Thursday, December 20, 2012

Peace

I was going to write a post last Friday morning but didn't get to it in the pre-dawn hours before the kids woke up.  And then the news broke of the unbelievable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School and I could think of nothing else.  I wrote a post later that day, just to get all my feelings out, and subsequently deleted it.  It was just too raw and personal to share.

So much has been written in every possible media outlet in the past six days that I really have nothing new to contribute.  No insight to offer.  No answers to share.

I will say, however, that this tragedy was somehow different than the others that came before.  Usually when I hear of these incidents, I am sad for the families affected and it helps me to put my own blessed life into perspective.  For a while, at least.  (The fact that I have a "usual" reaction to these things is a horrific statement to the fact that they occur far too often and our society is becoming somewhat desensitized to them.)

This time it was different, though.  I couldn't hold back the tears as I heard the news.  I couldn't hold back the tears as I pictured presents under Christmas trees with the names of these little kids on them.  I couldn't hold back the tears when I imagined the many parents who rushed to the firestation to search for their child only to learn the horrific news that they were never coming home.  And I most definitely couldn't hold back the tears when pictures of their sweet little faces started popping up on facebook.

I didn't engage in the debate over gun control, mental health or the presence (or lack) of God in schools.  Instead, I did the only thing I knew how to do.  I prayed.  I choked back tears on Sunday morning and went to church to pray for all the lives lost and all the families affected.  When I glanced around the church during the sermon, I was amazed to see almost every single woman was wiping away tears.  An entire ocean of tears has been cried in the last week.

I can only hope that a tidal wave of change will come out of this ocean.  And that it will be the last tragedy of its kind.  That we, as a society, will find a way to stop this violence.  That we, as individuals, will reach out to others who are lost and lonely souls and help them find a place in this world.  That we will find peace again.


***

Okay, for some reason, I really couldn't move forward and post about anything but this topic today.  Now that I have written (briefly) about it, I am ready to live with hope and love in my heart and do my best to bring those same feelings to others.

- Kristen

Friday, December 7, 2012

Soul Food

When you hear someone mention soul food there is a good chance they are talking about ham hocks, chitlins, hush puppies and collard greens cooked in fatback.  (As a vegetarian, I have to admit that even just typing the word fatback makes me throw up a little in my mouth.)

However, I think of soul food as something that simply feeds my soul.  It could be anything from church to yoga to trail running to a much-needed lazy afternoon nap.  [I was going to add that soul food could be a relaxing afternoon with my kids but since two of my kids are toddlers, it seems like an oxymoron to even suggest it...]

Love my littlest ones...but would never describe any time with them as "relaxing"

All those things I listed above are things that feed my soul.  When doing any one of those activities, I can literally almost feel my soul being filled up again.  What it fills me with is a feeling of gratitude for my life and all the good things in it.  It restores my lost faith, happiness, patience, love and confidence in myself and in others.  It gives me passion to go out and live my life purposefully.

***

Last Saturday I was scheduled to run 8 miles as the first day of training for the Boston marathon.  On the Friday before my run,  a friend emailed to ask if I wanted to join her for 15 miles on Sunday instead.  Hmmm...let's see...run 8 miles by myself or run 15 with a friend...  Is there really any choice here?!  Of course, I chose to run with a friend even though it meant almost doubling my mileage and would be the longest run (by quite a bit) since my early June marathon.

I should mention that this friend, Amanda, is someone I had only met a couple of months ago and had run with only once before.

I went to bed at a decent hour on Saturday night and was hoping for a good night's sleep before our run.  Unfortunately, that was the night I couldn't fall asleep for hours and then was awoken not once and not twice but three times by my little ones.  I slept so horribly that I seriously considered canceling on Amanda before realizing how much that would mess up my running schedule.  And, thanks to my sympathetic husband taking the kids out to breakfast by himself, I was able to eat some cereal and drink my coffee in peace while mentally preparing to run.

As I headed to the waterfront to meet Amanda, I finally looked up and noticed we were going to be blessed with blue skies.  My mood began to improve and I started getting excited to run.  I parked the car and walked to our meeting spot.  Within minutes, Amanda arrived with her big smile and her sunny disposition that matched the weather.  We waited for our Garmins to find their satellite signals and we were off!

