Monday, May 26, 2014

Happy Memorial Day

We have had a wonderfully busy weekend and so in addition to reflecting on what today truly means, I have also taken the day to relax and rest a bit.  Nick hosted his very first sleepover on Saturday night and he and his friend, Logan, had a blast swimming, play video games, camping out in our basement, going to the park, and attending a nearby church carnival.  Needless to say, Nick (and I) slept well on Sunday evening!  I think both boys are anxiously awaiting their next sleepover.

Today, I slept in a bit and then went to get a pedicure with my mom.  It was so relaxing and much needed!  We also stopped by the cemetery to visit my Dad's grave and my Grandpa and Grandma's grave, as well.  I was afraid we wouldn't be able to get out and visit because we had a few thunderstorms throughout the afternoon and we anticipated that it would be fairly muddy.  We've had several unfortunate muddy visits over the past few years resulting in a lost pair of shoes for Mom and a near miss for my shoes.  We pulled into the cemetery planning to do a drive by to see all of the flags on the graves (the local Boy Scouts put a small American flag on each grave on Memorial Day) and we were pleasantly surprised to see that the ground wasn't too muddy.  In fact, the area where my Dad's grave is now has grass instead of dirt, so it was much more pleasant getting to his grave.  I hadn't been to Dad's grave in about 3 weeks, so it was nice to visit him and chat. I feel better when I go visit him and "talk" to him about what's going on in my life; it helps me cope.
Dad was the most patriotic person I've known, so I know he would appreciate the flag placed on his grave in honor of Memorial Day
I have been thinking a lot about my Dad and missing him terribly.  I still fight the urge to pick up the phone and call him to tell him about what's going on in my life.  I cried a few times today, which is to be expected, but then something pretty amazing happened.  I promised Nick that we would play mini-golf today, but neglected to check the weather forecast.  The thunderstorms definitely caught me off guard and it looked like we wouldn't be able to go after all.  As I started cooking dinner, the sun came out and I told Nick if he was a good helper while I cooked dinner, then we would go play a quick round after we ate.  We finished dinner around 7:30, which was a little late, but I figured it's almost summer break, so staying up a little later tonight wouldn't hurt.

We headed out to a local mini-golf course only to find out they were closed, but I knew of another mini-golf place a bit further away.  We got there around 8:30 and since they closed at 9, we decided to do a quick 9 hole round of mini-golf.  I have so many memories of mini-golfing with my Dad, as it was something we did every summer when I would visit him and we almost always went when he came to visit St. Louis.  In fact, Dad and I have played mini-golf many times at the place Nick and I went tonight.  I mentioned to Nick that Bebaw took me mini-golfing all the time and I was feeling a bit wistful.  As we headed towards the first hole of the course we chose to play on, the strangest thing happened.  I swore I could smell my Dad.  It smelled exactly like my Dad's deodorant (Gillette), which I realize sounds bizarre, but I distinctly remember how he smelled when he wore that deodorant.  In fact, when we were cleaning out my Dad's apartment, I wanted to save the last stick of his deodorant and Matt thought I was insane.  I ended up throwing it away, but a small part of me wanted to keep it.  As we played the first hole, I figured there must have been someone nearby who had the same deodorant as Dad, but I looked and we were alone on the course and no one else was around.  It was the most bizarre, but wonderful thing.  I felt like Dad was there golfing with us and it made me smile.
Nick said that mini-golfing was "amazing" and I'd have to agree.  I love creating these memories with him! 
Before Mom and I went to get pedi's this afternoon, she took me to a nearby Harley Davidson dealer, because they had one of the STL 250 cakes.  I was able to cross another cake off my list!  I think I'm up to 8 or 9 now.
Harley themed cake
I didn't exactly eat the best this weekend, nor have I gone for a run since Saturday, but tomorrow is a new day!

Lastly, I'm grateful to all the men and women who have died for our freedoms and to protect our country and I appreciate each and every person in our armed forces who has served or is currently serving our country today.  

To quote one of my Daddy's favorite songs, which always reminds me of him:

"And I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free. And I won't forget the men who died, who gave that right to me." 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Kick-Off to Summer

I don't know about you, but I can't believe it's Memorial Day weekend already!  I'm very thankful for the long weekend, but more importantly to all the men and women who've served, and died for, our country.  Since this weekend is technically the unofficial beginning of summer, it means all of the pools are open!  After the long, dreadful winter we had, I have been looking forward to pool season for quite some time!  We went to my mom's pool for a bit today and while I was expecting the water to be frightfully chilly, it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought.  It was a bit of an overcast day and it wasn't too hot, so the pool wasn't too crowded either.  We were all glad to be back to our favorite summer stomping grounds!

Prior to us going to the pool, I headed out to run a few errands and to go for a run.  I was glad it was a bit overcast and not too hot, considering I didn't make it to the trail until almost noon.  I went for a quick 2.5 mile run and included all of the big hills, too.  There were so many deer out today, which I thought was strange given that we don't usually see them until closer to dusk.  I saw well over a dozen, the bulk of which were feet from me on the trail!  They are so used to humans, though, so they just stared at me and kept eating for the most part.  The other thing I noticed on my walk was a lot of cottonwood (I think) seeds.  It looked like it was snowing for most of my run and I had the misfortune of getting some in one of my eyes and in my mouth.  It was quite extraordinary to see it falling in such large quantities and gathering on the ground.

