Ready for structure

Under the surface

“This stay at home mom gig is sometimes more rough than others. I mean, as a mom, I already always feel like people feel they’re open to judge me as a woman and a parent. I feel pressured to go out of my way to constantly do fun or educational things even when I’m physically or mentally exhausted. I fear posting to Facebook for people will judge me for spending time online. I feel bad when my kids are watching TV, or playing on their tablets….I just…I’m tired!”

This was a message I sent one of my friends during the day. I meant it. I know that being a parent is a tough job and there will always be some ongoing resentment war between the stay at home vs the working away from home parents. This situation was specifically about my sudden abundance of time to spend with my children during summer break.  I have been a single working mom, a married working mom, and a stay at home mom all over the last 16 years of my life, so I’m not minimizing the responsibilities of which mom/parent someone is.

Why do I feel like I have to justify everything I say or do or quantify it to “as a mom” or some other way? Sometimes, I just want to let some steam off and say that I’m spread out really thin or I’m exhausted without having to qualify the statement with a reason or reasons to make it acceptable for me to feel that way. I feel that way and I don’t need an explanation to excuse it. I want to say something out loud so it isn’t bubbling under the surface.

If you’re someone who knows me, you probably know that I truly care about everyone I meet and I pray for them and will listen and do what I can to help. Heck, there are some people I’ve never met that I truly care about and pray for. I don’t expect anything in return for it and I don’t feel one must explain him/herself for feeling a certain way about something. I’m sure a lot of my feeling constantly scrutinized is in my head as part of my anxiety, but that doesn’t mean that I write it off as anxiety. I get anxious about my anxiety.

Filling my buckets

Kerri Walsh Jennings was on NBC’s Today for an interview and she mentioned her buckets in her life and how if she starts to feel grumpy, she goes back and looks at which bucket isn’t being serviced.

While my interpretation isn’t parallel to the way she discusses it in her interview, I do see that there is probably a reason behind my frustration. I have been running, but I am not currently involved in any specific training. I haven’t had anything holding me accountable and I don’t have as much time to go for a run as I did when the kids were in school. My fitness is still being taken care of, but as more of an afterthought than a priority. Then, I need to worry about people claiming that kids are the only priority when you have them and anything less is sub-par parenting. I can understand devoting time to kids and not being able to be self centered as a parent, I cannot see a person being expected to completely focus all of their energy and time into parenting. In my opinion, that would deter growth for the parent as an individual and affect interpersonal relationships.

Tie it together already

I am excited to start half marathon training next week and training for my first full marathon in a few weeks. I’ll start out with mentoring the half marathon group 2 days a week and add 2 more days with the full training. I know a lot of time goes into training and I also know that mommy is gentler, less anxious, and more energized when she’s doing something she enjoys and getting out of the house. So, I refuse to feel guilty for looking forward to my time away and enjoying it when I get it. I look forward to interacting with people and even seeing people reach their goals this fall. I also am excited that my kids can see me set and reach goals for myself because they will ultimately follow my example, not my advice. While some people might tell their kids to reach for the stars, I’m going to do my thing and let them see me reach for them, too!

So?

I know I’m not the only parent who feels like the judgement is constant and unrelenting. So maybe you could be gentler on others and on yourself? Maybe if you think something someone else is doing is wrong, you could take a look in the mirror and do an inventory of yourself.

 

 

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Not my expectation

I’m going to start this off by saying that I live in a state that has a lot of flat surfaces and not many hills. A lack of hills in my immediate area means that while I can do some hill work and prepare for slight rolling inclines and declines, I don’t have mountains to run on. On average, I will experience a 179 foot elevation gain on a hill training day that is part of a 5 mile run. Some people will scoff at what I’m going to say by comparing their own personal experiences from living in a region where there are more hills or elevation gains. Saturday’s race was a 308 foot elevation gain. It was rough. So let’s gather for my race story.

Prior to race day, I’d made arrangements to carpool to the event with some fellow runners and pay back the driver for her trouble. The four of us gathered at 5 in the morning to head to Peoria for the Steamboat Classic. Two of us were doing the 15k and the other 2 were running the 4 mile distance. We wanted time to park close, get together with a group for a pre race photo, and get into our starting positions. My only request was that I got my free beer after the race before heading back home because I was going to use that as my “you get [this] only if you finish” bribe.