The next 15 miles just flew by as we talked about everything from running to our kids to Christmas presents to things we had shared with almost no one else.  That's right.  On our second run ever (and first one where it was just the two of us), I was able to tell Amanda things that I have shared with only a handful of people in my entire life.  After our run, I drove home with a big smile on my face and the feeling that my soul was full once again.

I have spent the last few days thinking about how amazing it is that we can connect with other (for me, it is women) runners in a way that is unique to how we interact with everyone else.  I may see the same moms at school drop-off every day for a year and not have nearly the same level of closeness as I do after one long run with someone else.

***

Now go back in time to 2003.  I was training for the NYC marathon.  As with most of my training, I was doing all the runs by myself.  Speed work, tempo run, recovery run, long run...whatever it was, I was out there alone putting in the requisite miles.  One weekend, I decided on a whim to run with a group of runners who were training for the Portland marathon.  I didn't know a single person who was running that day but they had 18 miles on the schedule so I showed up ready to run.  We split up into various pace groups and headed out on the road.  About halfway into our run, there were four of us that were running together.  Not a single one of us knew each other before that day.

Fast forward 9 years and three of us are best friends today and the fourth is still someone I keep in touch with (and who has become an excellent chiropractor here in Portland -- I highly recommend her).  All as a result of that one single run.  I can't imagine my life without these women.  We bonded one morning over trails and toilet paper and gatorade and gu...and my life has never been the same since.


My peeps.  In Florida to celebrate my wedding.  LOVE their smiles and laughter.
LOVE.

***

I love to run.  I love neighborhood runs and trail runs and even treadmill runs.  I love what running does for my body, my mind and my health.  But above all those things, I love running for how it feeds my soul.  I love the instant bond it gives me with others and the relationships that have been formed as a result of my running.  I am continually amazed by the richness that running adds to my life.

I feel so blessed to have the gift of running and I hope to enjoy the soul food it provides to me for many years to come.

What is your soul food?  Have you made life-long friends through running?  

- Kristen

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda

My dad should have been a pizza chef. If he was, he would own the most popular pizza restaurant in the country. People would be lining up outside his restaurant just waiting for a bite of one of his famous pies.  Over the years, he has tried many different dough recipes, from the typical flour/yeast/sugar/salt variety to the three day-long process of cold dough fermentation.  He has experimented with many oven temperatures as well as grilling pizza on his barbecue grill.  He has compared pizza pans versus pizza stones, cornmeal versus cornstarch (to prevent the pizza from sticking), homemade versus store-bought sauce and all types of cheeses, toppings and bases/sauces.  

In my opinion, he has it mastered.  Case in point, we were driving to my parents' house on Thanksgiving Eve and were planning to arrive a few hours before dinner.  My parents had discussed a couple different dinner ideas and decided at the last minute to make pizzas.  Although they weren't his fanciest or most time-consuming pizzas -- no garlic chicken pizza with a soy glaze, thinly-sliced roasted rosemary potatoes or finely ground elk meat  -- I think I now have a new favorite pizza.  

He made several pizzas with meat on them for everyone else and then made a special meatless one just for me.  My pizza was a vegetarian pizza with sauteed chopped brussel sprouts, roasted red peppers, toasted chopped hazelnuts and a light sprinkling of mozzarella cheese all on a Chardonnay butter reduction base.  Perfection.  

Best. Pizza. Ever.

[Before I continue, I should note that none of his pizza making or other cooking would be possible without my mom, his sous chef, who cleans up the mess he makes.  While she is also a phenomenal cook, she leaves the pizzas mostly up to him.  She is his partner in the kitchen and in life.]  



I should probably come clean and admit that I am obsessed with brussel sprouts.  I ate almost half of this bowl of brussel sprouts on Thanksgiving (in addition to a TON of other food) and then ate the rest of them right out of the fridge without even taking the time to heat them up.  I would eat brussel sprouts over chocolate cake.  And I really love chocolate cake.  I am just that weird.  


roasted, maple-glazed brussel sprouts

Truth be told, it is a good thing my dad didn't choose to be a pizza chef.  Until his recent retirement, he was an emergency room physician for close to 40 years.  There are thousands upon thousands of people alive and well today because of my dad.  His calming, low-stress demeanor and down-to-earth personality was no doubt extremely comforting to everyone who encountered him in the ER.  I truly couldn't be more proud of him and the profession he chose.  