Snow in May (off in the distance)?  Nope, just cottonwood seeds!
I hope everyone is having a great Memorial Day weekend!

"Exhale 'can't'...inhale 'can'...lace up." 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Humidity, Hills, and Hood to Coast

I'm in an alliterative mood as my blog post title suggests!  Yesterday was an unplanned rest day for me; I didn't run at lunch because it was quite hot and I wanted to somewhat enjoy a run, so I decided to postpone my run until after work.  I remembered I needed to go to the grocery store after work, but I still had intentions of going for a quick run after I got home, ate, and put the boys to bed.  Alas, once all was said and done, I decided that a rest day sounded like a better idea.  Plus, I wanted to watch Hood to Coast which was sent to me by my Napa Ragnar teammate, Melissa.

Over the past two weeks, our Napa Ragnar team has bonded via Facebook and as we all introduced ourselves, we found out that several of our teammates have done overnight relays previously and they were sharing their experiences with us.  It is great having their insight and knowledge, as we were able to allay some of our fears (i.e. night running!) and get excited about the adventure that awaits us this September.  Melissa mentioned to the group that she's run Hood to Coast before and she offered to share her copy of the Hood to Coast movie with anyone who wanted to watch it.  A few days after I gave her my address, I received the sweetest owl card (I love owls!) along with the movie.

Melissa's card (addressed to #Laura) and the DVD
I sat down to watch Hood to Coast last night and it was amazing!  It follows four teams as they take on the Hood to Coast race; each with their own unique story.  It's a great insight into the race in particular, but also into overnight relay races in general.  Watching the movie really got me excited for Napa and helped alleviate my concerns about running at night.  It also has me considering adding Hood to Coast to my race bucket list.  That can be my Oregon race in my quest to run a race in all 50 states!

I'm so glad Melissa shared the movie with me and I'm sharing the love, too.  I will be mailing it out tomorrow to another Napa teammate, Lisa, so that she can enjoy it, as well.  

I went for a run this evening and it was hilly and humid!  We had some thunderstorms roll through the area this afternoon, which unfortunately didn't cool off our temperatures too much and instead made everything a sticky, humid mess.  I waited to run until a bit later in the evening, which I'm sure helped a bit, but it was still in the mid-80's (although it felt closer to 90) with 66% humidity.

Scenes from tonight's run; I love the scenery on this trail.  
I decided to run my hilly trail at JB, but in the opposite direction of my typical route.  This meant that I hit a fairly long hill near the beginning of my run, as opposed to running down it nearing the end.  It was a pretty beastly hill; it's rather gradual and not too steep, but it just seems to go on forever.  Just when you think you are done, it keeps going uphill.  It wasn't fun, but I kept going and finished it.  Then I rewarded myself with a quick break at the top before I continued my way around the loop.  I did 3 sweaty, humid, hilly miles today, but it felt good.
A lovely view
Much as I huff and puff up the hills, I'm glad I finally sucked it up and starting incorporating them into my runs.  I feel like it is making me stronger every day and preparing me well for Napa and any other race I do in the future.  Bring on the hills, I say!

"You said 'I won't make it' a million times.  You made it every time." 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Make Tracks for the Zoo Recap

Yesterday was one of my favorite races; St. Louis Children's Hospital's Make Tracks for the Zoo 5K.  It's a great family race and it ends with breakfast at the Zoo, which is one of my favorite places in St. Louis!  This year was the first year that I ran the race in its entirety, which was pretty exciting.  I hoped to finish in under 40 minutes and I was this close to reaching that goal, clocking in at 40:11.  I am really proud of my time this year, particularly when I look back at my history with this race.

The first year I did Make Tracks for the Zoo was in 2011 and I finished in 1:16:09.  I hadn't even begun my running journey at this point, so I walked and had a great time.  I did not participate in 2012, since I had just had Jack 2 months prior in March of that year. In 2013, I finished in 46:39 through a combination of running and walking.  Since I started participating in this race, I've come a long way and shaved nearly 36 minutes off my time!  Plus, I love that since last year, Nick has joined me by participating in the kids run.  I think Jack will be ready for the kids run next year, too!

Me and my sweet boys
I love that this race runs through Forest Park near the Zoo, since this is my stomping grounds for my "runches" during the week.  In addition to being a beautiful course, it's one that I'm very familiar with.  As we started out, my calves were cramping a little bit, but I kept going, albeit slowly.  As we approached the first hill shortly before the first mile ended, I found a surge of energy and bounded up the incline.  It was really empowering and a good reminder for me that the hill work I've been doing, even for just a short time, has made a difference.

Much of the 2nd mile was flat and it was so nice to coast along enjoying the park on such a beautiful day.  Last year, race day was very hot and humid, but this year, we lucked out with gorgeous temperatures in the 70's and no humidity.  It was divine!

The first part of mile 3 was downhill and that was a nice boost heading into the last stretch.  I thought I might be able to break 40 minutes, so I really took off during the last .5 mile or so.  I saw my mom and the boys near the end of the race and it was so nice to see their smiles and hear them cheering as I approached the finish line!

