Thursday, October 18, 2012

13.1 Shades of...


Last weekend I ran the Shades of Death Half Marathon here in New Jersey.  Compared to all other distance races I've run, it was pretty small, just a few hundred people.

But it was awesome!

It was actually run on my local training routes - I run Shades of Death Road all the time.  So it was really nice to race on the roads I know so well.  It was very rural, run through farms and fields and beautiful country roads of Northern New Jersey.  There were very few human spectators, but lots of the furry kind!

My favorite human ones were two senior ladies standing on a corner.  They were there by themselves, and I was the only runner around.  They clapped and waved and I waved back.  They were great!

The furry fans were the best.  I passed a field with a couple of horses - they had their heads over the fence, standing together, watching the runners go by.  Across the street was a small field full of goats, merrily chomping on piles of hay.

A little further down the road there was a dog in a driveway.  It just stood there and watched us go by, with the occasional bark at a runner.

A couple of miles on, there were the dairy farms.  Black and white cows grazing in their pastures.  At this point I choked back a tri-berry GU, followed by a swig of Gatorade.  Which went really well with the fragrance of cow poo.  But I loved it!

As it was a two loop course, I got to run past these sights twice.  On my last loop, with about a mile to go, I passed an open field that suddenly filled with about a dozen horses mounted by red- and black- coated riders accompanied by a pack of hounds - on a fox hunt, I presume.  They came up on the road beside me, and for a quarter of a mile I ran next to horses and hounds.  It was so great!

My goal was to run strong, but not flat out.  New York City was just 3 weeks away, and I wasn't chancing any injuries.  But I finished with a PR!  My fastest half yet!  2:20:18.

The best part?  I got to kiss this guy at the end!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Changing it up. There are other ways of training...

So it's vacation time for the Mills Family!  We are heading to California today for 2 weeks.

(So that's why I'm sitting at my computer instead of packing.  I'm just trying to avoid everything I need to get done by 2 pm this afternoon.)

We are taking the red eye (with 3 kids) tonight to San Francisco to meet up with my parents, who have driven to SF in their RV.  Then we are spending the next two weeks together in their RV.  My parents, their dog, our 3 boys and my husband and I in the RV.  For 2 weeks.

Sounds a little chaotic.  And believe me, it will be.  All that energy in a very enclosed space.  A VERY enclosed space.  But it will also be a heck of a lot of fun.  We did the same thing last year and had a blast touring the Grand Canyon, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef and Canyonlands and Zion National Parks.

Hiking in Arches National Park, Utah 2011

This year we are visiting San Francisco, Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks and Los Angeles.

When we started planning this trip, my first thought, believe it or not, was how am I going to keep up with my training schedule!  Forget the fact that we are going to be visiting spectacular National Parks!  Where am I going to run?

Come on Deb, get a grip.

So maybe I won't be keeping up with my training plan exactly.  I won't have my weights or my hula hoop with me.  That doesn't mean I'm going to deteriorate into a wobbly, jiggly mess in two weeks.

Instead, I've planned out miles of hikes.  Up mountains.  Through forests.  Around waterfalls. One hike that I want to do is 14 miles to Clouds Rest in Yosemite.  How great is it that I am fit enough to even consider doing that?  Unfortunately, I don't have anyone who can keep up with me!

Clouds Rest, Yosemite

But I will run across the Golden Gate Bridge.  If there is one thing I want to do in San Francisco, it's that. 

Can't wait to run this beautiful bridge!

So if my running takes a back seat to hiking over these next 2 weeks, so be it.  I can't wait to take in the glorious scenery and fresh mountain air!

So either by running or hiking, I'm still training.

My pink miles will just be more uphill.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

New York, New York

I've been in a little bit of a funk these last few days with my exercising.  I've been lacking motivation - I just want to lay in bed when the early alarm goes off.  I don't want to run or exercise.

The mind is a fickle thing.  How is that one day you are are raring to go and the next you could care less?

I skipped my Tuesday run this week - I just couldn't for the life of me get out of bed.  I ran 3 miles of hills yesterday, dragging my sorry rear up and down the inclines, including Hilda.  Today I woke up at 5:30am without the alarm and after 30 minutes of trying to talk myself out of getting up, I finally rolled out of bed.