All of our joking on Thanksgiving Eve about him being a pizza chef instead of a doctor, however, did get me thinking about the choices we make in our lives.  And how we often pick our professions/careers when we are so young and inexperienced in the grand scheme of life.  How many of us would go back and do something different?  And what would we choose?  A job that makes more money?  A position at a non-profit company that we are passionate about?  A career with shorter hours or in a different part of the country?  

I sometimes look at my life -- a stay-at-home-mom to my three kids -- and laugh when I remember the hours upon hours I spent studying financial derivatives in my graduate school class at a top university.  Just yesterday, I was literally scraping my youngest daughter's poop out from under my fingernails.  (Why is it that getting human poop on my hands is more disgusting than when I get my dog's poop on my hands?  And why is it that both of these things happen to me?!)  Looking at my daily life, it would be easy to say getting my MBA was a waste of time and money.

If I could go back in time, though, I am pretty sure I would do it all again.  Or at least the part where I went back to business school.  I might try to find a way to use my finance skills to do something more personally fulfilling like working for a non-profit.  Or perhaps I would try to find a career that was more conducive to having a family and relied less on a typical 9-5, Monday through Friday schedule.  And I'm still hopeful that I'll find a way to use all my skills and education when the time comes.  When the kids are a little older and I am no longer scraping human excrement out from under my nails.  That time will come, right??

Is there anything you would change about your life if you could go back and make different choices?  Would you make the same job and career choices?

***

I really was planning to write about the 10K my husband and I ran on Thanksgiving and our weekend getaway to California.  But that will have to wait for another day!  

- Kristen

Monday, November 12, 2012

Full Circle

"C'mon, just a little more, Mom."

One small spoonful of pudding made it into her mouth.  And then another.  And one more before she gave us a small smile and dozed off once again.

My mom looked away from her mother, who was lying on the hospital bed, and smiled at me.

"This is the most she's eaten all day.  I think she is trying to make it until Uncle John arrives..." she said as she looked at me with hope.

***

You know those moments that will stick in your mind forever?  Etched there as if in granite, never to fade?  This is one of those precious moments in my life.

It was just over two years ago.  Nana was in the hospital and her internal organs were slowly shutting down.  Her body had had enough and her soul was looking forward to joining Papa for eternity.

My mom had called me earlier that evening and let me know that Nana was nearing the end of her journey here on earth and I should come and visit.  It was a rainy Thursday evening and my son had soccer practice, my sister was hours away in Seattle and my little brother had visited her earlier in the day.  I left my older daughter and son at home with my husband, jumped in the car with my infant daughter and drove to the hospital.

Nana was alert when I entered the room.  She smiled at the little girl in my arms and whispered a hello as we sat down near the foot of her bed.  We chatted for a few minutes, my little girl nibbling on her great-grandmother's finger, and then it was time for Nana to eat just a little more food.

So we sat there together.  Four generations of women in one room.  My Nana was just four weeks shy of her 100th birthday and my daughter was just five months old.  Almost 100 years had passed between the birth of these two women.  One entered this world a few months earlier in a hospital room and the other was about to leave this world from a hospital room.

I sat in a chair and nursed my little girl while my mom spoon fed chocolate pudding to her mother.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment for us.  My mom and I taking care of the oldest and youngest women in our family, both of whom were helpless without us.  Mother and daughter together taking care of a mother and a daughter.

Six months earlier, Nana meeting her newest great-granddaughter


Nana passed away just 36 hours later.  She made it until her son had arrived from Chicago and she died surrounded by all her loved ones.  Never having been in the room with someone when they left this world, it was a surreal experience.  But the sweetest moment for me of those few days will always be that rainy Thursday evening when my mom and I were taking care of the oldest and youngest of us.

***

Yesterday I went to a baby shower to celebrate the arrival of my brother and his fiance's daughter.  The shower was hosted by dear friends of my mom's -- all women who knew Nana well.

Of course, my beautiful niece stole the show.



All I could think about on the rainy drive back home was how much Nana would have loved to have been there.  How much she would have adored her newest great-granddaughter.  How much she would have appreciated the food being served on fine china and the wine poured into crystal glasses.  She would have loved the beautiful fall flower arrangements, the table settings that were done to perfection and the petite butter cookies maybe most of all.  Nana never met a dessert she didn't like.





