Winter running. Except, it's still technically fall. But really, most New Englanders know fall ends Thanksgiving weekend. I'm trying to not join the gym this winter, as it just feels mentally better to run outside. I only have about one free hour 4 mornings a week, but it's always worth it to bundle up and get to it. Good head time, good time to check in with the last of the migrating birdies, and this week it has been particularly good to listen to the great Charlie Parker among the cold winds and the crisp, peaceful trails.
It's crazy to think that Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Fall has certainly been magnificent thus far, with lots of hikes, visits from family and more races - this time for Solveig and Lila. I am eying an xcountry 30K ski race in January, and another marathon in the spring. These last couple of weeks I've just continued biking into school with the girls, and running here and there if the weather permitted. I'm going to try to make a concerted effort to do yoga more regularly - who's with me? I can barely touch my toes. In the meantime....
Here we are with Jeff's brother Andy, his wife Julie and my way too cute nephew Soren, who were visiting from Montana last week. I got to take them on a 17 mile back road bike ride around our area, which was just incredibly beautiful - and fun!
Solveig and Lila getting in on some haywagon action
We had a little open house trick or treating night, which was fun, Solveig has been Thing One and Lila some sort of princes of her own design....all about the princesses these days.
Hiking along the trails at Adam's Point in Durham
Solveig did a one mile trail race, which she rocked. She was with the older kids (mostly 9 year olds) and she came in about 8th out of 20.
Solveig got to lead her class during the Halloween parade - she had a blast!
I love how these kids are on $300 mountain bikes and Solveig's on her side of the road princess bike. She still smoked them:)
The girls did a trick or treat fun run to help raise money for the Rainbow Fund (my most dear local charity) out of Exeter Hospital. This was their 2nd year doing it. Here's Lila, Thing 2.
Well, the third time (or in my case, third attempt) was certainly a charm. My first intended marathon was back in May, Sugarloaf. I was well prepared and well trained for that race, but we all fell ill a week before so I couldn't skip town. I did get the great shirt to keep me motivated. I next planned on the Mad Marathon in VT, but it was mid July - the heat and a hip injury kept me out and led me to take much of the summer off from running. Finally there was Newport, RI, Columbus Day weekend.
Jeff took this one, it was at mile 26, I laid eyes on him and the girls and I was just so, so happy. (apparently happiness also looks like the running dead) This was just before running through the finish line. Not sure if you can tell, but I'm full on balling my eyes out.
Spent the entire week before the race run free - just beautiful walks with the girls and morning bike rides into school with Solveig...so far we have biked every single day - her new goal is to make it until the first day of winter (used to be to Halloween). 1.5 miles each way doesn't sound like much, but she's the only kid in her school who does it and it's a great way to take the edge off the start of a long school day. She cruises on her own, and I ride with Lila on a bike seat - not gonna lie, every day I just want to drive!
Solveig and Lila exploring Newport's Second Beach, the same beach I explored and enjoyed on Sundays when I was a child. This was also around mile 15.
I love how the beaches in Newport aren't developed whatsoever. Just dunes and ocean. Not even a snack stand. Certainly not any beach houses. What you can't see is the actual vast, sandy beach. It's also across from Norman Bird Sanctuary, one of the most precious places on the East Coast.
This was right before the start, beautiful sunrise
This was right after I registered, sunset Saturday on the beach. I took Mary's advice and ran for two miles just to warm my legs up - got me pumped!
So I sort of let this race happen. There was no intense training, no inlaws needing to pick up the kids from school so I can get a long run in, no Goo, no carb loading, etc. September came, and when Lila went to school (4 days a week), I ran for an hour. When she didn't, I walked with her to get Solveig from school, did some walking lunges around the house (thank God for our high hedges) and just relaxed. I think the longest run I had pre Marathon was a ten mile run on a bright Sunday morning. September is also my busy work season, so I was seeing students and editing college essays every night of the week and on weekends. My students took the SAT the day before I ran this marathon. Like them, I kept faith in myself and just trudged on, one mile at at time, one question at a time. One memory at a time (about my late sister Mary, mostly) one algebraic formula at a time. I am as proud of them as I am of myself. Few things are as poignant as seeing a personal goal, seemingly so out of reach, come to fruition. We do so much for others so much of the time we forget what it feels like to do something entirely for ourselves. I chose my "something" wisely. A massage? A pedicure? No thanks, I'll take a marathon. Give me five hours to reflect, regroup, rejuvenate, rewind and reinvent.