I sleepily put on my running skirt and shoes and headed out the door, with my playlist set to shuffle.

The second song made my heart and mind wake up.

Frank Sinatra and his famous New York New York.

Verrazano Bridge, the start of the NYC Marathon

I remembered why I have to run 4 miles today.  I'm running the New York City Marathon in 115 days!

All of a sudden, I had a spring in my step and a smile on my face!  I felt lighter and much happier. And most importantly, happier running.

I don't know why my mind does this to me.  I know it happens to everyone, this lack of motivation. My goal seems far away - 115 days - but it's not that far away at all.  That's the thing with marathon training - it takes time!  I can't just wake up and run a marathon.  It takes days and days of miles and miles.  It's easy to lose track of the goal when you are weeks away from the race.  But you need to keep building your endurance and strength.

Frank made me realize that this morning.  That I'll have good days and bad, but as long as I keep hitting the pavement, my goal will be reached.

It really is all about putting one foot in front of the other.
On my pink miles!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Pitbull, Carly and me. Running in One Direction.

I've always been a lover of music.  I've played the piano all my life, and the clarinet in high school. Sang in Gilbert and Sullivan musicals.  There is almost always some music playing in the house somewhere.

And I can't run without my music either.  I've tried.  Every so often, I think that I'll listen to the birds chirping their early morning songs while I run.  But that doesn't get me moving up the hills like some heavy duty hip hop does.  I need my tunes.

I love a varied playlist - I'm eclectic all the way.  I'll go from Adele to ZZ Top in a heartbeat, with John Denver thrown in for some wholesomeness.  I'm hoping his easy going lyrics balance with Eminem shouting and swearing at me in the early morning.

Yes, I'm a fan.  Awesome running music.

(Speaking of Eminem - one day last year I was running at the park, listening to him curse through Till I Collapse.  I ran past a nun in her habit who was saying her rosary.  I wondered if we canceled each other out.)

Music motivates me. It makes me go faster.  It helps me up Hilda.  It entertains me.

And I sing when I run.  I play my air guitar.  I bang my air drums.  And I love it.  I'm sure people driving past me think I'm having a seizure or something.  But isn't it better to be getting some strange looks on the road than sitting at home in front of the boob tube?

This past week I've had two of my fastest runs ever.  My usual route is 4 miles and I ran it this morning in 44:15.  That's the fastest I've ever done!  And that includes 4 pretty good hills.

And I have several people to thank for that awesome time -

Pitbull, for telling me to get back in time.
Carly Rae Jepsen, for telling me that she might call me. Maybe.
One Direction, for telling me that I'm beautiful.
Florence and the Machine, for telling me my dog days are over.  That I run fast for my mother, father, children, sisters and brothers.

And most of all, Beyonce.  Did she tell you? Girls run the world.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Run Up and Down. Repeat 7 times. Then go see Hilda.

3 months post op and I am finally feeling normal again.  And that means training again!  The New York City Marathon is just 4 months away, and I'm getting my rear end in gear.

I'm back to running 4-5 days a week, and I'm also running hills again.  Hill repeats had always intimidated me.  When I read about other mother runners running them, I always thought that hills were for real runners, not me.

Well, hello, I'm a real runner! And hill repeats are now one of my favorite things.

Except for Hilda.

I have a hill route that I run - it's just up and down my rural country road.  I run three miles - three different hills.  Two hills I run twice and one I run three times.

And then there's Hilda.

There is this hill right before my driveway. For lack of imagination, I've named her Hilda.

 OK so that looks pretty pathetic.  Hilda doesn't look bad at all!  
But pictures just aren't conveying the feeling I get 
when I stand at the bottom and look up.
And then she continues around the corner, and heads upward some more.

She's not an exceptionally long hill.  Or steep hill.  But I have a fear of Hilda.

I don't know what it is.  I've avoided running up her for the last 2.5 years.  She is certainly steeper than what I normally run.  But there is no reason why I can't just crank on up the slope.

So I did just that this morning.  I said to myself - get your rear end up that hill.  Is Hilda stronger than you?  No, Ma'am, she is not.  I ran up the Queensboro Bridge in the NYC Marathon last year for crying out loud! I'm going to let a little hill defeat me?