After I finished, we headed over to the area where the kids were lining up for the kids races, including the 1/2 mile run, 1/4 mile run, and the 1 mile fun run.  Nick decided to do the 1/4 mile run again this year and I planned to run it with him.  Last year, I ran it with him because I wasn't sure how he would do running it by myself and I wanted to enjoy the experience of running with him.  He seemed a little intimidated by the crowd last year, so it made sense to run with him.  As we started the race yesterday, he took off and I started to step off to the side so that I could stay near the finish and watch him cross the line.  He stopped at one point, though, and realized I wasn't behind him and started to back track to me.  He found me and I started running again but he took off again and I caught up with him later at the finish line.  I was really proud of him for being fearless and making the race his own!  Next year, I think he will be ready to take on either the 1/2 mile or 1 mile run all on his own.
We ran into Stacy and Illyria at the race! 
Nick has had a bit of a competitive streak lately and doing these races has opened up a conversation about being a good sport and how races are not about winning, but about having fun and supporting others.  During the awards ceremony after the race yesterday, he kept asking if he was going to get an award (he had already received his participants ribbon).  I explained that the kids 1/4 mile was just for fun and that we received a ribbon for participating.  He seemed a little disappointed and mentioned wanting to win an award, so I asked him how many races I've ever won. He said none and I pointed out that he was exactly right and the reason that I do these races is not to win, but to have fun and challenge myself.  I'm sure a lot of this competitive behavior has to do with his age, but hopefully as we continue to do these races together we can work on good sportsmanship.

We spent a little time at the zoo after the race and then we came home for long naps, at least for Jack and I.  My mom, the boys, and I had a great time at the race and I'm looking forward to participating again next year!

Me and my Mama
"Accept the days when running seems impossible. Embrace the days when running seems effortless." 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Running on a full tank

Last night, Nick and I were treated to a wonderful Mommy/Oldest son date night with some dear friends, Stacy, and her daughter, Illyria. We went to a local theater to see "The Wizard of Oz" and got the star treatment!  We sat in the luxury box seats at the Fox Theater and we had a great time, including dinner in the box seats, desserts after the intermission (the biggest bowl of cotton candy I've ever seen and delicious hot fudge sundaes), and great memories with two pretty darn adorable kids.  I'm very grateful for the opportunity to have such a special night with Nick and thankful for our friends who invited us to join them!

Our lovely dinner dates
My date for the evening.  I love Mommy/Son dates!
Follow the Yellow Brick Road
We found another STL 250 cake!  
This evening, I took a nice 5K run at JB and got a lot of hills in.  I will say, though, that running felt a little tough today due to the fact that I ate a big (and delicious) lunch at one of my favorite local Mexican restaurants.  Someday I will learn the lesson about not running on a full stomach, but that day was not today.  

After my run, we headed to Nick's school for their end of year picnic and we all had a great time.  There were several bounce houses and games a plenty, so I know two little boys who are sleeping well tonight!  

I have a 5K race coming up on Sunday and it's one of my favorite races; Making Tracks for the Zoo!  I will likely cross-train tomorrow in advance of the race, perhaps a long walk?  

"She is not afraid of storms, for she is learning how to sail her ship." 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

An uplifting run

Remember when I said recently that I was getting better about weighing myself on a daily basis?  I've, unfortunately, reverted back to my old habits and was thoroughly annoyed with the scale this morning.  I know better than to do this to myself, but it's such a habit.  I was feeling a little mopey about it today, until I went on the most glorious "runch" this afternoon with Mary.

It was quite a bit colder today than it was yesterday, so it was a little chilly when we first started out, but it really was ideal running weather.  It was in the 50's with no humidity and a light rain and it was perfect!  We went on a relatively aggressive run through the park near our office and I asked Mary if it was ok if we made a few detours.

The city of St. Louis is celebrating it's 250th birthday this year and there are quite a few celebratory events taking place throughout the year.  And what is a birthday without cake?  The city has placed 250 fiberglass cakes at various historical and tourist attractions around the city and I'm bound and determined to find all 250 and take a picture with them!  They are works of art, really.  Each is designed to reflect the attraction it represents and they are quite spectacular. The park near our office is home to several of these cakes and so this afternoon, I wanted to track some of them down.

On our way to the first cake location (our Science Center), Mary and I met some friends, a.k.a. ginormous replicas of dinosaurs.  A perfect photo opportunity if you ask me!

After our encounter with the T. Rex, we made our way to the front of the Science Center and found their cake.  
Science Center Cake 
After a quick photo op, we headed back out to run and took on a pretty decent hill.  It was a nice change of pace, as we normally run down this hill on a route that we've run a few times previously.  It was good to change things up a bit.  We came to the Jewel Box next and took a picture with their cake.  I love the bottom layer of this cake with the lily pads!

The Jewel Box Cake
As we made our way to the Muny (our one of a kind outdoor summer theater), we got to run downhill, which my legs appreciated at this point a few miles into our run. The Muny cake was amazing; particularly the second tier that had an almost 3D rendering of the theater.

Meet Me at the Muny Cake
We headed back to the office and went up a hill that we ran last week.  Last week, this particular hill was brutal for me, but today, it wasn't that bad.  I don't know if it was the fact that it was significantly cooler today than when we ran last week or if I was just mentally prepared to run hills today.  I suspect it was a combination of the two.  We ended up doing 3.6 miles today and it felt great!  I felt badass when we were done and much stronger.  I needed that run to remind me that I am more than just a number on a scale.  I've come a long way from the person I was even just a year ago and I am so much stronger and healthier today and that is a great thing.  Thanks for such a great run today, Mer, and for indulging my need to take pictures with the cakes! 