About the race. When I trained for Sugarloaf I was all about the playlist. Beck, Wilco, Tony Allen, Pink Floyd, Cat Power. Newport was Beyonce. Period. Anyone who knows me would be completely surprised but her latest self titled album was on repeat and I enjoyed every hour of it except when I pressed pause to run for an hour with a great guy from North Attleboro, Ma, where my mom lived before we moved her into a nursing home last month. It's a sexy, raw, powerful album. I certainly didn't feel sexy in my shiny white compression socks, but I did feel empowered.
Lila's token smile. I tried to channel it often...
I had heard only the night before that the course was hilly. But truthfully, RI hills are nothing like NH hills, so that wasn't too much of a factor at all, just made the scenic vistas more stunning. And stunning they were. The only offensive part of the run was the mansions. But otherwise, it was just stunning coast line, farms, large green expanses, charming stone walls and gorgeous blue skies. Encouraging high school kids worked the water stops, and families cheered and gave out halloween candy. The only downside was that the bulk of the runners run the half marathon. As they finished, we just kept going right by them without any fanfare. The runners thinned out immensely, as did any food and celebration at the finish. But really, just crossing the finish line was all the celebration I needed.
As it was a holiday weekend and also parents weekend at many neighboring colleges, there were no rooms to be had in Newport. We stayed about 20 minutes away in Fall River, which ended up being perfect. The day before the race, we went to visit my mom, took her out to lunch with Anna (bonus) and then headed to Newport to register and take in the scene. When we got back to the hotel the only place to eat was a Lebanese restaurant about a hundred feet from our hotel. Pure fate! Being Lebanese, this is by far my favorite cuisine. The whole experience seemed surreal to us. We walked in and the owner literally got on his knees and welcomed the girls with opened arms. He sat with us while we ate and played a game with Lila, who loved him. Solveig got a falafel wrap and I got Majedra (great recipe here) we then gave each other half of our dinners so we could try each. Lila had two spinach pies and fresh mango juice. Back at the hotel we all shared a king size bed. I slept for about one hour that night. I thought for sure that if I got injured, it would stem from the lack of sleep. I just couldn't get comfortable and my mind couldn't stop racing. One hour of sleep! I ate my usual breakfast, chia seeds and goji berries soaked in a cup of coconut milk. I also had a banana. I never got hungry and I never got dehydrated during the race. Everything just sort of worked out. At the start a women told me she only had 3 hours of sleep before doing an ironman, which made me feel a lot better. Adrenaline can sure go a long way....
I felt great going into about mile 15 and then I just elected to walk through water stations and run as much as I could. In retrospect, I probably should've just gone for it, but I didn't want to get injured. My left knee bothered me after mile 16, but my back and calves felt great. I got tired. I ran as much as I could and let myself walk when needed - my walking stride was actually faster than my running stride, but at times running felt better. One huge hill near the end almost stopped me entirely. I just felt this immense wall pushing toward me. Only then did I truly have to force myself to keep going.
Lots of great things about this race. Lots of great things about so many things we experience and accomplish independently and with others. What I kept with me was this certain feeling I haven't felt in a long time. I felt it when I decided to move to Southern Utah to climb red rocks and volcanos and teach Mexicans English, and prisoners' GED. I get little tastes of it each morning I put my still too tired ass on a bike and through downtown while riding along with Solveig to school. It's about getting out of your comfort zone. It's about doing and committing to something because you don't know exactly what will come out of it but you do know that sometimes you want to just feel, as Beyonce says, like you're a superpower. Of course a day later I feel more like a 90 year old who fears stairs, but I'm still smiling.
