Summer’s End

Aren’t you glad I didn’t say ‘Summer’s Eve’. Bahahaha. I’m seriously the funniest person I know.

But seriously. It seems that this year, as summer ends, I am looking forward to the comfort of a schedule while mourning the loss my of mid-morning runs and watching of the  Nate Birkus show.

I’m less reluctant to return to school this year, not just because I have the worlds best colleagues, but because I finally have enough years behind me to relax. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still as anxious as ever, I just don’t feel like throwing up at the thought of the 8:05 bell. Weird. It’s just that now I realize that I can’t prepare for it all, but I’m pretty damned prepared. It’s a good feeling that I don’t get that often. So I’m enjoying it.

We’ve wrapped up this last weekend of summer quite nicely. Actually, it’s been all kinds of awesome. Let’s work backwards. As I sit by the fire, enjoying the contrasting warmth from the hearth and chill from the window, Matt is off grocery shopping. I’ve been clipping away at syllabi and lesson plans and rubrics and so forth for the last few days, and he’s really stepped up to help out. Grateful I am. We’ve been home all day, alternately puttering, working and sitting by the fireplace with the dogs.  I saw an old and dear friend at Mass this morning, and was so glad that I pried my fuzzy, post-champagne head out of bed to go. And really, I’m always happy to go. There is something about walking into that beautiful building with a squirmy tween who can’t stand for me to put my arm around him and leaving with him leaning on my shoulder. If that’s not a miracle, I don’t know what is.

But the champagne head, that came from last night. One of my baby cousins married her sweetheart and hosted the most family-friendly and FUN reception at a local bowling alley. The bride and groom are family people, certainly demonstrated by their choice to put family (namely: kiddos) first on their special day. We had such fun visiting with family and friends and remarking on the very interesting ways in which our family trees intersect . . .  I’m not sure how things went down after Matt took us through the McD’s drive-through, but I woke up at 3 a.m. to find both dogs in bed with us, both of them wearing glow stick necklaces leftover from the wedding. I guess he got bored after I fell asleep. I earned my sleep, too, because I worked straight through yesterday. The only breaks I took were to ride (10 miles! Matt tried to take me off road, which wasn’t my cup of tea. I swore. I almost fell multiple times. I threw my bike. We went back to the trail shortly after) and run (2 miles. no exclamation point). Colby was with my parents, so I had the luxury of being in a quiet house and knowing that my kiddo was being spoiled silly. This led to extreme productivity. Again, weird.

In short, this has been the most fucking fantastic weekend I’ve had in a long, long time. I will need to hold this day in my pocket like a worry stone, and every time another weekend or day or moment takes a shit turn, I’ll remember that they all won’t be that way. Most, but definitely not all.

I have a busy evening of baking and cooking and tea drinking ahead of me. Off to see friends tomorrow and am so excited I may barely be able to sleep.

xoxo

Race Report: Marine Corps Historic Half

Well. As Matt put it in a text to his father, “Heather finished the race and didn’t die!”. I’m still a little stunned that I ran 13.1 frickin miles. For many reasons, my training did not go as planned. I lost training time to injuries, sickness, and life. OH, and excuses. When I was actually running the race route, I surprised myself. As pleased as I was for those moments where I was in my sweet spot, when I exited a porta-john at mile 8 with locked up knees I realized that there was a real reason for training plans.  I finished and honestly, I am just so proud of myself and my body and my brother for almost literally pulling me through to the finish line.

I could go on and on . . . so I will.

Here’s the breakdown:

Colby + Rock Band = zombie child

Pre-Race: We traveled from Maine to Virginia with little incident. This surprised me     more than anything, because I was more anxious about the whole-family traveling dynamic than I was about the race itself. We drove from Bangor to Portland, flew from Portland to BWI, drove a rental car from BWI to my brother’s house in Quantico, VA. We were tired and dirty, but when we pulled up to see my niece and nephew waving from their door I thought I could have run from Maine to see them. We had plenty of late night Rock Band and snuggles and a shared bag of Goldfish crackers.

We spent Saturday drinking coffee, playing babies and baseball, meeting up with my best college friend who drove down from D.C. and spent dinner with another family whose father was running the 1/2 on Sunday. As soon as this guy found out that I was having trouble with shin splints he went to his house and brought back a foam roller for me to use. That and a pair of compression sleeves may have totally saved me (and my legs).

If only this were a re-run of the “Heather and Jessica Show”.
After dinner poster making!

I got to bed early and fell asleep before I could finish reading my magazine! Me, the neurotic, anxious mommy! Fell asleep and slept through the night!