Then I thought about my almost 4 year-old daughter that arrived with my brother for the very end of the shower.  How her eyes lit up when she spotted the cookies and she immediately asked if she could have one.  I even caught her sneaking a second cookie.  Nana would have been so proud of her and would have been sneaking cookies right along with her.



I finally realized Nana was right there with us.  In all of us.  The Circle of Life.

Do you have any moments that you will never forget?

***

So...I keep planning on writing a running-related post and then something else always is in the forefront of my mind when I sit down to type!  I'll go ahead and interrupt this heavy post with some not-so-serious talk about my running.

The latest update on my foot is that I went to see a podiatrist last week.  Unlike the podiatrist I saw this summer (who basically just gave me a cortisone shot and sent me on my way), this podiatrist is a real advocate of non-intervention strategies.

He took the time to listen to me and after a thorough examination, came up with a slightly different diagnosis than the first podiatrist.  Instead of diagnosing "extensor tendinitis", which is tendinitis of the tendons on the top of my foot, he believes I injured the sheath/ligament/fascia that runs across the tendons in my foot.  The good news is that he believes I can keep running while I do my best to heal the trauma through icing and stretching.

He is also a big advocate of minimalist running (or, really, minimalist footwear for all activities all of the time.)  He encouraged me to remove the cushioned liner from my running shoes and slowly transition to a true minimalist shoe.  Hmmm...  While I have heard great things about minimalist running, I also know many, many runners who remain injury-free in regular, cushioned running shoes.

My current plan is to slowly transition from my Asics GT-2170's to my Brooks Pure Flows.  I already run in my Brooks about half the time so it shouldn't take too long to get me all the way there.  The Pure Flows aren't a true minimalist shoe but they definitely promote more of a "natural" running stride and foot strike.  Assuming all goes well in the Pure Flows, I will likely just stick with them and not move to a (zero drop) minimalist shoe.

Brooks Pure Flows and Asics GT-2170 -- notice how much higher the heel is on the Asics

My foot seems to be tolerating runs okay in the meantime.  This morning's run was an 8 mile progressive run with the middle miles at a 7:30 and then 7:15 pace.  I loved having the run done before anyone else in my family was awake so I could enjoy a little post-run endorphin bliss!  :)

What kind of shoe do you run in?  Have you ever considered a minimalist shoe?  Have you read Chi Running?

- Kristen

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How many arms do you have?

"Are you sure you don't need a bag?"

The man at the Whole Foods checkout counter looked at me with confusion.  Clearly, he thought I needed a bag to carry out all my grocery items this morning.  I had two cans of pumpkin puree (why not make another chocolate chip pumpkin loaf today?!), a large container of baby spinach, a birthday card, a four-pack of yogurt, two cucumbers, a dozen eggs and a gallon of whole milk.  Oh, and a non-fat chai latte, too.

But I have an aversion to using disposable bags, even paper ones, whenever possible.  (I do live in Portland, after all!)  And I was too lazy to walk back to my car and get my reusable bags.  So I loaded up my arms with all my goodies, grabbed the milk with one free hand and my latte with the other.  As I walked to my car, I was again thankful for my minivan's keyless entry so I didn't have to dig through my purse for keys.  I only needed one finger to pull open the door.  (And, yes, I do drive a minivan. I had to sell my Subaru wagon to become a minivan-driving-soccer-mom and have never looked back...thanks to keyless entry and the DVD entertainment system.  Don't judge.)

After driving home and putting things away, I finished (yet another) load of laundry.  While carrying the clothes hamper three flights upstairs from the basement laundry room to my third floor bedroom, I also picked up three stuffed animals, two discarded pairs of footed pajamas, a baby blanket and a pair of boots.  I deposited everything in the various rooms where it all belonged and then began the process in reverse -- bringing towels and linens to the basement and picking up things along the way.

I'm not sure if it is a mom trait or a female-only trait but sometimes I feel like I have more arms than my husband.  Or maybe than all men.  I remember walking up the stairs of my house, carrying my almost 2 year-old on my right hip and carrying a 4 month-old in my left arm while she was breastfeeding.  I'm pretty sure my husband can't do that.  (No offense, honey!)