I've been missing my dad a lot and today while we ran I was telling Mary that it has been hard dealing with all of the normal things you have to deal with when someone passes on top of your own grief.  I mentioned that I wish I could tell him about Napa because he would be so proud of me and Mary, ever my voice of reason, said "You don't think you had an angel's helping hand in that?"  She's absolutely right; he knows and is watching out for me! 

Here's a few more pictures from my cake shenanigans over the past few weeks.  6 cakes down; 244 left to go!
St. Louis Art Museum cake on our anniversary 4/30/14
The cake at the college where I work 4/25/14
Jefferson Barracks Civil War Cake (this history buff loved this cake) 5/11/14
I know I sound like a broken record sometimes with my daily struggle to not weigh myself, but I am really going to try to do better in this area, which may come down to hiding the damn thing.  It does seem to be getting low on batteries, so maybe I won't replace them, although I don't think Matt will like this plan.  The numbers on that scale do not define me.  Repeat daily, if necessary!  With this in mind, I am re-evaluating my 32 for 32 challenge (to lose 32 lbs by my 32nd birthday in August), but more on that in a future post this week! 

"You are strong when you know your weaknesses. You are beautiful when you appreciate your flaws. You are wise when you learn from your mistakes." 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Rainy Tuesday

I was pleasantly surprised by how much cooler the temperature was today compared to the past few days and my garden appreciated the rain that came with those cooler temperatures!  I planned to go for a walk today, but the rain threw me for a loop.  I told Matt I was going to walk anyway even if it was raining, but after going to the grocery store after work and eating dinner, I decided to forgo the walk and stick to core work.

I have a lovely new blog logo above thanks to my creative (and graphically inclined) friend, Mary!  She took my random thoughts about color and look and turned into into something awesome!  Thank you, Mer, I love it!

Over the past week, I've connected with my fellow Napa teammates on social media and tonight, we had a fantastic group chat on Facebook.  Through some pretty impressive detective work by my fellow BAMR's, we've managed to track down all but one of our teammates and I must say, this is a fantastic group of women.  Jodi, Erin, Kelly, Melissa, JMart, Jennifer, Smitha, Kim, and Kathleen:  I am looking forward to continuing to get to know you amazing ladies, laughing with you, and learning from you!  Napa, here we come! 

I'm looking forward to another "runch" tomorrow, weather permitting!  Although, I may just run in the rain for the heck of it, because it sounds kind of nice and a good change of pace!

"We start as a group of people...we finish as a group of friends." 

Monday, May 12, 2014

The hills are alive

Not with the sound of music, but rather with the sound of my heavy breathing.  I had the best intentions of doing hill repeats tonight at the park near my office, but I only ended up doing two, so I'm not sure that counts as "repeats" especially since it ended up being two different hills.  I'm struggling to figure out which type of hill is ideal for hill repeats.  Is a steeper, short hill the best?  Or a longer, more gradual hill?  Or do each serve a distinct purpose and thus, should be used interchangeably for training?  If you do hill repeats, what type of hill do you seek?  

In any case, I did a warm-up run (about .75 mile) and then tackled a fairly long hill.  My legs felt really heavy to begin with and so they weren't too keen on the hill.  I made it up the hill, although the last couple hundred feet were brutal.  Rather than turn around and run back down, I kept going across a flat area at the top of the hill.  I ran down the opposite side of the hill, which doesn't seem to be as steep or as long.  When I got to the bottom, I really wanted to keep running to my car, but I was listening to a great AMR podcast with some super motivational messages, so I turned around and went back up the shorter hill one more time.  I did just under 2.5 miles, which was a little shorter than I planned, but it was a good run and I felt satisfied.

I had a great Mother's Day yesterday complete with a Frozen sing-a-long with the boys, a cuddly, nap with Jack, dinner with my Mom, Matt, and the boys, and a great post-dinner walk at JB with everyone.  The boys made sweet gifts for me at school that I love so much.  All in all, it was a wonderful day!  I hope that all of the mothers I know had a wonderful day, too!

"It's easier to go down a hill than up it but the view is much better at the top." 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Strong, confident, and sweaty

Those are the words that I would use to describe my run tonight; it was awesome (and sweaty)!  I went back to JB (the hilly trail) tonight and ran the whole, hilly loop again, but this time without any rest stops.  When I ran Thursday night, I took a quick break at a water fountain right before the third, and steepest hill, because I forgot my water bottle.  I took another quick break before the last big hill, mainly because I thought it was a lot steeper and longer than it actually was and I felt like I needed to mentally prepare myself.  For the record, it wasn't nearly that bad.  Tonight, however, I was smart and brought my water bottle and sweat band, which helped me plug away up all of the hills without stopping.  It felt good to know that mentally and physically I had those hills.  They were mine.  Again, my pace wasn't fast, but I kept going and after making it up all 5 hills, I rewarded myself with a slight detour to a little sitting area overlooking the Mississippi.