So up I went.

I almost made it to the top without collapsing.  My Garmin beeped 3 miles (Done!) before I reached the top.  How's that for a lame excuse to quit Hilda?

But she's not going anywhere.  Hilda will still be there next week.  And the week after that.  And the marathon after that.  I'll be racing up Hilda before I know it.

And the good thing is that my driveway is right at the top of Hilda.  So I can just collapse on my own turf when I'm done with her.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Happy National Running Day! Now go for a walk.

I just got back from a glorious 4 mile run in the beautiful sunshine of New Jersey, in celebration of National Running Day.   It feels so good to be on the road again!  I'm up to about 18-20 miles a week - a combination of walking and mostly running.  I'm also walking the dog for 2-3 miles a day as well, in addition to running. So these legs are making up for 2 months of surgery induced rest.

And the movement feels wonderful.  My heart is pumping, my muscles are working, my lungs are feeling full of healthy air.  Exercise does so much for the body - and the soul.

Has anyone seen the HBO documentary "Weight of the Nation"?  I really want to see it.  But you don't have to watch it to know that we are facing a crisis of obesity in this country.  I don't have to share the stats - we've all heard them.  We just have to look around and we can see the impact of an overfed and under-active society.

On the last few mornings of my walks/runs, a thought keeps popping into my head.  What if every person in this country went for a 15 minute walk every day.  Just 15 minutes?  No matter how busy we are, there are 15 minutes to spare.  No excuses.  Just get off your rear end and go for a walk.

Just think what it could do for us as a nation.

People say they are too unfit to walk for 15 minutes. Well, start somewhere.  You just have to start.  Getting fit reduces your risk for heart attacks, strokes, cancer, etc etc etc.  What's the downside of a walk?

People say there is nowhere to walk.  Well, if everyone got out and walked, perhaps demand for sidewalks could spur on construction projects, help the economy.  We are such a car oriented country.  A walk a day could change that.  I know that is simplistic, but why couldn't it help?

People say their neighborhood is too dangerous.  Well, if everyone went for a walk, couldn't the neighborhood be reclaimed in the name of safety?  You know the saying, safety in numbers.

What do I do with my kids?  Well, bring them along!  Kids love and need movement!

I don't have the right shoes.  Well, walk in what ever you've got.  Just walk.

I don't have the right clothes...

It's raining...

I'm tired.  I don't want to get up early...

Blah blah blah.

There are all sorts of excuses.  For everything and anything there is an excuse.

But imagine is everyone walked.  We'd say hi to our neighbors.  We'd stop being afraid of other people.  We'd get to know them instead.  We'd stop being addicted to our TVs, ipads, computers, phones.  So much good could happen.

So on this National Running Day, perhaps we should talk about having a National Walking Quarter of an Hour - every day.  A walk can accomplish a lot.

If only everyone would try it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Starting to Feel Human Again

4 weeks post op and I'm starting to feel a little more human again. 


Thank goodness. 

I was starting to have some trouble with my pathetic self.

My recovery from this horrible but necessary surgery has been problematic, to say the least.  I had to have another urgent trip to the doctor on Monday as my bladder hasn't been working quite right.  The doctor thinks that it is having some trouble getting accustomed to it's new internal pressure.  It's going to take some time to get used to its new and improved function.  So in the meantime, I'm on another medication and have to go back for some tests in a week and a half.  Hopefully everything will be normal.  And the medication is starting to work, relieving the pain and spasms I was having.  Again, thank goodness. 

It's been difficult not getting depressed. I'm usually so active and always training for something.  Always having a goal or a project to work on.  I set myself some goals to work on during my recovery - mostly writing related - but in all honesty I've been in such a fog the last four weeks that I haven't been able to think straight. 

And not being able to really exercise has been very hard.  Running would always clear my head.  I'd start off grumpy, angry, whatever, and come home 4 or 5 miles later refreshed and renewed.  I'm up to walking two miles a day now which is certainly helping.  But it's nothing like pounding the pavement.

But then yesterday I got some news that has put a real spring in my step!