Race Day: I rolled out of bed at 4 and found coffee already made. This was a pleasant surprise, and I never figured out who had the foresight to set the coffee maker the night before. I couldn’t find the oatmeal, so I made a bowl of instant Cream of Wheat. I ended up with a solid breakfast of this, two cups of coffee with almond milk, a banana, a glass of water and a glass of Gatorade. I hadn’t eaten great the day before, so I hoped this would do the trick. I settled in with this little guy for some pre-race puppy and coffee time.

Jiggs!

I planned on reading, but he was too cute not to play with. I was so homesick for my own puppies, who I found out later were having adventures of their own (read: porcupines).

Bud, Matt, Colby and I hit the road at a respectable 6:20ish (only a half hour or so past when we were supposed to leave) and made it to the parking lot in Fredricksburg just in time.

Still? No nerves. It was beautiful, all bright blue sky and cool gentle breezes.

Wearing my favorite shirt!
Sister and Brother OR Shorty and Skinny

My uncharacteristic calm left abruptly as we approached the finish line. The town crier, a special part of this race, came over the PA I knew it was almost go time. I noticed some sort of recumbent bikes going past us and asked Bud about them. He told me that they started first. They were injured veterans. The band began playing the National Anthem. Now here were the water works. I had spent so much time bitching about my inadequate training and injuries and etc. I had forgotten that it was such a blessing to have the ability and physiology to run this race. I had been so calm because I had convinced myself that this race, the 13.1 miles were nothing, no problem or celebration. Just a run. I was wrong, and it all hit me on the way to the tall green box of relief. The line to the porta-johns were long, but Bud had a plan that got us to empty ones pronto. Then, the gun went off and we entered the throng of people, eventually passing the start line and trying to find an open spot to begin running.

Miles 1-4: My legs were tight and scared. I was feeling guilty that my very fast brother was running with his very slow sister when he could be killing it out there.We stopped at every water station and the course was incredibly well supported. There was a Marine at every turn, handing out high-fives, smiles, and encouragement. We ran through a shady, slightly hilly, and beautiful residential neighborhood in Fredricksburg. The houses ranged from swanky estates to carefully preserved historical artifacts. I was so busy looking around (and talking, sorry Bud!) that I didn’t even really think about what I was doing.

Miles 5-9: The sweet spot. I don’t remember much of this, probably because I was talking so much. While this was an indicator that I wasn’t running at full capacity, I knew that I had a tough section coming up and I wanted to preserve as much of myself as I could for the truly tough section. I do remember feeling like I was clipping along, and wishing I had a Garmin to see what my pace was. I passed people! I smiled! I threw my arms up in celebration when I ran passed the course photographers. This, my dears, was a bit of bragging a bit too early.

Miles 10-12: Hospital Hill. This really, really sucked. I actually nailed the first half of the hill. I figured that’s what God gave me these short little legs and huge ass for: to climb hills. I was showing off. The course evened out for a bit, and I tried to recover for the next section of the hill without losing too much time. The rest of it just.sucked. I had to walk three or so minutes at the top of that hill, and that really pissed me off.  I had been dizzy for a few spells earlier in the race, but I have unbelievably low blood pressure. I figured as long as I hydrated well I would be set. At the top of this hill though, I thought I was going down. I was either going to pass out, vomit, or both.

Miles 12ish-Finish: I didn’t want to tell my brother because I didn’t want him to lose any more time. I was having visions of his co-workers making fun of him at work for finishing so slowly, and I was the cause of it. Finally I said “Bud. I have to stop. I’m going to puke”. And he said “No. Keep running”. That was the way it went. When I was swearing, one long, deep, guttural *&%#$##, he gave me everything he had. “You’ve got this”, “This is nothing”, and my favorite “You could run five more miles if you wanted to”. Somehow, I made it to the home stretch. I was really hurting, fighting back waves of nausea and blinking away those blasted eye floaters you get when you are ready to hit the floor. I finally glanced Matt’s bright green t-shirt on the side of the road and Colby and the kids ran out to greet us. Imagine my surprise when Colby announced that he was going to run the rest of the way in with us! I wasn’t particularly impressed when he showered me with such truth nuggets as “Hey Mom! I’m running on 1/2 a cup of coffee and four donuts!” or “Hey Mom! Look! You’re running and I’m walking”. I crossed the finish line flanked by my brother and my son. Those boys carried me home.

