Thursday, January 1, 2015

Looking back and moving forward.

For those of you who are wondering where I've been, I'm right here, toeing the line, ready to take on 2015.  Like training for a race or a marathon, life is a journey; everything that you have done in the past prepares you for the next step but, sometimes, things take you by surprise. 

Last year took me by surprise.  In the spring, I watched the health of both parents change, resulting in selling the house and moving both of them into a retirement home.  In the summer, my brothers and I got them settled and closed the family house, which meant countless hours of sorting, purging, distributing and donating over 50 years of their possessions.  In the fall, I went back to school feeling as tired as I was at the end of June, but now I faced my 5 year evaluation - again, hours of prep work and oodles of stress.  The circumstances of the year helped me to see the fortitude of my family - my brothers, their wives, my husband and sons.  We worked together, we got along, we complained about each other and laughed about our quirks. 

During 2014, I also re-discovered how important my running is to me.  I was at the end of my marathon training cycle when my year started to turn.  With less than a month to go, I recognized that I needed to be available to help my parents.  How could I do that with my own children to care for, while working and training for a marathon?   I thought about quitting the race before I even started, but I didn't.  I knew how much I needed it, to keep that regiment of training - something I could control - in place.  I ended up finishing the marathon in 3:33, but with an unexplained ache in my foot and hip and the disappointment of missing my goal time. In the next few months, I continued to face unexplained aches and pains through my hips, legs and feet to the point when I seriously contemplated hanging up my shoes. By the end of August, though,  I decided to challenge the complaints I was feeling and do "whatever it takes" to keep me on the trails and roads.  I turned back to physiotherapy, went back to regular yoga and started a slow build-up of distance.  And I - gulp - ordered orthotics.   By the end of November, I raced 4 times, with a Masters win in a 10K, and a second and 2-third place overall finishes in the 5K races; times were consistent with previous years so, maybe, just maybe, things weren't all that bad.

By mid-December, the challenges of 2014 had been put to rest.  Over the last two weeks, I have done nothing - absolutely nothing - but rest and play.  I've spent time with my family and I've run.  Physically, I am still healing but I am feeling ready to throw myself into some higher mileage and faster times. 

Goals are set; I'm ready to chase them down.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Living History

One of the things that I will always remember about my mom is her story of JFK's assassination.  "I'll never forget that day," she started.  "You were only two months and your father called me from work.  I knew there was something wrong right away."   She told me the story several times, and she always began it the same way.

In 2001, when the Twin Towers came down, I was home alone with my baby boy.  Mom called me.  "Are you watching t.v?" she asked.  "Turn it on.  Something has happened."  Like my mother's memories of November 1963, that moment and the rest of that day has become etched in my mind.

As today's events on Parliament Hill unfolded, I knew that they were quickly becoming my next piece of living history, not a current event but something that will be a part of me forever.  "How could this happen?" I thought, as well as "Why would this happen?" or "That's not suppose to happen in Canada."  For hundreds of years, Canadians have welcomed people from around the world - as tourists, as refugees and as immigrants.  We are a peaceful, loving nation.  I felt violated. 

Every day, as we sing the anthem at school, I am grateful to be a Canadian.  My boys can play at recess without armed guards around the perimeter of the playground to protect them.  My teammates and I can run through the streets at night, our only concern being whether we are visible enough to oncoming traffic.  Young or old, we have dreams and we go after them; that will never change.

But how we chase those dreams will.  We will stop and look; we will think twice; we will be a little more cautious - vigilant.  But we will not stand down.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Thank you, Mother Nature.

Over the past year, I have done my share of complaining about the weather.  In the winter, I ran more treadmill runs (4) that I had in the 10 previous years.  The spring had many windy, windy days and, somehow, they all managed to land when I had my long runs.  Summer never really came and, for someone who loves to run in the heat, I was truly disappointed in Mother Nature.
This fall, though, has been great.  Okay, so I had to train for a few downpours which had me looking for Noah's Arc, and I raced on one of the wettest Sundays we had all year, but the fields have been dry for cross-country and we haven't had to cancel a single practice - until Friday.
On Thursday night, the forecast showed a 90% chance of rain and the dreaded lightning bolt.  In schools, that means that practices or any other outdoor activity is cancelled.  I really wanted Friday's after school training to continue; it has become a favorite workout for the kids and I love their enthusiasm from start to end.  On Friday morning, though, the forecast stayed the same; at lunch, the lightning bolt still showed on The Weather Network; by 2:00, we made the decision to cancel practice.  I glared at Mother Nature.
But every cloud has a silver lining and I quickly found it.  My husband had been away for most of the week and we had 3 different teacher nights (mine and the two dudes') so my run time had been minimal all week.  Once I had cancelled cross-country, I realized that I freed up almost 2 hours to get my own run in before I had to pick up Little Ironman at the babysitter's.  After work, then, I rushed home, changed and hit the road during what ended up becoming a light drizzle.  I picked up LI, then Skipper and the rest of the night was quiet family time.
So, thank you, Mother Nature for helping out a fellow mama, this running mama.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Hanging Out After School

