Beating the Funk and Petting Pigs

Do you ever get in one of those funks that just feel like the world is crumbling down around you? I very rarely get that way, and kind of pride myself on that fact, but yesterday was one of those days. I was in a look out, get out of my way, someone kicked my puppy and peed in my Cheerios kind of mood. It was bad. Not even a hot bath and a glass of wine did the trick. At 9:00 I informed Jon that I would be taking two squares of chocolate, eating them in bed, and then going to sleep to try for a do-over tomorrow. He totally understood.

Today is a new day! I slept in until a glorious 7:15, had a cup of blueberry coffee, and decided the cloudy sky would not ruin my Saturday with my baby girl. So we packed up and hit the road looking for adventure. First, her and I did a little yard sale hunting. We found a couple, but my quest for a super cheap exersaucer is still ongoing. Next up we hit the farmer’s market. Something about that place just makes me happy. I love seeing all those people selling things they have made and grown with their hands. I love to talk to the farmers and hear how passionate they are about the quality of the food they are selling. I also love to see all the people buying fresh local food. It makes my heart smile. 

I picked up a watermelon and a dozen ears of corn. The guy even slipped a free cucumber in my bag.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I feel about cucumbers the same way I feel about snakes, spiders, liver, and other icky things. Jon will eat it. I almost left the farmer’s market with this:

I’m not kidding. If I had the cash on me I would be petting my pot-bellied pig right this moment. Jon came home with five turkeys one day, why can’t I have a pig? Later, I called and asked him what he thought….let’s just say it is not completely off the table.

I bid farewell to Miss Piggy and Reagan and I hit the Riverwalk Trail for a run. I was so excited about today’s run. She got to ditch the car seat and ride in the stroller like a big girl (facing forward)! She’s finally big enough and strong enough to do it. I wedged her in with some blankets to be safe, but it was awesome! She was so much cooler in there and so happy to look around as we moved.

One thing I love about my town is all the opportunities there are to be active if you want to be. Sure, there’s also about 75 fast food, fried food, country cookin’ places too, but if you want to live a healthy lifestyle it’s pretty easy to do. The Riverwalk Trail is such a wonderful place to run. It’s so calming to race along next to the water.

We went a few miles and then stopped at the Fit Stop so I could get in a few squats, pullups, toes to bars, and pushups done while she slept. This little “park” is such a nice addition to the trail.

A few miles back and Reagan was ready for lunch, as was I. We hightailed it home and hung out together while I fixed up a little something. 

Some people have been trying to convince me to try to go Paleo. I eat pretty healthy, but I just don’t think I could go that far. I really love cheese….and beans and flour and milk and yogurt and all the other wonderful things that I couldn’t have anymore. I just don’t think I want to do it. I know I could, I just don’t want to.  I mean, doesn’t that look delish? Trust me, it was.

I guess my awful funk from yesterday stemmed from the fact that I finally had to go back to work. I’ve been off with Reagan for almost four months. I know that’s such a blessing and most people don’t get that much time off, but it’s just so hard! I kept thinking about all the “firsts” I’m probably going to miss. The thing is, I won’t be her “person” anymore. I mean, I’ll always be Mom but she will now spend the most time with Grammy. Again, I know, we are very fortunate that she stays with Grammy when so many people have to use daycare. Cut me a little slack and let me wallow in self-pity for just a minute. First-time mom here. 

 So today I decided that the only way to deal with it is to make the most of the time we DO have together. It doesn’t help to be sad about things I can’t change. Being a working mom is a decision that I made a long time ago. She’s too little now, but someday she’ll be able to remember mornings like this one and when she looks back on her childhood I hope she’ll smile at the mom that took her running and wanted to buy her a pig. Okay, the pig was for me, but still.

The Scream Half Marathon

I can think of very few reasons why a person would run screaming down a mountainside for thirteen miles in the drizzling rain.  I’m thinking bear attack or escape from an ax murderer, but last week my friend Allison and I did it because it sounded like fun. The Scream Half Marathon took place in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina and we were lucky enough to be two of the just over two hundred people that were able to participate.