A peaceful little overlook
I noticed there was a framed picture sitting on the bench to the left of the bench I was sitting on.  There was no one else around me, so I presumed someone had set it there earlier.  A couple approached the overlook on bike and as they went to look at the river, I heard the woman say something about the photo still being there.  The gentleman she was with said that the photo was there every year, so curiosity got the better of me and I walked over to see what it was.  It was a black and white wedding photo that I presume was from the 1950's or so.  It was a very sweet couple and a sweet gesture.  I'd love to know the back story behind the photo, but my guess is that this particular bench held special memories for this couple (I forgot to check the nameplate to see who the bench was in honor of) and that one of them is deceased and the surviving spouse (or children, I suppose if they have both passed away) puts the photo there every year.

After my brief rest at the overlook, I decided to run back to my car at a faster speed since my legs had recovered a bit from the hills.  The remaining path to my car was relatively flat, so that helped considerably.  I wanted to run a full three miles, so I ran past my car a bit until I reached three.  The last mile felt really good and overall, it was a great, powerful run, which I needed!

Wishing all of the mother's I know a very happy Mother's Day tomorrow, especially my Momma, who just got back from a business trip tonight (she was missed a lot this week)!  I love you, Mom, and want to thank you for always being there for me, listening, offering advice, or just giving me a big hug when I need it!  Happy Mother's Day!  

"Mothers hold their child's hand for a moment and their heart for a lifetime." 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Returning to my old stomping grounds

I decided tonight to go for a run after work in the hopes of having slightly cooler weather.  After the warm "runch" the other day, I thought my body would appreciate cooler temps.  However, I still forgot my water bottle and my sweatband; fail.  I also decided to go run at our favorite family spot for summer evening walks.  We spent a lot of time at this particular trail last summer when we were going for family walks practically every night after work/school.

When I first began the Couch-to-5K program, I would run short jaunts on the trail, but never the full loop.  This was primarily for two reasons.  1) I had not built up my stamina to run a mile at that point, much less the 2.5 miles that encompasses the full loop and 2) this particular trail is very hilly and I always preferred to walk up the big hills.  In fact, one day last year, I overheard some fellow runners commenting on the fact that this particular trail is one of the most difficult cross-country courses.  One local running store calls it an "infamous cross country course" with a "tough 5K loop."  I chose to return to this trail to run tonight to start training on significant hills for Napa.  My main running trail currently is uber flat, although my normal lunchtime route almost always includes at least one gnarly hill, if not more, but I still feel the need to train on more hills.

Truth be told, I've been a little scared to return to the "infamous" course and have been avoiding it like the plaque. I told myself to "suck it up, buttercup" and I wanted to see if I could go back tonight, nearly a year later in my running journey, and push myself.  I am happy to report that I ran the whole outer loop (about 2.5 miles) tonight including all of the beastly hills!  It wasn't easy by any means and my pace up the hills was glacial, but dang it, I did it and I am pretty freaking proud.  It's a huge improvement considering this time last year, I could only run about .4 of a mile on that course and that was only downhill!

I definitely think this route is going to be a frequent one on my road to Napa and I'm certainly going to have to incorporate hill repeats in my training plan, which I have also been putting off.  That and speed work (and cross-training and strength training) will help my overall running and is definitely needed for Ragnar!

I also had a bit of a light bulb moment tonight on my run.  Running Napa Ragnar will help me cross off California on my list of states I've run in on my journey to run a race in all 50 states, which is pretty exciting!  I think I'm going to have to work on a graphic of the U.S. with the states I've run in highlighted so I can track my progress.

Lastly, I had to share a little something sweet.  It's no secret that I'm obsessed with frozen yogurt right now and the geniuses at Tutti Frutti decided to open a location about a half a block from my office.  It's fair to say that they get a hefty chunk of business from my co-workers and I.  Today, we made our second trip this week to Tutti Frutti (shh, I'm also going tomorrow) and I got my new favorite combination:

  • birthday cake frozen yogurt (where has this been all my life??  It's the one and only flavor that got me to switch from my beloved vanilla)
  • a dollop of hot fudge (a vast improvement over my hot fudge consumption of late.  I was a little heavy handed previously with the hot fudge pump)
  • A smidgen of fresh raspberries and blueberries
  • A smattering of chopped peanuts
It's divine and oh so pretty before it melts!  

Here's to continuing to run uphill to get stronger (and to burn off some calories to enjoy Tutti Frutti)!

"Many people shy away from hills. They make it easy on themselves, but that limits their improvement. The more you repeat something, the stronger you get." 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Core work

I sometimes wonder if some of my habits on my weight loss journey are sending the wrong message to my boys, for example when I was weighing myself daily (which I have actually not been doing for once, hooray!) and seeing the boys rush over to weigh themselves, too.  It was cute to see them imitating Matt and I, but I've often wondered if this is sending them the wrong message.  I certainly don't want my boys to be obsessive about their weight, but I do want them to be healthy.  There are, of course, other habits that I do hope they emulate; healthy eating (I should probably be a better role model in this area; hot fudge is not a food group) and regular exercise, so I was tickled tonight when Nick wanted to help me with my core work.

Before my Dad died, I was in a good grove of doing sit-ups and planks every night, but then I fell off the wagon and it's taken me until now to get back on the wagon.  I told Nick I was going to do sit-ups after I got Jack to sleep and he sweetly said "Mom, I will help you do your sit-ups and pranking."  Pranking = 6 year old lingo for planking, for the record.  So he helped me keep track of my sit-ups (100) and then told me that he was going to do 200 (!) because one time in gym, he did 79 sit-ups in 60 seconds.  He made it to 33, but it was great and I loved that he wanted to do sit-ups, too.