Little Ironman's attempt at a double selfie.
On our way to school this morning, the boys and I planned our evening around Skipper's schedule.  Since Hubs is away and Skipper was volunteering after school, there was no one around to watch Little Ironman until after dinner.  This meant another night run, as in a dark run, and cooler temperatures - not what I wanted at all.
While at work, I felt myself becoming a bit frustrated whenever I thought of running later in the evening; I really wanted to get out right after school.  At lunch, I realized that I might be able to get a ride home at the end of the day rather than walk, which would get me home half an hour earlier, and the time I needed to run in the warm sunshine.  Thanks to the help of a co-worker, this idea became reality.
I got home, changed and ran a lovely 12K, finishing at Little Ironman's babysitter's house.  LI handed me his backpack, grabbed his skateboard, and we headed home together.
Simple enough. 
I like to think of myself as independent; I have a hard time asking for help.  But I'm slowly learning that it is alright to turn to others when I need to. While it's usually fine for me to run in the evening, it isn't always okay for the boys.  Tonight, getting in at 6:00, with nothing to worry about for the rest of the night, meant that I could spend time with LI.  We ate dinner, baked cookies and curled up to watch the first episode of Marvel: Agents of Shield (which was great, by the way).  By bedtime, he was content; LI had his much needed Mommy-time.  He was so excited about our walk together that he captured the moment on camera.
Today, everything somehow managed to fall into place.  A happy mommy makes for happy kids, and a happy son makes for a happy mom. 
Love these sunshiny days!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

When Worlds Collide

The thought of worlds colliding tends to worry people.  There are times, though, when it can lead to something great.  Friday was one of those times.

The worlds that I'm referring to, though, are not planets with human or mysterious life forms; they are my worlds - my family, my job and my running worlds.  On Friday after school, through some careful planning, I was able to bring them together.

Instead of coaching cross-country at lunch that day, I ran an after school practice.  This gave us more time - to warm-up, to do some speedwork and cool-down, all while covering the distance that the kids need in preparation of their meet.  We were joined by parents, co-workers and my son (who met us after he finished school), happy to motivate everyone through the workout. We had an amazing hour and the students and parents were truly grateful for the extra time. 

When I got home, I headed out for my own run.  I was on a high from having such a successful practice and I carried that feeling with me.  When I got home, I felt the excitement that has been missing in my running for a long time.  Suddenly, I was inspired to push myself forward and set new goals.

So, yes, my worlds collided and sparks went off; I am truly excited about running again and it is great!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wacky Wednesday

The other night, I crawled into bed just after midnight.  We were still enjoying the hot summer temperatures so our bedroom window was still open. 
"Eww, what smells?" I asked.  I jumped out of bed to close all of the windows, thinking that one of our neighbourhood skunks was letting his presence be known.  But as I neared the window, I realized that it wasn't a skunk smell.  Disgusted, I crawled back into bed.
"Is that you?" I asked my husband.
"Yes, it is."  I was convinced it was him.  "Did you shower before going to bed?"
"No, you did not.  You absolutely stink."  I wasn't thrilled about having to wash the sheets the next morning.
"It's not me," Dave replied.  "I showered."
"Then what is it?"
Out of bed again, I marched into the bathroom to see if the skunky smell was coming from the backyard and, sure enough, I found it.  I closed the door and crawled back into bed.
"Never mind," I said.  "It's just my running gear from my workout."

How do you protect your clothes from the "sweaty" smell?  Do you use a sports detergent like Sport Suds?  I use Tide Pods but am starting to think that a sports detergent may be in order.  What tricks do you have to prolong the life of your gear?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Making It Work

Some days, it is easy to get through the "to do" list; others, it seems just plain impossible.  On those days, cutting out my run seems like the most logical thing to do.  However, when that happens, I get angry at myself, feel uptight until I get my next workout in and am simply crankier around the house.  My run, then, is rarely missed - unless kids get in the way.

My boys are my priority.  With back to school this month, I've had less time with them.  I realized the impact that this had on LI the other morning when he said, "I like it when you drive us to school because it means we get to have some time together."  Wow!  Those words made it clear that I need to spend more time with the family.  The question, though, is "How?"  How do I work, run, get all of the household tasks done and still have some time set aside with the family?  What has to go?

Nothing.  Life is full of compromises and give and take.  And life is about balance.  Somehow, some way, everything will get done if I juggle things carefully.  Last night was a good example.

My husband was away overnight and Saturday was filled with "kids' stuff", which meant I couldn't run until evening.  By the time we got home, it was 6:00 and the boys needed dinner.  Daylight running time was becoming shorter and my motivation to run was quickly dropping.  I looked at both boys and asked, "Do you want me to do my long run tonight or tomorrow morning?"  I really was hoping for a couple of mama's boys who wanted a quiet Saturday night together.  Instead I got, "I'd prefer that you do it tonight."  The other agreed, "Yeah, tonight.  We're good."

And that was the kick that I needed.  I could have made the decision not to run but I did get it done, albeit at the unusual time of Saturday night.  But the boys realized that I need that time to get out; they knew how important that run was for me.  So I changed, laced up and ran a comfortable, carefree ten miles.  And when I got home, they were "good".

When I think about making time for the things that matter, it can be done.  All you need is (1) a goal to do it, (2) commitment or determination and (3) support from others.  Luckily for me, I have all three.

Looking back, though, I do wonder: just why did they prefer that I run?  Hmmmm....