I got to thinking this morning about the things we carry.

We carry groceries.
We carry laundry.  Never-ending loads of laundry.
We carry kids.  Both before and after birth.
We carry backpacks and soccer bags and dance costumes and school lunches.
We carry briefcases and work laptops.
We carry endless plates of food to/from the table and in/out of the dishwasher.
We carry donation items to Goodwill and other charities.
We carry cooked meals to our friends and neighbors when they are in need of some extra help.
We carry flowers to our own moms and Mother's Day and to our kids' teachers on Teacher Appreciation Day.

Additionally...

We carry our husbands/partners when they are going through difficult times at work.
We carry our parents when they are too old to care for themselves.
We carry our girlfriends when they are going through tough times in their lives.
We carry the fear that something will happen to our kids.
We carry ourselves across the finish lines of marathons or to the gym to squeeze in a workout.
We carry the guilt that we are never doing enough -- as a mom, as an employee, as a wife, as a neighbor, as a runner/cyclist/exercise-enthusiast or as a homemaker.  

I oftentimes struggle with being a stay-at-home mom.  I lose my patience almost daily with my toddlers. I crave the social camaraderie that comes with working in an office.  I miss feeling like I'm using my brain and education to their full potential.  I fear that I am going to fail.  I feel that I am lacking an identity.

And then I start thinking about all the things that I carry on a daily basis.  I try to imagine my family without me in it.  And it makes me feel important and necessary once again...and proud of my little arms.  (It also makes me think I must have more than two of them!)

The most important things I'll ever carry...

Of course, none of this would be possible without my family and friends carrying me when I need it.

And special thanks to this one...



What do you carry in your life?  Do you struggle with your identity?

I really was going to post today about the fact that my foot injury -- the one that kept me from running all summer long -- seems to be back again.  But talking about it might make it a reality.  So I'll just continue to be in denial for a little longer and hope for the best.  In the meantime, I had a great track workout last Friday (6 x 800 in the middle of a six mile run), an easy 7 on Saturday and a hard 10 mile progression run early Monday morning.  I was just starting to feel like I'm getting back in shape ready to kick-off Boston training and now I'm not sure how my foot is going to handle the increase in mileage and effort...

Happy Halloween!!!

- Kristen

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Love-Hate Relationships

I had all kinds of productive thoughts swirling through my head at 5:30 this morning when I was in the middle of my 5 mile recovery run.  My morning was all planned out -- I was going to finish my run, wake the kids up and get them dressed/fed/off to preschool, make a green smoothie for breakfast, take a big pile of clothes to be donated and write a quick blog post.  All this was to be accomplished before picking the girls back up at 11:45am.  Easy, right?

Post-breakfast sisterly love
Love getting rid of things!

I was going to post about the start of my Boston marathon training or the lack of motivation I have to complete my home organization projects or how I am already feeling pressure to start my Christmas shopping.  (Most of this pressure comes in the form of daily stacks of catalogs delivered to my house with pictures of fully-decorated Christmas trees or wrapped presents on the front.  These catalogs cause me to forget the fact that it isn't even yet Halloween.)



After the run, however, I turned on my phone and the screen froze up into a bunch of squiggly black and white lines.  Like a miniature zebra screensaver.  Ugh.  Did I mention this was my new iPhone 5 that I have had for exactly three weeks?  Really, Apple?  All my plans went out the window...

Heading to the Apple store

After battling traffic to the downtown Apple store to get a new phone, the rest of the morning was spent trying unsuccessfully to restore my phone using a very recent backup.   Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted that backup and restored from a year-old backup instead.  Shortly thereafter, I realized that I had also deleted all of the pictures from my Italy trip that I had taken on my phone.  Fighting back tears, I just gave up and accepted my new phone for what it was.  Which is exactly like my old phone was a year ago...with no pictures of Italy.

I do love Apple products.  I'm typing this post on my MacBook.  I use my iPod nano when I run.  And I'm never without my iPhone.  But I can't count the number of hours I have spent syncing and backing up and downloading and restoring from one product to another over the years.  The benefit of Apple products is supposed to be their seamless integration with one another but somehow it has never worked that way for me.  So I also really hate Apple products.  Today, especially.