He was also very sweet and encouraging when I was doing my planks.  A few months ago, I was doing 20 second planks three times in a row.  I was pleasantly surprised tonight that I was able to do 30 second planks, although I was struggling during the last one.  For the last few seconds of each plank, Nick would gently rub my back and say "It's ok, Mom.  I'm here.  You're doing great."  How I love that kid (and his little bro, too)!

We had a really lovely celebratory lunch at work today in honor of my upcoming Napa Ragnar experience.  I wanted to do a little something to say thank you to my friends at work for all of the support and help with my entry, so I ordered pizza from our favorite local pizza place and we indulged (there may have also been some cinnamon sticks involved, but we have no regrets).  My friend, Stacy, brought some sparkling grape juice to toast with and I promised them that I would bring back delicious wine from Napa so that we could celebrate again when I get back, after work hours, of course!  I don't think I can say enough how much I appreciate my friends helping me with this project, but it meant the world to me!

I loved Stacy's toast and wanted to share it as my quote for today (Stacy, I think I got it right, but if I didn't, let me know!  It was so lovely, I don't want to forget it), because I think not only is it fitting for Napa, but also for running in general for me.  I never knew where running would take me when I set out on this journey and I am thankful for the memories and experiences that it has provided me.  So to my fellow running friends:

"May your legs be long and your stories be even longer." 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A return to "runching"

Today, I went on my first "runch" (lunchtime run) in a long time and it was nice to get back in my groove.  Although, I was somewhat of a weenie (sorry, Mary!) and it was a humbling run in that I realize I have a lot of work to do before Napa.  I am ready for it though! I got this!  It was a bit on the warm side (I'm trying very hard not to use the word hot, especially after the winter we had, but it was pretty much hot) and I forgot my water bottle so I was dragging a bit.  Mary kept me going though and even twisted my arm to run up a hill, after all I need to start doing a lot of hill work before Napa!

The excitement from yesterday has not worn off and I am feeling very blessed by the opportunity that awaits this fall!  I've had the opportunity to start getting to know my awesome Badass Mother Runner teammates and have included links to their blogs on the right so you can get to know them, too!  I am so thrilled to get to know these women better over the next few months and share in a once in a lifetime experience!

I completely forgot to share the picture of our completed memorial garden last night!  We finished up the last bit of work last night after we got home from work and I really love how it turned out.  We even sat outside to eat our dinner to admire our handiwork.  Nick really liked how it turned out, too, but he did point out that it was a lot of work because it took "three whole days, Mom."  It does seem like a lot of work for such a little space, but hopefully the hard work will pay off in easy upkeep for the next few years.

Our memorial garden; hydrangea on the left, memorial stone, and lilac bush on the right
Jodi, one of my new friends from the Napa BAMR team, shared a great quote with me tonight from Ali Vincent when she spoke at the Princess Half in 2013.  It speaks to the power of running and how it brings us together.  I love how many people I have met through running that I might not have otherwise met and how we bond over our common love of running! I'm looking forward to adding 12 BAMR's to that list over the coming months!

"No matter how fast or slow we run, we all sweat the same." 

Monday, May 5, 2014

The most exciting news in the history of my blog

I realize that's a mighty statement, but it's true!  More exciting than running my first 10K, more exciting than finishing my first half, more exciting than losing 50 lbs. and keeping it off for almost a year.  What could be more exciting than all of that?  Getting the opportunity to run with my absolute favorite Mother Runners, Dimity and Sarah as part of their Napa Valley Ragnar team this fall!

I saw that Dimity and Sarah were having a contest for their 2014 Ragnar Team and having read the recap from their Ragnar DC adventure last year, I knew I wanted to be a part of it.  The rules for the contest were to get creative and tell Dimity and Sarah why you want to join the team, so I brainstormed for a few weeks about my idea for my entry and started to work after I finished my half marathon in early April.  I submitted my entry the last day of the contest (last Monday) and set about waiting until the announcement was made today.  I almost posted my Ragnar entry to my blog after I submitted it last week, but a superstitious part of me didn't want to jinx myself!

I always scroll through my e-mail on my phone in the mornings before I get out of bed and I had several this morning, but I found the one I was looking for, the one from Dimity and Sarah.  I opened the e-mail and practically held my breath as I read through the fantastically creative and clever Mother Runners that were chosen to be part of the Napa team.  I got to runners 7, 8, and 9 on the list and I told myself not to get too disappointed and then I saw my  name.  I think I squealed out loud and I woke up Matt to tell him the good news!  Here is a link to all of the Badass Mother Runners for Napa and I am so excited to be part of this fantastic group of women!

I based my entry on the hilarious Jimmy Fallon hashtag videos; I can't get enough of them and I watch them almost weekly.  My favorite is the Justin Timberlake version (here), but the Jonah Hill version (here) is also top notch.  I had the help of some wonderful co-workers who brainstormed ideas with me, filmed the video for me, and acted with me in the video.  Thank you all; you are the best!!  I will say that I don't think acting is my calling and I'll stick to my day job, but it was a lot of fun to shoot and I had a blast editing the video (that's actually what I was doing last Sunday night that caused me to stay up until 3 a.m.; totally worth it). Here is the final version of my #NapaRagnar Entry video!