We traveled to the mountains on Friday afternoon to stay with Allison’s mother at His High Places. The landscape was gorgeous and we couldn’t have been more excited. Get a load of this place!

The weather was a brisk 59 degrees when we arrived- a welcome relief from Virginia’s blistering heat, but it did leave me a bit worried about my race plans. I was expecting (and training for) a race day that would be hotter than Hades, and worse yet the forecast was calling for a slight chance of rain. After a giant dinner we got our race gear ready….

And tucked in early for our 4:45 wake up call.

Can you spot a couple of nerds when you see them? 

We awoke Saturday morning to a light drizzle, thick fog, and temps in the low 50’s. So hard to believe in mid-July, but I guess mountain weather is unpredictable.  Allison’s mother and sister dropped us at the starting line and headed down to the two mile marker where they had volunteered to hand out water. I should add that this was Allison’s first half marathon (she’s only been running less than two years) and her mom was busting with pride. Can you blame her? I was proud of her too. A half marathon is no easy feat and then you add something as crazy as a downhill run through the mountains into the mix. She’s fearless I tell ya.

We checked and double checked our laces. I was a bit intimidated by the wet road surface, the rain, and the fact that it looked as though we were literally running inside of a cloud.

One last trip to the bathroom before the start.

A race with Allison and myself wouldn’t be complete without a restroom adventure. As seems to be our M.O. we found the porta-potties to be full and headed to the woods. And as usual, we were caught. Fearless Allison went first while I was on the lookout. Just as she was in the middle of her “break” I spotted a man coming down the trail. I coughed a quick “Man coming!” at her and she whipped her pants up so fast I thought she was going to fall over into the weeds. All I can say is thank God it was raining anyway…Bwahahaha!

Finally we all lined up at the starting line, covered in the light mist but thankful the sun wasn’t blazing heat down on us. There was such a mix of people at the race. It seems as though people came from everywhere to be the pioneers of The Scream.  I was extremely impressed with how organized this event was. In the mountains of what seemed like the middle of nowhere, I thought it stood a chance of being a disaster but as soon as we arrived I knew this was going to be an excellent race.

The first two miles were mostly flat and a little uphill. The surface was blacktop road. Shortly before the two mile mark we made a turn and headed down a gravel/dirt road. This would be our surface for the next eleven miles. 

One quick drink and then I’m off. 

Miles three and four were such a blast, I found myself holding my arms out, smiling, and fleeing down the mountain like a little kid. The twists and turns of the road were a little tricky with the road beginning to become muddy from the rain but it just added to the fun of it.

At mile 5 my feet were totally wet.

At mile 6 I developed a blister the size of Rhode Island on the ball of my foot…and the drizzle turned to  a full on rain.

Mile 7 was a hill that appeared to descend straight to…. I was like the train in Unstoppable. You could have put something in front of me to slow me down but I couldn’t have stopped if I wanted to. This locomotive had no breaks.

At mile 8 I happened to reach back and feel my hair. The rain had soaked it and the running had made it tie itself in one giant knot that stood straight out on the back of my head. I imagined I looked like Marge Simpson.

Miles 9- 11were a blur of blister, mud, rain, Clif shots, and pain but I don’t think I ever stopped smiling.

Right around mile 12 I crossed a concrete bridge and heard a woman say that we were still under 2 hours. After running on that dirt and gravel surface the concrete burned my feet. It was sort of like landing on the ground after jumping on a trampoline, but it looked like this:

and it was amazing.

Mile 12 was cruelly flat. Enough said about that.

I was so happy to see the finish line. 

My husband says I have the world’s most unattractive run. He is correct.

But it doesn’t have to be attractive to get me to where I need to be. 

It wasn’t long before Allison joined me at the finish line. 