I'm in for 2012!  As in the New York City Marathon...again!  I got in the lottery last year, and thought I'd enter again this year. 

I figured that my chances were slim to zero for this year.

But somehow, I made it in again!  I am beyond excited!  November 4th is 199 days away, but now I feel like I have a goal again.  If my first few weeks of training are just walking, well so be it, but I'm still training.

The New York City Marathon is such an incredible experience.  Running those streets last year was a day unlike any other. 

And this year, it's going to be even better.  I can feel it. 

I'm getting my body healthier. 
All my bits and pieces have been put back where they belong. 
I'm losing weight. 
I'm eating a lot more spinach.

And at last my mind and body are starting to resurface from the last four weeks of drug induced lethargy and self induced pathetic-ness.

4 more weeks of recovery restrictions and then...

Look out New York, here I come!  Again!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

One step at a time. One pink mile at a time.

Today I walked 3/4 of a mile.  A whole 3/4 of a mile!

I took my BFF (Best Furry Friend) Fendi for a walk this morning and enjoyed the fresh air.  It was cool and fresh and oh so beautiful!  It feels great to stretch my legs again and start moving around.

It's hard to believe that exactly a month ago, I ran the NYC Half Marathon. 13.1 miles through Central Park and Times Square, along the West Side Highway to downtown, past the World Trade Center site, ending at the South Street Sea Port.  It was an incredible route and the weather conditions couldn't have been better.  It was a true joy to run that day!  My legs felt powerful and my heart was full of spirit.  I was so proud to be a runner that day participating in a great race.

Racing to the finish line.  I actually had a great sprint at the end - first time I've ever done that!

Post race at South Street Sea Port.

And now, 30 days later, I am proud to walk three quarters of a mile!  My body has been through a lot in the last 3 weeks following my surgery, and I know it will take me a while to get back to where I was in terms of strength and fitness.  But I will get there, and I will be strong.

It really is all about taking the first step.  Two and a half years ago, I couldn't run even a half or a quarter mile.  Now I've got 2 full marathons and 4 half marathons under my feet.  It's all about putting one foot in front of the other.  You start with baby steps, and then you grow.  Gradually you run farther.  And longer.  And stronger.

I could sit here and feel sorry for myself - and at times I have been doing just that - or I could say this is a time to start again, grow strong again, and run far again.

And that's just what I'm going to do.

One pink mile at a time.

Friday, April 13, 2012

I don't need to "grow a pair"

A little over two weeks ago I had a date with my surgeon in the operating room.  As I lay on the table, waiting for the drugs to kick in, staring at the instruments that would soon be invading my body, I thought of Betty White.

I had originally thought that I would not share all the details of what I’ve been through, you know, the whole TMI thing.  But then as I talked to some of my close friends, I started to realize that there may be some women who could really benefit from hearing about what was involved.  And, truth be told, I think there are some men out there too who should listen.  Women’s bodies are strong – stronger than we realize – but sometimes we have to put up with a lot. A hell of a lot.

Childbirth can do a number on our bodies, to which I can certainly attest.  After three big baby boys, ranging from 8lb 6oz to a whopping 10lbs, all delivered completely naturally at home, my insides weren’t quite in the shape – or in the place - they used to be.  They were dragging, literally.

I’ve been dealing with pelvic prolapse, which is something that many women encounter, post childbirth.  Not everyone needs surgery to correct it, but if I’m going to do something, then I want to go all the way. 

Darn perfectionism.

My surgery corrected 2 problems – a cystocele (a prolapsed bladder, which falls into the vagina) and a rectocele (a prolapsed rectum, which also falls into the vagina).  The cystocele was more of a nuisance than anything.  Stress incontinence.  Sneezing, coughing, laughing and sometimes running would typically result in an, um, accident. Ugh.

My doctor used a bladder sling to fix that prolapse.  He cut open the front of my vagina and inserted a mesh tape around my urethra to put it back where it belonged, then stitched me up.  Over time, my own tissue will grow over the mesh to keep it in place and prevent the stress incontinence.  Whoo hoo!

The rectocele was much more of a problem for me.  I had no idea that the rectum could even prolapse!  Sounds gross I know, and believe me, it is.  And a pain in the ass.  Absolutely.  My rectum had prolapsed so badly that it actually came out of my body. 