I then devoured a handful of sweet, juicy and delicious orange slices. I’m not sure I have ever tasted anything so wonderful. Did I mention it was hot? And that I had so much crusted salt on my face that I had actual salt boogers under my nose. Alas, I was feeling too sick to cash in my free beer ticket from my bib. Maybe that’s my next goal. Finish, but feel well enough to drink a beer immediately after.

Eventually I got my beer, and a steak and a pile of the cheesiest and gooiest mashed potatoes. We capped off our weekend with lots of family time, and as I walked my nephew to his bus my heart broke in the same exact spot it always does when I leave him and his sister. I know that the next time I see them he may not be content to play zombie babies with us. His sister may not say, at every turn, “Tia Heather, when you are done (insert activity), then can we go play babies?”. Luckily, I take enough pictures so I can blackmail them into playing with me at any turn.

Now. Write the caption for this photo.
Silly face!
Post-Race Playground Workout
Tia Heather and Natalie

Ahhh.

Life is good, people. Over the last few weeks I’ve recovered from an injury, read books (for fun), kicked my training in the arse (5 weeks out!), run a 5k with Colby and my friend Jane, visited with an old and dear friend, and ate a sit-down meal with Matt. Lots of fun and not-so-fun work stuff in between.

But now, it is April vacation. No other vacation compares to this, because we are close enough to see the end of the year AND no major holidays impede the pace of all things vacation. I could break into song at any moment.

Did I mention the weather?

Ahhh.

Communication Breakdown

See here.

Our morning began like most Saturday mornings around here do. Colby woke up early, and since he is grounded from the Wii, he spent the morning undertaking a tv watching marathon. Matt woke me up with what I’m sure was a hug, but more resembled a bear mauling a woman who was obviously not meant for mornings. Hanging from his neck, I whine-mumbled “Do I have to go to work today?”. The bastard told me yes. I opened my eyes enough to confirm that it was, in fact, too light out for it to be a work day. I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep.

But I had to get up. It was a big day. WE were going to the bank to open a (cue dramatic music) JOINT CHECKING ACCOUNT. I made a big deal of it. But not enough of a big deal to put on real pants. As we left I told Colby “we might as well be getting married” and asked him if he wanted to take a picture. He didn’t want to. He rolled his eyes back toward the television. We left in separate cars so Matt could get right to work after.

As I drove down Essex I got lost in a day-dream (should I change careers? should I have a baby? will I have any luck running at home instead of at the gym? what should my wedding colors be? maybe today’s blog title will be titled “da-dum-da-dum” and then the first line will be “PSYCH”! would that piss people off?) and consequently missed my turn. I called Matt. No answer. He must already be there since the closest branch of our credit union is FIVE MINUTES FROM OUR HOUSE. I went the long way, hoping had the good sense to stay put. I finally arrived and scoped out the parking lot. I didn’t see the car (which I refuse to drive) anywhere. I called again. I called again. I called Colby to see if Matt’s phone was at home. He didn’t answer. I felt a teeny-tiny pin prick in my Saturday morning balloon.

Assuming (ass out of you, ass out of me, I know) Matt was heading toward the Hampden branch, I hopped on 95 and was on the phone with my dear friend Angie before I merged. “He is an IDIOT!” I yelled into the phone. That poor girl. Just trying to enjoy her morning. Her husband piped up and yelled that the Hampden branch was closed on Saturday. What the fuck. Another call beeped in, and I heard Matt’s conciliatory voice as I turned onto the closest exit. “Where are you?” He asked. “Where the FUCK are YOU?” I yelled. Mad props to this guy, because I wouldn’t have responded as well to my words or tone. Because we both assumed incorrectly. I kept up the snark for 90 seconds or so before we hung up.

He called later to check in. I was out running, having a good run at that. We talked over the minutia that partners call to talk about in the middle of the day. While we were discussing where to put the treadmill I interrupted “I’m sorry I yelled at you”. It may be disconcerting to have slips in communication skills, but I’m so thankful we are at a point where we can acknowledge that while we, as individuals, are works-in-progress, we are a singular work-in-progress together.

Ahhh. It’s been a productive morning, though. I had a little drive (haha) and did some cleaning. I can hear the laundry drying. I ran with turkeys (literally! pics later) and ran two hills I usually walk. After I’m clean and smell better, I’m off with my boy to find a place to drink cocoa and do homework. Happy Saturday, friends.

Lessons Learned – or A Year in Running

  1. Sometimes those little articles in magazines have helpful hints. See

“YOU CAN BE A RUNNER”, torn from the September 2009 issue of Women’s Health.