Allison’s first 5K (less than 2 years ago)

I’ve said repeatedly that this will be my last half marathon. I told myself that all summer and the whole way down the mountain. It’s hard on your body and takes so much time to train. The race itself isn’t the hard part, it’s all the miles that lead up to it. I’m thinking it’s time to slow down a little (as if I was fast to begin with). I’ve pretty much made up my mind…..but I think there may be one race that could pull me out of retirement next year. I’ll see you at the bottom.

 

Tips for Running The Rugged Maniac

I find myself more and more interested in running races that are not simply road races. I haven’t really ran any 5K races in my area this year and I’m not really sure I’m going to do any. Ever since I have been doing Crossfit workouts, I have been seeking out things that are much more physically challenging. The Rugged Maniac was the perfect arena for my new-found love for mud, sweat, and physical exertion.

My husband, and a few friends, and I ran the Rugged Maniac in Asheboro, NC a few weeks ago.  This is a 5K race with about 20 obstacles built in along the way. There is everything from a giant mudslide to a wall of fire. It isn’t for the faint of heart, the sluggish, or those who wish to remain clean. It is, however, an absolute blast! 

BEFORE

AFTER

Here’s a few tips I thought I’d share now that I have experienced the Rugged Maniac.

1. You will get muddy and cold. You will feel disgusting. The lines at the water hoses are pretty long, but not unbearable. Bring a couple gallon jugs of water to get yourself started and then when you feel a little less disgusting you can stand in line for the “shower”. There’s also a changing room so be sure to bring something warm to change into. We had a beautiful day, but after being soaking wet for an hour or so, sweatpants are a blessing.

2. In Asheboro, you can’t park at the event. You will park a few miles away and be shuttled to the race. The wait isn’t too long, but you don’t want to plan on going back to your car to change or pick up anything you’ll need while you are at the race. The line for bag check is very long and I just can’t see waiting while dripping with sludge to pick up your bag. We packed inexpensive items that we didn’t care about in inexpensive bags and stashed them in an inconspicuous spot. They were still there, untouched, after the race. There are still good people in the world.

3. You can donate your shoes if you’d like to after the race. That is if you don’t lose them on the course. To prevent this, I recommend duct tape. 

4. Be sure to bring a trash bag to put your muddy things in after the race. You will also need your id and cash. Wrap these in a plastic baggie and put them in a pocket- they will still get wet and disgusting. It’s unavoidable.

5. Embrace the yuck. You will go under muddy water- the whole way under. There is no possible way to keep your head above water. Hold your nose. Don’t swallow. Trust me.

6. Apparently, it doesn’t take a flying leap to cross the wall of fire. 

But I didn’t get that memo.

Instead of finisher’s medals, the race directors decided to hire professional photographer to place themselves along the course and take these great pictures of everyone. Watch for the photographers and try to look excited. You’ll have so much fun looking for yourself when they send you the link. You are free to download or print the pictures as much as you’d like. It’s really a nice touch.

7. Cover as much of you skin as possible. The rocks that are hidden under the mud might be the worst part. I am still scratched and bruised- a minor inconvenience. Wear knee pads if you’ve got them. People might think you’re weird until after the race. Then they will think you’re a genius.

8. Be prepared to immediately want to sign up for another one. These things are addictive. I haven’t had so much fun in the mud since I was a kid. 

Get Rugged!!

Wanted Body Glide and Samual L. Jackson

Today I melted like a cheesy fondue. I’m not kidding. I was almost liquefied in the middle of a parking lot. I am right smack in the middle of training for this crazy half marathon and it is blazing hot outside. I’ve been getting up early to run, but today was Saturday and I got lost in the CMT awards I DVR’ed from last week.   I finally peeled myself off the couch and headed out to the trail for a seven miler at about 9:30 and that was way too late.  This is me after 7.6 miles today.

I told you so! I put this completely unflattering picture of myself up to make a point. If you are going to run in hot weather, there are a few things you’re going to need that I did not have today.