There are those who live full lives and there are those who live life to the fullest. I am beginning to realize that I fall into the latter category. It just doesn't take much to make me happy these days. We've had a jam packed summer, don't get me wrong, but my life has been simple: some teaching here, some gardening there, lots of cooking and time outdoors with the girls spread throughout. On my sunset run tonight (courtesy of the Byrds), I began to realize that I didn't do everything I may have wanted to do this summer but the things I did do, for myself and for my family? I rocked. What else matters really? Luckily I'm not a bucket list kind of person - I'm more of a timing is everything kind of person. If you feel like you don't have enough time then you're doing too much. Over the last few weeks we've harvested more of the most ridiculously yummy veggies (which have made incredible salsa, pickles, and salad), climbed Mt. Washington (just Jeff and me, for our 9th anniversary), surfed surprisingly warm NH waves, camped waaay up North with friends, plied through Frozen dance camp (the girls, of course - although I was tempted), rode water slides with visiting family, hiked and dined with friends, and learned a new song or two under the apple tree. Here's a little bit of that:
It's hard to run in the summer. Any chance I get I just want to enjoy my kids and my surroundings. It has also been mostly hot and humid, with some gorgeously perfect days in between. I'm still trucking away though. Lots of Ben Harper of late, keeping it all as mellow as possible as we head into August. Here are some glimpses of our summer, with a few sunset runs in there for good measure. Tonight I ran sprints at Philips Exeter Academy's track. Good times. Few things feel as good as running as fast as your body and mind permits. Do it while you can, I always say.
Stratham Fair (first and last time, I hope!)
ran by a little concerto at the gazebo midweek
Along my run before the mosquitos ate me whole
little playground action, which happens daily
spending as many afternoons as possible at the shore
Jeff in Lila at the Adirondacks Musuem
Great week at the cabin, with the lake all to ourselves
Solveig rode her bike every day of summer camp - 1.5 miles each way. I rode with her....her new goal is to ride to school until Halloween, I hope we can make it. She also got in some great hikes, being active really brings out her strengths.
Well, Sugarloaf came and went last weekend but unfortunately I had to sit this one out. The week prior both Solveig and I fell ill, me with pneumonia and Solveig with the flu. Jeff and I were still planning on heading up on Saturday, but then Solveig was having a hard time keeping anything down and her fever was up to 104 so we had to throw in the towel. There's no challenge as great as caring for a sick child.
The bad news for me is that my next marathon is right around the corner and it will be much harder and much hotter ....the flip side is the kids are coming and we will get a little 4 day family vacation out of it. So I'm back pounding the pavement today, and just finished a 6 mile run. Next weekend I get in 17 somehow. Still coughing, but I'm feeling so much better. Wow, is the pollen thick this year!
I got in a 16 mile run today - Happy Mother's Day to me. Jeff's flu extended to Lila and Solveig's cold and ear aches, respectively, and I haven't been able to run more than once a week for the last couple of weeks. So today I cramped up at mile 12, which was a buzz kill. I am running in new sneakers - same model but new as of yesterday - so I'm hoping that was part of it. I never get calf cramps and these were awful. I managed to run/walk but mostly run the last 4 miles. Truthfully, I'm not physically ready for next weekend's race but I will do it gladly and plan on the next one in the fall. If I have to walk some I will. If I run 12 minute miles, I will. I'm just happy for this first experience. One other reason I haven't been able to run is that I started a new teaching gig in Newburyport from 9-11:30, exactly my running time, as Lila gets out of school at 11:30. I still have my SAT students weeknights, but now I also get to help a thirteen year old boy with his course load as he awaits out of district placement. His learning style is similar to Solveig's, so I get a little taste of what not to do. Here's a pic of my fat toes and the girls playing in the yard today - they were out there from about 10am-3pm! We had a nice low key dinner at Vida Cantina which ended with a perfect Mother's Day Margarita for me.