While walking to our designated meeting place, we picked up a few people from the group, stopped for bathroom breaks, etc. Then, the arm broke off of my sunglasses. I was able to find the screw and I spent the rest of the walk looking down trying to think of a way to fix them to be able to use them. I started telling the others about the nightmares I’d had about this race the night before. I’d even dreamed that I got lost, couldn’t find a bathroom, and had to squat in the street to urinate. My friend said it was an omen that it was going to be a good race. I thought my broken sunglasses were the opposite. We waited for our group and I started to worry that race time was approaching quickly and considered running to my start corral instead of waiting for the photo. I somehow jammed the screw into the hole of the arm of my sunglasses and repaired them enough to use them for the race. We took our photo and I took off with a friend toward the start. Then, the National Anthem came over the speakers and we stopped to place our hands on our hearts facing the flag and take off into a brisk walk to the correct starting area as soon as it ended. The group was moving forward and I was suddenly standing by a sign that said runners in the group were going 8 minutes per mile. I tapped the woman next to me and asked if she was running a 10-11 minute mile and she said that was her intent and then she saw that I was concerned because of the signs on the road shoulder. I decided I was running alone and I put on my headphones and turned on my music while I waited.

The race began and the group slowly moved forward. I started my watch as I crossed the starting pad, which was around 40 seconds after the race started. Breaking free of the group proved to be challenging, so I settled in at around 11 minutes per mile and let people go around and spread out for my first mile. I chatted with  friend for a second until she told me to go ahead and she’d see me at the finish line. Nothing incredible was happening. I felt energetic. When we got to a park, the 4 mile and the 15k group separated and we ran into an area that looked wooded. I saw a hill and I powered up swinging my arms and concentrating on my upper body. I surmounted that hill and I was so…pissed off that I was only halfway up that hill because it took a turn and continued. I was physically spent, so I walked as fast as I could muster still swinging my arms and attempting to regain my strength. I picked back up to running and I took a swig from my water bottle and moved on. There were a few more hills, but nothing like that first one. Then, there was another challenge. An equally steep downhill run proved to be difficult to control and unpleasant for my knees. The second time I met the steep uphill, I didn’t try to power up. I still pumped my arms and concentrated on my upper body and I made it 3/4 of the way before I needed to slow to an awkward power walk.

This race was challenging. I had a really good time, though. I waved to the spectators, I thanked the people along the sides of the road, I gave people high fives, and I even smiled at the finish line. This 9.3 mile run was more difficult than the 13.1 mile race I’d ran in April, but I’d enjoyed it so much more. I was not anticipating the hill to be such a steep incline or to be so long. I practiced running on some rolling hills and one steady incline. This was billed as a challenging race and it was. I didn’t go in expecting it to be easy, but it was certainly more difficult than I’d thought it would be.

I finished in 1:41:23 (chip time) and was nowhere near the top ten. I wasn’t even in the top half of anything. I challenged myself and I finished the race. Also, I set a personal record because I’ve never run a 15k distance before.

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Smiling! My friend snapped a pic of my approach to the finish.

Afterward, I took my tired body to the pool with the husband, kids, and a friend where I somehow managed to get sun fried from floating in the lazy river. Then, I went to a party celebrating the graduation of the most recent training program groups. It was a very busy and very fulfilling day. On to the next challenge!! I’m going to be running a marathon before the  year is over!

Have you ever felt like you were in over your head during an event or activity? Did you enjoy it more because of the challenge?

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Messed up format, but here’s a bonus pic: SUNBURN! *I didn’t even have a t-shirt on, so I don’t know why there is a tan line.

Summer heat

Most people that I know are already experiencing the heat of summer despite the official start being a few days off. I think I’m finally getting accustomed to exercising in it, though. I’ve at least learned to accept that I’m not breaking any land speed records when the humidity is weighing down on me and not helping evaporate my sweat.

This past Saturday was the 5k race that I’d been mentoring for 10 weeks. I hadn’t found anyone that needed me to run with them for moral support during the race. At the start line, I ran beside one of the people from the group for about the first mile just because. As it turned out, I ran my fastest mile since I started using a Garmin GPS watch. 8:44 was my time. I was convinced that it was possible to get a PR (personal record) on this course despite having sweat pouring from my face and my water bottle somehow staying too frozen to get a drink from. Then, I saw someone along the course that I know to be consistently faster than me. I slowed to a walk to ensure it wasn’t anything requiring immediate attention and that she wasn’t in need of me to run along for encouragement. Once I’d confirmed I wasn’t needed, I dared her to catch me and took off at an average race pace. Despite the walking break for a couple of minutes, I still finished only a minute slower than my PR and was 8th in my age group. So I didn’t PR. That wasn’t really the purpose of this race, anyway. It was always about seeing people from the group cross the finish line and cheering them on when they did. I got to see people surprise themselves by running the whole race and covering the distance for the first time. I also got to see my kids participate in a fun run where they got medals. My husband, Mr. Speedy himself, got 1st place in his age group. It was an overall good race.