1. Body Glide- snazzy little deodorant looking tube that keeps your flabby bits from rubbing together. Rub it on and there’s no bra or thigh chaffing (or arm band, that’s what kills me). I am completely without any of this right now and I’ve got the burns to prove it.

2. Water- seems like a no brainer, but sometimes I have no brain. You need a lot of water if you are going to do a long run in over 90 degree weather. I suggest bottles on a belt or at least a handheld water bottle. Nathan is a good brand. I run with the Sprint sometimes.

But really in this kind of heat for that kind of distance I need to step it up.

I just can’t really see myself wearing that thing. It looks like something a Storm Trooper would wear. There really is no fashion in running. I used to think runners dressed like dorks, but now I know they just didn’t have any options.

3. Energy gels- I like to use Clif Shots every 45 minutes or so on a really long run. Today I went with the Clif blocks which are like gummy bears without the cute bear shape. They stuck to my teeth and made my mouth taste like I was drooling sugar. Which would probably be ok if I had some water…

The shots are made of organic brown rice syrup. They don’t taste bad. They have about 100 calories, plenty to get you through the next leg of your run. These flavors look amazing. My local stores only carry vanilla and strawberry. This makes me sad.

I also recommend some moisture wicking clothing. It really does make a difference. On days like today, I even run in those ridiculously short (and ugly) running shorts. Again, tossing fashion out the window for coolness and comfort. 

All in all I wouldn’t count today as a fail. I actually overshot my seven miles by about half a mile. The man that zoomed past me pushing a kid in a stroller depressed me a little until I saw him turn around long before I did. I did not die of heat stroke. And I think the mileage may cancel out the steak and baked potato I’m getting ready to devour.

I promise a non-running related blog soon. I really just wanted a reason to show you all this pic I took today just as I was headed back to the enormous man-truck I am still driving.

Holy heart attack! I almost stepped directly on that thing! It was stretched across the trail. I’m not going to lie to you, I took three giant steps back and stood there dumbfounded because I didn’t know how to get around it. I had visions of me stepping around it and then it goes all crazy on me. I’m picturing the movie Anaconda. I’m picturing giant fangs and having to find some innocent bystander to suck the venom out of me. I’m thinking Snakes on a Plane. I’m crying out for Samuel L. Jackson. 

 In retrospect, I think it was some type of garter snake, completely harmless. When I pulled myself together, I simply walked around it. But it COULD have been dangerous. I mean, possibly. Ok, I was just being a big wimp. I know.

Tips for Running the Cooper River Bridge Run

On April 2, 2011 three of my friends and I stood with 40,000 runners in the still-dark morning waiting for the start of the Cooper River Bridge Run. As the sun rose over the crowd, excitement filled the air. We huddled together against the predawn cold, corralled into our section for the wave start.  Then it hit me, I had to pee.

Thousands of runners gather as the sun rises at the CRBR 2011

Running the Cooper River Bridge Run takes a bit of clever planning.  Although it is an amazingly well-organized event, there are still some logistical problems runners must deal with. Here is a collection of tips and tricks we used to make the event smooth and stress free.

Tip #1

The race is point to point, starting in Mt. Pleasant and ending in downtown Charleston. The race starts at 8:00, but the bridge closes at 7:00.  There are shuttles from downtown beginning at 5:30. The last one leaves at 6:45. If you miss it, you’re out of luck. If you park in Mt. Pleasant, you’ll have to get back to your car. There are return shuttles, but you may feel rushed to get back. We were lucky enough to have a ride to the starting line. We got there at 6:00 to allow plenty of time for our ride to get back over the bridge. The night before the race, we parked a car downtown at a parking garage so we could leave after the race whenever we were ready without having to rely on anyone else.  We used a parking garage on St. Phillip Street near George Street. It was practically empty the evening before and free on weekends. It was also very close to all the race festivities- both the expo and the finish party.