Hello world!  
From a piece of my anatomy that should never, ever, ever see the light of day.  And that became very problematic.

To fix my rectocele, my surgeon cut open the back of my vagina, pushed my rectum back into place, cut out some tissue and then stitched me back up.

The whole procedure took about an hour. 

I had a wonderful sleep under anesthesia, but boy recovery was rough.  Talk about pain and swelling. 

But I had some wonderful drugs.  Oxycontin.  The first couple of days were a bit of a blur.  But then my body started to react to the anesthesia and the oxycontin.  Essentially, my intestines stopped working.  They stopped moving things along for 5 days. 

5 long, painful, days.  Let me tell you, when that part of your body is full of stitches, constipation is the last thing you want to deal with.  The VERY last thing you want to deal with. Ever.

My doctor put me on all liquid diet and a variety of medications to get things moving.  Thankfully on day 6, things started working again.  Painfully so.  No more oxycontin though. Sigh.

It’s now been two weeks since my surgery.  I’m on a lot of restrictions.  No lifting anything more than a gallon of milk for 2 months.  No strenuous exercise.  No carrying a laundry basket.  No carrying groceries.  No pushing a shopping cart.

I still feel foggy.  And I feel it if I’ve been up and around for too long.  I’m still taking a couple of naps every day.  And sleeping for a long time every night.

Oh, and now I have a bladder infection.  Great.  More pain and medication.

Thank goodness my dad flew 3000 miles to help out.  He’s been doing the laundry, shuttling the kids around to whatever practices and clubs are going on, plus odd jobs around the house.  My friends have been bringing us meals.  My BFF Beth, a nurse, has been expertly looking after me. My husband has been coming home a little earlier to help out and took a few days off right after my surgery.  My dad is leaving on Saturday, so I’ll be on my own next week and back to shuttling the kids around.  We are going to just muddle through.  If the kids have dirty clothes for a few days, well, so be it.  We’ll survive.

I just have to remember to not lift anything, and take it easy.  As a typically busy marathon-running mom of 3 boys, it’s hard to slow down.  But I have to.  If I don’t, I will undo everything the doctor did, and believe me, I don’t want to go through this again.  Ever.

If there is one thing I believe in, it’s a sense of humor.  To go through this, and the testing that I had to have before the surgery, and emerge emotionally sound, I’ve had to call on my sense of humor numerous times. 
I’m going to write about that.

And as a political news junkie, I’ve also had a lot of time to think while laying in bed.  With all the discussion lately in the media about birth control and womens’ rights, you better believe I’ve got some very strong opinions about the rights I have over my body. 

MY body. And I feel I have to write about that, too. 

After all, this is my journey. With my body. 

My pink miles.

And I will never need to grow a pair, because I'm a woman and my bits are strong. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Crossing a different kind of finish line

I set myself some pretty tough goals at the beginning of the year.  My 30-30-30 plan. 

30 minutes of exercise every day.
30 minutes off my marathon time.
Lose 30 pounds.

It's the beginning of March, and I've made some headway. 
I've lost 6 pounds. I'm faster and stronger. I've exercised 30 minutes almost every day.

But now, I have to reevaluate, or perhaps I should say redefine, my goals.

Turns out I'm going to be having surgery on March 27th.  Yep, I'm going under the knife.  Something I wasn't expecting back in January.

It's not serious.  It's routine - but most unpleasant.  I've been suffering from multiple pelvic organ prolapse for some time, but it's been getting steadily worse over the last few months.  I think my stubborn cough has had a lot to do with it, plus I had very large babies (thanks, 10 pound Collin!), which started the whole downward progression.  Pun intended.

Anyway, the doctor will have his way with me on March 27, a short 3 weeks away.  I hear the first week of recovery can be pretty rough. 

And then I have 2 months of very restricted activity.
No lifting anything for 2 months.  Not even a gallon of milk.
No carrying a laundry basket.  That will be fun with three boys in the house and endless piles of laundry.
No vacuuming.
No carrying groceries.
And most definitely, no running. 
So needless to say, my 30 minutes of exercise won't be happening for a while.  Which means weight loss will be even harder.  And I can pretty much say goodbye to a marathon in the fall. 