 

Sunday, my husband and I set out to run 9 miles for me to prepare for this weekend’s 15k race that he’s not even running with me. It was quite hot outside. I even wore my hydration belt that has 2 flasks for water on it and filled one with electrolyte drink. I brought along electrolyte tablets and the gooey gel stuff for nutrition replacement. It wasn’t the fastest 9 miles I’ve ever run. I enjoyed it, though. I wore my new compression shorts. Well into the run, I started to feel like I may have been getting rubbed between my legs by the shorts. Later in the day, I’d discover a sizable area of skin irritation and chaffing that has taken almost the entire week and a lot of petroleum to heal. So, next time I’ll remember my anti chafe in that area because the shorts definitely worked in keeping my hips and butt from hurting from muscle fatigue.

Tomorrow morning, I’m going to get up before 5am to get to a friend’s house so we can carpool to a city that is 45 minutes away for the Steamboat Classic race. I have a plan that involves rolling out of bed and getting dressed as quickly as possible while still ensuring I get my anti chafe and anti stink items applied. I really like my sleep, so anything I can get done in the car during the ride, I’m going to put off until then. I have my bag packed with my race gear and an index card with reminders written on it. That isn’t the only thing I’m nervous about, though. This race boasts to be “the toughest 15k in Illinois” thanks to being near a river and therefore having hills from bluffs. I’m confident that I can finish this race. The issue lies more in how much I’ll be fighting my mind to push through and how I’ll feel after.

Monday, I went to a fun run and when I came back, there was a magnet on my car. I didn’t find out until the next day who put it there, but I instantly loved it and put it straight on my garage door where I keep all of my running distance and race magnets. My running friends that I’ve made since I’ve moved here really are great and I am happy that someone thought of me to give me this:

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Hope you’re having a great race season! Are you getting used to the weather changes in your area from the season change? Do you prefer summer running over winter or neither?

Race-iversary

I’ve been doing races since June of 2013 starting with the Superhero Dash for Unlimited Play, a charity for building all inclusive accessible playgrounds (check them out here). This weekend was my 3rd go at the 5k race and a course PR (personal record) for me. The first course was different from the last 2 years, but that’s not really the point. I beat my best! Yay!

This year, I wore Captain America gear since the movie came out this summer and I can use the same outfit for my 5 mile race on July 4th with very few changes to make it work for the holiday. I’m thrifty like that.

I drove from my Central Illinois home to a community in the outskirts of the Metro St. Louis area. A drive that normally takes me a little under 3 hours took me over 4 thanks to some construction lane closures and a light drizzle. That was fine. I got to go have dinner with my bestie, then watch Deadpool for the first time. NOT a kid appropriate movie as Mr. Reynolds himself has warned many times, but it is absolutely entertaining. I think I’ll need to get myself a copy soon (paid for, of course).

I said at the beginning that my race was a course PR. It was not a 5k PR for me since my best official time at a race was 29 minutes. This race was 29:24, but not nearly as flat as the one where I set my current record. I’m still proud. I ran my rear end off. I would have liked to have placed, but comparing my times to the people who came in ahead of me, it wasn’t in the cards for me. My best friend and I ran it together with occasional banter and sometimes whining. The air was humid and heavy. I used much of my handheld water bottle to dump on myself at various times to help cool down. I pushed hard and so did she. Maybe some other time, we’ll place in the top 3 at some race and hopefully be in different age groups. Until then, I have my own PR to beat and that’s what I’m focused on in 5k races.

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Top 10 in AGE! Yay!

This weekend is the goal race for the 5k program that I’ve been involved in as a mentor. My husband is running it and my kids are doing the fun run at the same event. My husband has a finish time in mind that I don’t think I could even dream of. My kids are excited for the fun run and the little ones are psyched to be able to run like mom and dad do.

I’ve already started worrying about the 15k race the following weekend. I have one more long run of 9 miles this Sunday before the race. I think I’m getting better acclimated to the heat, but it hasn’t been easy. No matter what, I’ll have a PR at the 15k because this is my first. I’m hoping to finish and to continue with my long runs to make the start of marathon training in July a little easier on my body. I’m ready!

Oh, I forgot to take a best friend selfie before the race of our Captain America shirts, but I have one of me with my medal and her middle cat, Kidden in the background. He looks huge because he kind of is.