Tip #2

Spring weather in Charleston is typically amazing, but early morning is still very cold. Since you have to arrive over and hour before the race starts, you WILL be cold. You’ll see people covered in trash bags and huddled in doorways waiting for the sun to rise. Bring an old shirt or jacket that you don’t mind throwing away. As the race starts, shed it and toss it to the side. Volunteers will pick them up after all the people are gone and (hopefully) donate them all to Goodwill.

Tip #3

Adequately hydrating is a tricky situation at CRBR. There are hundreds of Porto-potties near the corrals. Get in one early (like we did) and the line shouldn’t be more than twenty minutes, but then you may find yourself in my situation…fifteen minutes before start I had to pee! There was no way I could run six miles like that. The other girls were in the same boat. There we were, already corralled in and the lines were at least an hour wait. If we tried it, we would miss the race for sure! I thought we could get into Starbucks and use it, but so did everyone else and the line wrapped around the building. So I did what any respectable woman would do in this situation, I found a bush behind a grocery store and did my business. Look, I don’t recommend breaking the law under any circumstances except a complete emergency. I consider having to pee with no access to a bathroom an emergency. We took turns crouching, when I heard my friend fiercely whisper, “Cop!” I looked up to see my friends pretending to stretch while an officer approached our hedgerow. He was on to us immediately. However, here’s where I picked up tip #3- the officers are told not to write tickets for this particular offense on race day.  Please use a potty if at all possible, but you can’t just find a good hidden spot. If you look closely and pay attention you will see runners pop up from behind bushes and cars all over the place. It looks a little like that game Whack-a Mole.

Tip#4

There are 40,000 runners in this race. If you think the crowd will thin out after you get moving, think again. Plan your run accordingly. Pick a hole in the crowd and pass. Watch your step! You will not be able to see very far ahead of you and people will stop without warning. Especially while heading up the bridge. Even runners with the best intentions will stop to walk on the incline and they will give you no warning. This is not a race where you can zone out and run. My GPS read 6.44 miles at the end, due to all the zigging and zagging I had to do while running. Just be careful.

Tip #5

Train on hills. This isn’t really a race day tip, but more of a warning.  Do not underestimate the bridge. The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is 2.5 miles long and 200 feet high. The slope is 4%. The uphill portion is over a mile long. You will not make it if you do all your training on a treadmill or flat surface. You will be one of those people that stop suddenly and seat belt check the runners behind you. Don’t be that person, you tick the rest of us off.  If you do decide to walk, move to the right side before you stop and get out of the way. I’m all for people that want to walk for their health, that’s awesome, but this is a RACE so if you aren’t going to race me then get out of my way. Please.

Tip #6

Take a minute and enjoy the view at the top. You worked hard to get there so cherish the moment. Then get ready to fly! The downhill is the best part of the race. Spread your arms a little, embrace your inner-child and let go. This will be the part of the race you really remember.

Tip #7

On the home stretch take advantage of the sidewalks to pass. People will be getting tired and slowing down so move to the side to zoom past them.  When you cross the finish line, remember that there are pictures being taken and try not to have a squished up getting ready to drop dead face. The picture choices they email to you later are actually really nice. I would have bought one if my pictures didn’t look like I’d been run over by a train.

Tip #8

Take advantage of all the free goodies after the race. Don’t bother standing in line for the ice cream or barbecue. They are just tiny samples that won’t make a dent in your hunger. Go for the bottled water, fruit, bagels, and Clif bars. There is less of a line, and you’ll get your fill much faster.  Also, there is no merchandise for sale after the race. If you want a race t-shirt or souvenir, buy it at the expo the night before or order it online. I was disappointed at this. I didn’t want to buy a Get Over It shirt until I actually Got Over It, so I missed out.

The Cooper River Bridge Run is a fantastic event in one of America’s most beautiful cities. Looking out over the crowd of runners and walkers, adults and children, all different races and nationalities, I felt a great sense of pride. It truly is an adventure that you will want to repeat time and again.