Week 1: Run 2 min, walk 3 min; repeat 6 timesWeek 2: Run 3 min, walk 3 min; repeat 5 times

Week 3: Run 5 min, walk 2 min; repeat 4 times

Week 4: Run 7 min, walk 3 min; repeat 3 times

Week 5: Run 8 min, walk 2 min; repeat 3 times

Week 6: Run 9 min, walk 1 min; repeat 3 times

Week 7: Run 30 minutes

Can you believe this is where I started? Can you believe that I actually FINISHED my year of running?! Can you believe that I am trading THIS plan for a 1/2 marathon training schedule?!

2. Don’t, for any reason, look down at your iPod while you are running on the edge of the pavement in the Milo Cemetery for Goodness Sake! You WILL fall, ass-over-tea-kettle, into the ditch. But if you do, tell everyone you fell into a grave. That’s much funnier. And it’s better to be funny than to be an idiot.

3. If you do stupid shit (see above) you will lose three weeks of training. The same if you get influenza, so wash your hands. Also, when you’ve recovered, get back out there. Now.

4. As soon as you’ve reached your baseline run (mine was one, uninterrupted

mile) sign up for a small, attainable goal. This can be a one-mile ‘fun run’, a local 5k,or a relay. Remember, small and attainable. I survived a marathon relay and a 5k in my first year, and I dare say I could have done more.

5. Make a posse. Find a person/people to go with you. If you’re anything like me, you have no problem flaking out on yourself, but you will do nearly anything to help others. Help them, help you. Two birds, one stone, shabam. See me with my Maine Marathon Relay

My Dream Team

team? It was my brother’s idea, I did the organizing, and we would never have done it had we not been accountable to each other. Just today I added another running buddy to my list! The miles are faster and generally more enjoyable with a good friend around.

6. Do your research. One of my relay team members and I were horrendously, incredibly lost before the relay. Like – very, very close to missing our times. We didn’t drive the relay route OR double-check for blocked roads or any of the important details. There were no shuttles. It was nearly a disaster. On the upside, I didn’t cry because I was convinced that it wasn’t fair for a man to be stuck, lost, in a car with a crying woman who was not his wife, sister, or mother. But as far as two strangers being lost for multiple hours in the pouring rain can go, we had a pretty good time. Also, we saw the most enormous pumpkin in the universe on the back of a truck. Or we were hallucinating. Either way, it was a rather good time for what could have been a disaster.

7. Everyone should get lost with a stranger at least once in their lives. See above. Is this your year?

8. Don’t be a running Nazi. It’s not the right thing to do. Sometimes people start running in old sweatpants and old, ill-fitting sneakers. It may not be optimal, but it’s their business. Sometimes people walk. For all the rules we make, there are no real rules in running like there is no crying in baseball. Sometimes your friends, gasp, don’t like running. It’s okay. Encourage them to find their thing, whether it’s yoga, biking, walking, whatever will make them feel good and strong and healthy. Listen to them talk about whatever as much as they listen to you talk about running. (Notice – this is also my advice to myself here – I tend to talk a lot and am not always mindful of others)

9. Delegate responsibility. Other people, especially children, partners, and students,

"I didn't even sweat!"

will take innate pleasure in holding you accountable, even if you are the one to tell them to. At the beginning of this year I told my students exactly what to do. “Okay”, I said. “If I’m looking a little tense and frazzled and grouchy, I need you to ask me ‘Ms. Webb, have you gone for a run today?’.” They laughed. They thought I was crazy (right on, kiddos), but you know what say? “Ms. Webb! Have you had your run today?” Perfection.

10. Log your progress. I use the app “iMapMyRUN” on my iPhone and laptop. Some people have had a lot of success with the Nike+ app as well. Are there any pen and paper people left out there? Nothing beats getting my week summary from iMapMyRUN with three to five good runs. Nothing is more light-a-fire-under-your-ass-ing than getting a week summary with two to zero runs … it happens. Whether I’m checking out my progress or assessing how to get back on track, it’s nice to have all the information in one place.

Bonus (or – The Best Advice My Brother Ever Gave Me): Buy a subscription to a

See, Mom! We're getting along just FINE!

magazine like Runner’s World.It will keep coming, every friggin month, and even if you’ve sat on your ass eating Oreos and watching The Biggest Loser (not that I have ever done that) for an entire month, you will eventually be inspired to get off your can so that you’re not wasting money on that stupid magazine subscription. Then you’ll be thankful. And you’ll feel better. And those post-run endorphins will help you maybe not eat the entire row of Oreos next time. J