I'm still running the NYC Half on March 18th, but I've had to cancel the More Magazine Half in April and the Superhero Half in May.  I was hoping to run the Wineglass Marathon in September, but that won't happen.

I'm of course disappointed that I have to let go of these races.  But I think the reason is definitely worth it!  My quality of life is going to dramatically improve. 

Running has helped me through this. 

Physically, I really believe that it has strengthened my muscles.  I'm sure my condition would be a lot worse if I didn't have the abdominal muscles that I do from running.  (The muscles are in there, I know it, but you just can't see them.  My six pack is just hiding out.) 

Mentally, running has given me strength too.  I've realized that I have incredible stores of strength.  Running up miles of hills, having a kick at the end of a 9 mile run, plus completing 2 full marathons, shows just as much emotional strength as physical strength.  I won't ever quit.  Ever.

So I'm going to look at this forced rest as a fresh start.  A fresh start with a stronger body that's had all it's bits put back into place.  I'll get through the pain of recovery.  I'll get through the frustration of not being able to do a single thing for the next 2 months.

It's like I'll be crossing a different kind of finish line. 
And then I'll head to the next race.

Friday, February 17, 2012

On the Road Again

The last month or so has had me off my game. 

In January I developed a cough.  A really bad cough.  It started out with flu like symptoms which sent me to bed for three straight days - which never happens.  With 3 sons, I don't get much down time - but I was not well.  Then the cough started.

And continued.  And continued.

It lasted 7 weeks.  And not just an occasional cough.  No, it was one of those double over, red face, can't catch my breath coughs.  A round of anitbiotics and perscription cough medicine didn't do very much.  So I just had to wait for it to go away.

I tried to keep running through the cough.  But that was incredibly hard.  Running for six miles, coughing, or even just running for 3 miles, coughing, is not a good thing to do.  I couldn't get a good deep breath at all.  I was pretty miserable.

The cough put me off my normal routine.  Writing and running and exercising.  So my 30 minutes of exercise everyday didn't quite work out as planned over the last few weeks!  I missed about 7 days total where I didn't get any exercise - not even walking the dog.

But that's OK.  I forgive myself!  So now I'm getting my groove back.

I went for a fabulous run this morning.  4 miles, fog along the side of the road, quiet, cool.  It was wonderful.  I felt strong, energized and healthy!  I could get a deep breath without having a coughing fit.  I ran up hills that I normally walk up. 

It always amazes me how a run can just totally transform you.  I can head out grumpy, mad, angry about whatever, but return home refreshed and happy.

I'm so glad to have my lungs back! 

And my legs too - I've got one month to get ready for the NYC Half Marathon on March 18.  I was hoping for a personal best for the 13.1.  But that might not happen - which is ok. 

My goal now is just to run through Times Square, smiling, in a pink tutu!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hoopin' it up

So I hate doing ab work.  I hate sit ups, crunches, etc etc.  I know I need to do ab work to make my core stronger, but I would like to enjoy it.

So I'm rediscovering a childhood passion - the hula hoop.

When I was much younger, I would hula hoop for hours.  I could go and go and go.  And it was so much fun! 

So now that I'm grown up, and missing the tiny waist of my youth, I thought I'd reintroduce myself to my childhood love.

Of course now it's called a "sports hoop" and is about 100 times the cost of what I used to use.  But anyway, it weighs about 3 pounds and...

I am in love.

It is wonderful!  It's relaxing, therapeutic.  I do 15 minutes a day, that's it.  I don't know whether it will help whittle down my waist, but I don't care, because I absolutely love it.  Apparently you can burn up to 200 calories or so in 30 minutes of hooping.  So maybe I'll do 15 minutes twice a day.

I hoop when I'm waiting for dinner to cook.  When I'm watching TV.  When I need to clear my head.  It turns out 15 minutes is not hard to find.

So I'm hoopin' it up - and loving it! 

And hopefully my waist will love it too.  I'll let you know in a few weeks...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Running the Hazards

Running is not inherently dangerous.  You put one foot in front of the other and keep moving.  It's not like getting tackled by a 300 pound lineman every time you participate.  Runners have their fair share of injuries, and proper training can certainly help avoid such injuries.