I have been beaming all day and I still can't believe that it's real!  Dimity and Sarah are such inspirations to me and I still remember last year watching the live feed of Dimity crossing the finish line at the Coeur D'Alene Ironman.  I didn't know her, but I was so freaking proud of her and it gave me such a boost of self-confidence that I can't really explain.  I had just come across their blog and books a few weeks prior to her Ironman and shortly thereafter, I started listening to their podcasts when I went running.  I had the opportunity to meet both of them in St. Louis last fall at the Mother Runner party they hosted here before the Rock 'n Roll Marathon and I felt like I was meeting superstars, because they are in my book.  I can't wait to run Napa with them and get to know them even more.  Nothing like spending two days in a van with someone to get to know them, right?

In addition to running with my running heroes, I'm also getting the opportunity to run a Ragnar Relay race in a beautiful part of the country.  Napa Ragnar starts in San Francisco and ends in Napa Valley and it looks like a beautiful race!  I've heard a lot about Ragnar Relay races as I've become more involved in the running community and it's always intrigued me as a new challenge.  It's something completely outside of my comfort zone (night running!? and sleeping in a van!) but I am so excited about it and so blessed to have the opportunity to participate.  I feel like this opportunity couldn't have come at a better time; with all that has gone on in my life the past 5 months or so, I needed a little push with my running and weight loss, as well as something to challenge me, motivate me, and inspire me!  I am thrilled to be a part of this group of women and I cannot wait for the race in September!

I'm looking forward to sharing my Ragnar training and if anyone else has done a Ragnar before, I'd love to hear your experiences and tips!

I know I've been struggling a bit with my return to running following my half and my weight loss, but I have a renewed sense of determination!  I love the quote below and find it fitting for me right now; so here is to tomorrow and getting into gear for Napa Ragnar!

"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying 'I will try again tomorrow.'" 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Memorial Garden

We spent another day doing yard work today and prior to that, I chose sleep over a run.  Despite my lack of a run today, though, I feel like I got in a good workout doing yard work.  Nick and I went to the cemetery today to visit my Dad's grave and my Grandma and Grandpa's grave and while we were there, we decided that our new garden would make a nice memorial garden for my Dad and other loved ones we've lost.  We picked up a few things at the store to help get our garden going and I'm loving how it is turning out.

In addition to the hydrangea that we are going to plant, I also picked up a lilac bush.  My grandma loved lilacs and had a beautiful lilac bush in her backyard.  After my grandparents died and we sold their house, my mom and I went over to the backyard and took a branch of the lilac bush to plant at my house.  Unfortunately, that little branch did not produce a bush, but I'm sure this had to do with my terrible gardening skills and not a fault with the branch.  I'm going to give this new lilac bush a fair shake and hope that it and the hydrangea bear with me and stick around for a while.  We are also going to put a garden stone in between the two bushes.  It's a stone that was sent to me after Dad died and it has a nice saying on it that will be perfect for our memorial garden.  We also picked up some edging stones and some solar lights to finish everything off.  We have a little bit left to finish off this week, but it's almost finished.  I'll try to remember to take some pictures when all is said and done.

It was really nice to spend so much time outdoors this weekend, especially after this dreadfully long winter.  The boys had a great time riding around in their toy Jeep and helping me garden with their gardening tools.  I think the fresh air did us some good!

In other exciting news, Nick lost his second tooth this afternoon and he is quite excited for another visit from the Tooth Fairy!

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend and that you, too, had wonderful weather to enjoy!

"Always keep your face toward the sunshine and shadows will fall behind you." 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Upcoming Races and "Mental Chafing"

I have been completely absorbed in the book I mentioned last week written by Holocaust survivor, Ben Fainer, and I spent last night curled up in bed reading.  It's a nice change of pace, actually, because I haven't been reading much lately and I've missed it.

Unfortunately, I did not go for a run yesterday or today, but I did do a bit of walking yesterday and about 2 hours of yard work today.  I'm not a big fan of gardening/yard work, honestly.  I know many people find gardening to be very relaxing and peaceful, but I can't get on board.  I came to the conclusion tonight that it is because of my OCD.  I was pulling out two large bushes in our backyard to make room for a beautiful hydrangea I got when my Dad passed away and it was exhausting.  I only intended on removing one bush, but then I decided I could probably manage the upkeep on a little area near our back door and decided to remove the other bush and make a small garden.  Nick was really excited to hear this and said that we needed to buy seeds and signs; it was quite cute.  I managed to open up a huge blister on my left palm since I decided to attempt the bush pulling without gloves (duh, Laura) and while I do feel accomplished in that I removed both bushes, I also realize that I still have a lot of work to do tomorrow.  It will be nice to spend more time outdoors tomorrow, though.  The boys and I enjoyed spending some time outside and getting some fresh air.

I'd like to go out for a run tomorrow before I tackle more gardening, especially since I have a few races coming up.

  • May 18th: St. Louis Children's Hospital Make Tracks for the Zoo Run/Walk; I've done this race the past few years and it is one of my favorites.  Nick did one of the kid's runs last year and it was so fun running with him!  We run through Forest Park and then enter the Zoo for a post-race breakfast and the award ceremony.  
  • June 14th: Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure; I've also participated in this race for many years and it's near and dear to my heart.  My mom and I have been going downtown since 2009 for the Race for the Cure and it's just as special each year.  St. Louis' Race for the Cure is the largest 5K in the world and it is always inspiring to see thousands of people in pink honoring those we've lost to breast cancer and supporting those who are fighting the disease currently. 
I'd like to do some other races this summer, so I'm keeping my eyes open for other opportunities in July and August!