This got me thinking about other things that I both love and hate.  Last week I had a track workout and I can honestly say I have always had a love-hate relationship with the track.  I generally hate it when I'm doing it but love the results I get from it.  As much as I love marathons, there are certainly days when I dread heading out for a 20 mile training run in the rain and there are definitely times during the marathon itself when I swear I will never do another one.  However, within an hour of finishing a marathon, I am ready to sign up for the next one.  (Remind anyone of childbirth?)  I also love dense, flourless chocolate cake but hate it when I eat the whole cake.    I love wine but if I have too much, I definitely hate it the next day.  (I suppose a little impulse control would help with these last two...)

I know a lot of people have love-hate relationships with sports teams.  Or politicians.  Or their jobs.  Maybe even their spouses or kids(!!).  My husband has a love-hate relationship with our dog but that is mostly because he is the one who takes her for walks in the cold, windy rain and picks up after her.

What is there not to love about this face?!

In the end, I suppose having a complicated relationship with something or someone isn't necessarily a bad thing.  There really are very few things in life that are just black or white -- almost everything is a varying shade of gray.  Isn't that what makes life interesting?

I am looking at my running schedule now and see that Friday is another track day.  6 x 800's as part of a 6 mile run.  I know it will be hard.  I know I will want to quit.  And, at times, I will hate it.  But I also know how much faster and stronger it will ultimately make me as a runner, both physically and mentally.  So I suppose I will love it at the same time.  Or at least when it is over.

(And I will probably continue to buy Apple products, too.)

"If you never have a 'bad' day [running], you're probably doing something wrong; if you never have a 'good' day [running], you're definitely doing something wrong." - Mark Remy

Yesterday's workout was a 9 mile progression run (2 miles warm-up at 8:30, 3 miles at 7:30, 3 miles at 7:15 and 1 cool-down mile at 8:10) and I finished it before the kids woke up at 7am.  It was my longest run since the marathon and a sort of kick-off to my Boston training.  It left me energized and excited to have a goal to work towards once again.  Only 24 weeks to go!

Do you have a love-hate relationship with anything?  

- Kristen

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Every Step Counts

Just in case the surprise trip to Italy wasn't enough of a 40th birthday present, my husband took the additional step of throwing a party for me last weekend with close friends and family.  I am actually someone who shies away from being the center of attention and was nervous as the party approached.  (You know those girls who grow up dreaming about their wedding day?  Envisioning their walk down the aisle with all heads turned towards them??  I was not that girl.  I actually hyperventilated before walking down the aisle and broke out in hives.  I think it comes down to not feeling deserving of the attention...but I digress.)  

Anyway, as Saturday night rolled around and my family started to arrive at our house for a little pre-party get together, I finally started to relax.  The glass of champagne might have helped with the anxiety but holding my 8 day-old niece was definitely the highlight of the afternoon.

She really makes me want another baby!

Once we were at the actual party and I had a glass of wine (or two), I was having a great time.  It was so fun to see all my friends in one place, catch up with everyone and enjoy some good food.  My husband worked with a caterer to plan a Spanish theme and we had the most amazing paella.

This picture doesn't do it justice -- I think the pan was about 3 feet wide!

Towards the end of the evening, a group of my friends gave me a gift.  It is a silver necklace filled with charms.  There are charms for each of my kids, one for my husband and me, and one that says happy 40th and has all their initials.  In addition to the charms with our names on them, there is a circle and a running shoe charm.  And the simple slogan Every Step Counts.  The charms can be removed and rearranged to suit your mood and here is one of the many possibilities:


If I had received this charm a few months ago, I am pretty sure this blog would have a different name.  I love that slogan.  It describes so much in life.  

We all have goals in our lives.  Some might be related to sports -- qualifying for the Boston marathon or completing a triathlon.  Some might be related to our careers -- getting a college degree or publishing a book.  And others might be more personal -- being a good mother or overcoming a hardship. 

No matter what our goals are, most of them take work to get there.  And, at times, our goals may seem impossible.  But as long as we keep working towards them, making little steps even, then we will get there eventually.  

"Hard things take time to do.  Impossible things take a little longer."  - Percy Cerutty

I am just starting to build up my running base again in preparation for Boston training.  It is frustrating and somewhat depressing to realize how much fitness I have lost in the three months since I ran the Newport marathon and injured my foot.  My foot isn't really bothering me anymore, though, so I have no excuse to not get back out there and get in shape.