But things happen.

I often run at our local park which has a 1.3 mile paved walking loop around the fields.  But that gets pretty boring on any run over 3 or 4 miles.  So I more often than not hit the roads close to home, as most runners do. 

A few months ago, I came face to face with a coyote on my road.  He stopped and looked at me and then thank goodness went on his way.  A few weeks ago on a pre-dawn run, I was run off the road by a distracted driver.  I was wearing white, plus a headlamp, plus a reflective vest, clearly visible to anyone coming towards me.  But the driver wasn't paying attention and nearly ran me over.

This past Saturday, while running at the park, my dog and I were harassed by another dog.  He came running out of the bushes, without a collar, without a leash, no owner in sight, and ran towards us barking and showing his teeth.  My poor dog and I were pretty scared.  He was a big dog - at least 3 times the size of my labradoodle Fendi.  He jumped up at us, continuously barking.  Luckily another runner came over and lured the dog away.  I called 911 and the police arrived within minutes to try and catch him.  He was now harassing another walker with her two dogs.

Calling 911 was not an extreme thing to do.  The dog was aggressive.  I didn't know if he had rabies.  He could have very easily hurt us.  We left when the police got there, and when we drove off, they were still trying to catch him.

I'm sure most runners have tales of encountering some kind of danger, whether it be the animal or vehicular type.  Or human.

On my long marathon training runs, I often run on remote country roads.  My favorite road is eerily called Shades of Death Road.  I've never felt unsafe or threatened by other people.  I always run safely - with my phone and aware of my surroundings, with my husband knowing my route.  Sometimes he even tracks me or drives along side for a while encouraging me on a 19 miler - with the kids in the car cheering me on.

The odds of something bad happening on a run are extremely small, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't run smart and with common sense - let someone know the route and approximate time of return.  Be aware of surroundings.  Take a phone. Wear the right clothing.  Run with ID - I got a runners ID bracelet from Christmas - it's great.  And pepper spray may be a good thing to have too.  I have a little tiny cannister of it, about the size of a lipstick.  These things may help, or they may not. 

The case of Sherry Arnold in Montana has really shaken the running community.  A well loved teacher and mother of three, she went for an early morning jog 10 days ago and was never seen again.  A single running shoe was found along her route.  She has been declared dead, though they have not yet recovered her body.  Two men have been arrested for her murder.  It is a tragic story.

My little incidents pale in comparison to Sherry's story.  My heart breaks for her family.

Things happen in life.  Good things and bad things.  Fear should never stop us from doing the things we love.  I love my roads and the confidence that running gives me.  I will never succumb to fear that would keep me from the road. 

Run smart. Run safe.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Occupy the Hills!

Today for the first time I ran hill repeats.  That means running up and down the same hill multiple times.  Crazy huh?

I've run many hills on my running routes, but never the same one over and over, on purpose.  It's great for building strength and endurance, and it is hard work!

Here is my view at 7:10am this morning:

It's a hill just down the street, where they are building a new house.  It's a small dead end development - perfect for running!  No traffic, paved, a great slope and just the right distance.  So I happily headed out with my four legged friend Fendi and ran down the hill.

At the bottom, though, there were construction workers.  Every self-conscious woman's nightmare.  There were four men, each sitting in their own pickup truck, sipping coffee.  And I ran right into the middle of them, with my pretty little purple running skirt and cute hat.  And puppy on bright pink leash. Ugh.

So I figured I had two choices:

I can go run somewhere else and not feel so self conscious, but not get the run I want.

Or I can show these tough dudes what a bad ass mother runner I am and kill this hill.  Multiple times.

So I smiled at the guys and headed up the hill.
And back down.
And back up and down.
And back up and down.
And back up and down.
And then back up.

It was a tough workout that left me breathless at the top each time.  But I'm so glad I did it.  I'll do it next week again.  Construction workers or not.

Eat my pink dust, tough guys!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Confessions of a (former) Professional Chocolate Taster

Last summer I accepted what I thought would be a dream job. 

Professional Chocolate Taster at a major candy manufacturer.