Our local Fleet Feet affiliate sends out a weekly newsletter that I receive and I always enjoy Amy Marxkors' articles; she's candid, funny, and insightful and this week was no different.  Her article this week was about mental chafing and it really spoke to me, particularly in the context of my recent half marathon.  She says "it's the mental dialogue, the back and forth between negative thoughts and positive, that wears us down.  For every attack there must be a counterattack. For every 'I can't' there must be an 'I can.'"  This is so true for me on practically every run, not just on race day.  Amy's friend, Megan, said it best: "I need to RunGuard my brain."  I need to keep this in mind on every run and counteract the negative thoughts with the positive to relieve the "mental chafing" that I always seem to get!  

"If you train your mind for running, everything else will be easy." 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Back in the saddle again

Today, I went for my first run since my half marathon (almost a month ago, yeesh)!  More on that in a minute, but first I wanted to share a bit about the past few days.

Tuesday night I had big plans; there were so many things on my "to-do" list and what did I do?  I fell asleep a little before 9 and didn't wake up until the next morning.  I felt a little guilty for not doing anything on my list that night, but I figured that I must have needed the sleep.

Yesterday, Matt and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary.  I can't believe it's been 10 years; at times it seems like only yesterday and other times it seems like a lifetime ago given that so much has happened since then.  Births, deaths, new jobs, a new house, so much can happen in 10 years.  We both took the day off and spent the day together, which was wonderful.  We watched our wedding DVD and looked through our engagement, rehearsal dinner, and honeymoon photos.  Then we went to the St. Louis Art Museum and had a great time looking at the exhibits.  The Art Museum currently has a French Impressionist exhibit that I was hoping to see (I'm a huge Francophile) but it was an exhibit that you had to purchase a ticket for.  We are very lucky, though, in that the rest of the museum is free.  From time to time they have traveling exhibits that require you to purchase a ticket.  In fact, the last time I was at the Art Museum was when Nick was about two months old and my Dad was in town for his baptism.  We went to the Art Museum because there was a Napoleon exhibit at the time and we had a great time.  It was nice to remember that visit while Matt and I were there yesterday.  Our favorite part of the museum, though, was this phenomenal arms and armor exhibit they had.  It was filled with beautiful armor and spectacular weapons from the 15th through 18th centuries (the history geek in me was in awe) and the exhibit was in this gorgeous room with dark wood paneling and a grand staircase.  It was very impressive!
My handsome hubs in the arms and armor room at the Art Museum
Celebrating 10 years of being Mr. and Mrs.
After the Art Museum, we had a late lunch and then after we picked up the boys from school, my Mom came over to watch the boys so Matt and I could go to the movies.  We went to see The Other Woman (I highly recommend it; hilarious) and we enjoyed the movie in the comfort of the 5-star lounge at one of our local theaters.  We've been wanting to try it out for awhile and we figured our anniversary would be a good time.  The 5-star lounge is a 21+ theater that has heated, reclining seats, tableside service, and a full food and cocktail menu.  It was amazing and the only way I care to see movies from now on! :) It was definitely luxurious and a fun splurge for our anniversary!  We had a really great anniversary and it was so nice to have some quality time with the hubs and celebrate married life.  I love you, babe!  Here's to many more years of love, laughter, and happiness!

Just when I thought Spring had sprung, Mother Nature reminded me that she's in control.  After having some wonderful spring days with mild temperatures and glorious sun, the past two days have been cloudy and chilly.  I'm not sure we made it much into the 50's today, but it looks like Monday it's going to be 86.  You've got to love St. Louis weather!
Beautiful flowers from my lunchtime walk on Tuesday
This evening after work, I decided it was time to get back in the saddle.  It has been almost a month since my half and I haven't run since between my self-imposed post-race recovery week followed by my wicked sinus infection.  I originally thought I would just take it easy and do 2 miles, but I decided to go for 3 and I'm glad I did.  It was hard given that I haven't run in awhile (and the fact that I had a huge lunch followed by fro yo this afternoon) but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  It was a beautiful night, even though it was chilly.  It was overcast and there were some dark clouds in the sky, which made everything on the path seem greener and more vibrant.  It's the perfect running weather for me.  The creek along the path was babbling and the leaves were rustling and the trail wasn't too busy.  I listened to one of Dimity and Sarah's Another Mother Runner podcasts, which was so nice to get back to.  I had been listening to an audio book (Unbroken) while I trained for the half, so I have a lot of AMR podcasts to catch up on and I can't wait.  It felt damn good to get out and run and clear my head.  I was anxious to be finished around mile 2.3, but I kept at it and even though my pace was slower than my norm, it felt great to be out there and run.
Peaceful, beautiful, soul soothing
I'm planning to go for another run tomorrow night after work and I'll probably stick to 3 miles again just to ease back in to running.  I will probably stick to 3 miles for the next two weeks or so just to get back in the zone. I need to look at my race calendar for the next few months and figure out a game plan for training.  I think that will help me immensely to have a plan.

What is your perfect running weather?

"Progress is impossible without change...and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."