anger no longer surfaces every time I think about what happened.  I mourned the loss of my father years ago, and hope my children never know such pain in their lives.  I know that the father I used to know would enjoy every last second he could get with my children, and it's sad to know he'll never have that chance.

In the end, it's he who has lost the most.  It makes me sad to think that a man would leave his family behind the way he did, missing out on the important milestones that a parent looks forward to in their childrens' lives.  I have thought about what I want of things if he ever contacts me directly, and how I think I might react.  You never know until you're in the situation, but I have tried to consider the possibilities for the future.

The door is unlocked.  I believe it's up to him to open it, and take his chances on what's behind it.