As a self professed chocoholic, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  I love chocolate.  I have always loved chocolate.  I can never get enough chocolate.  And now, to be paid to eat chocolate?  Can it get any better?

The job was great.  I met wonderful and fun people.  It was only for 6 hours a week, spread over 3 days - perfect for a re-entry into the work force with young kids at home.

I tasted amazing chocolate.  I learned about tastes, odors, and foods other than chocolate.  It was fascinating to be exposed to the intricacies of what we eat and why we eat it and what makes us want more.

But then over Christmas, I had an epiphany of sorts. (good timing for an epiphany - pardon the pun)

What was I doing to myself?  I was trying to lose weight.  Run faster.  And most importantly, come to grips with my sugar and food issues.  What on earth was I doing as a chocolate taster?

I reflected on the past few months as a taster.  I had been exceptionally tired.  Grumpy.  Moody.  Yelling at the kids a bit more than normal.  Just in an all around funk.

And then I got some routine blood test results.  Cholesterol up over 20 points.  Blood sugar up to just 4 points below pre-diabetic level.

That's when my epiphany happened. 

The sugar.  The chocolate.  They were the last thing my body - and mind - needed.  Most of the candy I tasted I spit out.  But my body was still absorbing some of it.  How can it not?  What was I doing to myself? 

I had my dream job, but at what cost? 

So last week, I said goodbye to the chocolate, goodbye to the job and goodbye my new friends. 

It's been a week, and already I feel like a different person.  I've virtually cut out added sugars from my diet.  I'm following Weight Watchers on-line.  And I've lost 3 pounds.

I wouldn't trade those few months as a Chocolate Taster for anything.  Besides being fun, it was pretty cool to tell people what I did and watch their eyes grow big and mouths water!

But sometimes what we think is perfect turns out to be anything but. 

I will never give up chocolate totally. 
There will always be room for an occasional nibble. 
But I'm going to leave it at that.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My 30-30-30 plan.

I love January 1st.  The whole starting over, resolution, new me, thing.  So I'm giving myself an overhaul.

I've been running for 2 years now.  2 whole years.  And in that time, I've run 4 5ks, 3 half marathons and 2 full marathons.  Not bad for a newbie.  But in each race I just kind of plodded along.  I focused on the finish.  Not my finish time, but crossing the finish - you know, in an upright position, smiling.  Not crawling and crying. 

So now I'm taking it up a notch.  I want to be faster.  I want to improve my training.  Be more consistent.  Change it up a little.

So I've created a plan.  I'm calling it my 30-30-30 plan. 

Forget Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan (thankfully, most people have.)  30-30-30 is where it's at.

I've committed to doing three things.
Lose 30 pounds.
Exercise 30 minutes every day. Every day.
Take 30 minutes off my marathon time.

I have tried and tried to lose these pounds for years now.  I struggle with commitment.  I struggle with sugar.  I struggle with emotional eating.  And training for a marathon leaves you hungry beyond belief.  And to satisfy that hunger and train properly, you have to make smart food choices, which I don't always do.

I'm committed to my running, but I struggle with it.  I need to have a race to look forward to.  If I don't have something on the calendar, I will easily ignore my exercise goals and skip my running because I'm too tired, because I was up too late last night, because the kids are sick, because it's raining, because I have to clean the house, blah blah blah.  All excuses.  If I have to get up at 5am then that is what I have to do.  (And the 30 minute exercise thing a day doesn't have to be running - its 30 minutes of conscious exercise.  Briskly walking the dog on a rest day will cover it.) 

I've never done speed work.  Never done intervals.  Never done tempo runs. I've just run.  Quietly trudging along my rural New Jersey roads.  Or on the treadmill.  Time to change that up.  I'm saying hello to intervals and tempo runs.  This, combined with a slimmer me, equals a faster me.

I'm not sure which marathon I'm aiming for in the fall.  I'll take my chance again with the lottery for NYC in November.  If that doesn't happen, then I'm thinking of the Wineglass marathon at the end of September. 

That gives me at least 8 months to say goodbye to 30 pounds and 30 minutes.  And hello to a healthier me.

Today was Day 1. 
3 miles, 33 minutes.
No more excuses.