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Are you more focused on winning over your own best over placing in the races you run? Do you have any goals set for racing? Do you have one race that you go back to as tradition?

 

Occasionally pays off

Running sometimes is difficult and painful. I can question why I choose to run quite a few times when I’m deep into a long run. Sometimes there is a payoff of feeling great afterward, diminishing stress, and even meeting a goal or personal best.

This past Monday was Memorial Day. There was a new one mile race called the Memorial Mile in my city. I signed up for it and worked it into my speed work when I could. I wanted to run an 8:30 mile just for me. I wanted to say that I could do it and have it be “official.” It’s been awhile since I’ve run a mile that fast. Most of the time, my speed comes in short bursts and rarely, if ever, does a mile come in at less than 9 minutes for me. I’ve accepted that my focus is more on distance than speed and I’ve improved a lot in speed since I’ve started.

Monday morning came early. I got up at 6 am to be at the race at 6:45 for my 7:20 am heat of the race. I left my house around 6:30 am and had no traffic to deal with, but the signal lights in this town are enough to make it take awhile to get anywhere. I got to the park where I’d thought the finish line was to be, parked my car, and saw nobody around except a few fisherman at the nearby lake. I hopped out and went to my pocket to grab my phone and look up the map so I could get to the start. My phone wasn’t in my pocket. It also wasn’t in the cup holder, the center console, the trunk, under the seat, or between the seat and the console. I forgot it at home. I started to walk around and the only evidence of a race I found were the Course Marshall garb of vests and traffic signs in a box near the door of the building I’d parked beside.

It was 6:42 am. I didn’t have time to go home and get my phone. I hopped back into my car and I drove around finally seeing the inflatable finish line I’ve become familiar with now. I asked the people at the finish if they could point me in the direction of the start. One man said, “Half mile down Allin,” so I looked ahead and saw parking. I pulled over one more time to yell “hello” to some people I knew and double check the location I was about to go to. I parked in a space, hopped out of the car, and took off on a little jog toward the street I needed to get to. I ran my warm up to the start line and worked out the sleepiness from my calves and my shoulders. It was humid and I was actually sweaty by the time I reached the start line. There was a group lined up and I looked down at my watch. It was less than a minute before 7 am and the group was the first heat of the race, which was not my group.

I socialized for the time before the race. I took a space in the very front thinking I could pace someone fast and get the time I was shooting for if I could just run my butt off for a whole mile. The horn sounded and we took off. I was not far behind the front of the pack until we surmounted the first hill, which was really not a steep incline. One person started to pass me and said “I’m already tired.” I agreed and told her we should just stop running and go get drinks. We kept running and she widened the gap between us. I worried as I looked ahead and then down at my watch. I was holding my pace around 8:15 at the time  was pushing as hard as I could. When we were right about at .75 mile, there was a hill and my pace slowed to where I couldn’t rebound. I pushed as hard as I could and got a cramp in my side that I was convinced I’d need to stop for. I started breathing dramatically and forcing myself to move forward and when I saw the timer at the finish line, it wasn’t far past 9 minutes, but I was  already disappointed I hadn’t gotten less than 9 minutes. I still pushed and I started hearing clapping and cheering and my name and I forgot about my side and my stomach growling. I ran through the finish. After waiting a brief moment for a friend, we went to get our post race water and snacks.

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Nearing the finish brought me a smile.

We walked back to the finish for the “elite” heat and they all crossed the finish line before 7 minutes passed. I don’t think any of them looked as exasperated as I thought I was. Then, a couple of people I knew asked me whether I’d seen the results of my heat as they stood in front of the paper that posted them. I walked over and looked at the paper and there I saw my name as 1st place in my age group. I didn’t have my phone to take a picture of it. I didn’t have my phone to post it on social media. It was strange to feel bummed that I couldn’t immediately share it with everyone.

I was presented with a medal. This was the first time I’ve gotten a medal for running and I was so happy about it. I still kicked myself  little over how I ‘could have gone faster’, but I’d still have been in the same place. I have a medal that isn’t for participation, but is for winning my age group!

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Me and my medal sharing quality time. (Makeup is overrated)

Of course this makes me power hungry. Now I want to place in my age group in a 5k race this weekend in Missouri. I’m already hoping these sore legs cooperate and that the weather does, too. Not only do I want it more than I did before, I have the confidence that perhaps I can do it. So look out! Here I come! Dressed as a Superhero (because that’s the theme of the race, guys)!