I suppose the seemingly unending April showers helped lend beauty to this pleasant pasture I ran by this morning. Jeff has been home sick all week with the flu so my last run was 12 miles on Sunday. I ran 8 smooth miles today and will run 16 on Monday. After that, I will taper down a bit for the race on the 18th. Today's run was brought to me by a little Billy Idol....
Life has gotten in the way of my long runs for about a month, but now a few hours to myself is looking more like an option at least once a week and less like only something that seems weeks away. Yesterday looked like a beach day so I ran to the beach. I went slow, listened to Pearl Jam and some other random old school "therapists", and enjoyed every second of it while thousands ran Boston. We are 8 miles due West from the ocean, so there and back was a no brainer. Water and toenails will be factors for next week's long run, and I'm glad I figured those things out sooner rather than later - the race is in one month!
I got in a few outdoor runs this past week. Last weekend we had our annual ski weekend with friends - which was great - and then I took a couple of days off from running on Monday and Tuesday. Today it was beautiful out - finally! - but Lila didn't have school and my inlaws are in Florida so I had to hit the treadmill for 90 minutes. Depressing. I watched Inside Llewyn Davis, which was even more depressing, but in a good way (if there is such a thing). Because I've been a fan of Dave Van Ronk's music for 2o years (Llewyn Davis's character is based on Dave), and because the folk music of the 60s rocked and still rocks my world, I got what the Coen brothers were trying to do with this film. Do you move to the suburbs or do you follow your true passion at all cost? I loved it. It ruined my day, entirely, but I will treasure it as a work of art that is particularly close to my heart. And ironically I probably would've missed it if it wasn't for the dreaded treadmill, as Jeff and I never go to the movies....tomorrow I get to do a long run OUTDOORS while Lila is at school and it's looking like it will be a mild first day of spring - lots of snow finally melting out there.
Still unbearably cold and still running on a treadmill so nothing enlightening to record. My 41st birthday - on February 21st - came and went with little ado, which is exactly how I like it. Two people whose craft and character I deeply admire were also born on February 21st: David Foster Wallace and Nina Simone. I truly wish I had known DFW, somehow, some way, while he was living. Here's a link to a commencement address he gave some years ago - wouldn't it be great if my college prep students would adhere to these ideas....I come back to it often to keep me grounded.
We've had school vacation this week, so I haven't had much of a chance to blog. Although we were seriously tempted by a last minute offer to travel to Tulum Mexico with friends, alas we decided upon a "staycation". We joined my brother Phil and his family up at Cranmore where we got both girls on skis the first weekend, hit the Children's Museum, had a 7th birthday party for Cleo the dog, took the kids down to the northshore for an indoor amusement park/hotel with pool stay, had a playdate at the bouncy place in town, had a snow picnic and did A LOT of singing and dancing. I did all of my runs on the treadmill - my long run last Monday was 14 miles and I watched The Butler, which I still can't get out of my mind. At any rate, I'm definitely looking forward to hitting the pavement again. I also got some free time and mental space to think up and find additional whole food, unprocessed recipes for us all - I'm happy to report that Solveig now says things are "too sugary", as we can go days just quenching our sweet teeth with fruit. Here are some pics:
Long run: 13 miles
So today I ran just over 13 miles on the treadmill. It was below 20 degrees outside, with gusty winds and icy roads. I did put my gear on before saying, "um, hell no". I just don't want to ever say no to a run, so I talked myself into the treadmill. I watched Blue Jasmine on the ipad, which although Cate Blanchett was great in it, I didn't really like. After the movie ended I still had three miles to go and those were probably the three hardest miles I've done in all of my training - a mental challenge like no other. But it's all done and over with, so life is good again. I want nothing more than to drink tea on the couch while the girls play but I have to get dinner made, the kids fed and then off to work in Portsmouth for a couple of hours. One bright spot is that Solveig and I made these over the weekend and they came out great, we made the granola bars, rather than the pumpkin bites. No more heavily processed protein bars for us. I used extra hemp seeds and skipped the protein powder. I also used almond butter rather than the peanut butter. It was nice to have all of these ingredients on hand. Anyway, is it bedtime yet?