Monday morning I ran 8 miles on a typically gray, dreary, wet Portland day.  It was my longest run since the marathon and I couldn't have been happier to be out there running and pushing myself, despite the weather.  It was a sort of progressive run with 2 easy miles, 2 miles at 7:45, 2 miles at 7:30 and ending with 2 easy miles.  I averaged 7:58 for the 8 miles and it felt much harder than it should have.  I followed up yesterday's run with a 5 mile run today at an average pace of 8:03.  Again, it felt a little harder than I expected but the sun was shining on my face and in my heart.  

Perfect day for running
I am so motivated and excited to dream big and find out what I am truly capable of doing.  I expect there to be 

good runs, 
bad runs, 
fast runs, 
slow runs, 
hard-as-hell runs where I desperately want to quit and 
days when I feel like I could run forever.  

I look forward to each of those runs as I know I will learn and grow with each one.  And I can believe in myself knowing that as I head out the door for each and every run, that every step counts.  

What are your goals and what steps are you taking to achieve them?

- Kristen

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

When in Rome...

Wow.  Where to begin?!

If you read my mystery trip post, you know my husband planned a surprise vacation for my birthday.  Even as he was checking in at the Delta counter for our flight, I still had no idea where we were headed.  It wasn't until we ran into some good friends at the airport that my husband finally disclosed our destination...we were going to ITALY!  (Oh, and the good friends that I "ran into"?  They were coming with us!)

I could detail our itinerary and fill paragraphs listing the museums, castles, churches, monuments and Tuscan hill towns we visited as well as the sculptures, paintings and incredible views we saw.  But the best way to summarize our trip is this:

We ate too much food.
We drank too much wine.
We slept too much.
And we ran too little.

All in all, it was a perfect vacation!  The Italians really know how to live.  Where else can you be served cake at breakfast, wine at lunch, handmade gnocchi at dinner, the best espresso imaginable at any time of the day and tirimasu for dessert?  Our theme of the trip was "When in Rome..." so we made sure to live like Italians as much as possible.

Pound cake, apple struedel and homemade donuts were just part of breakfast

Just one of the MANY bottles of wine we drank last week

Double espresso
Honestly, I am still shocked that my husband was able to pull off such a huge surprise and plan such an amazing vacation.  I am humbled that he would do so much for me.  And I am thankful for the help of our families in watching the three kids.

Eventually, our time in Italy was up and we returned home on Sunday.  We immediately rushed to the hospital to meet my newest niece who was just two days old. Then we spent some time with my visiting in-laws who flew to Portland from New York to help watch the kids while we were away.  They flew home this morning and now it is back to life as usual.  Except it feels a little different.

I find myself waking up each day more grateful than the day before.  Grateful for the health of my family.  Grateful for the sunshine that has been omnipresent in Portland for the last three months.
Berry picking one day in July
Grateful for the ability to run miles upon miles with a smile on my face.  Grateful for my husband, who never ceases to amaze me.
J in front of the Coliseum in Rome
Grateful for the precious little girl born just days ago to my brother and his fiance.
Almost makes me want to have another...
Grateful for the unconditional love my parents have always given to me.
Mom & Dad
Grateful for my kids who fill my heart with joy.  Grateful for friends who have been in my life for as long as I can remember.  Grateful for new friends that I have recently met.  Grateful for the beauty that surrounds us all.

I could go on forever...but the bottom line is that I am grateful for the life I have been given.

"Happiness will never come to those who fail to appreciate what they already have."  - Unknown

I am definitely happy.

- Kristen



Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Mysterious Mystery Trip

I have surely mentioned at least once that I have a big birthday coming up soon.  And, no, it isn't the big 3-0.

I don't know what the school cutoff date was when I was entering kindergarten but somehow I am the youngest of almost all my friends.  The whole kindergartner redshirting trend had not yet begun when I was 5 years-old.  Because of this, I have witnessed many friends turn 40 this past year.  Not surprisingly, they have all survived unscathed.  No one has suddenly become covered in wrinkles, started wearing Depends or been pulled over for driving under the speed limit.  In fact, I think we are still a pretty good-looking bunch.  (Don't you just love how black & white pictures make everyone look better?!)

Okay, so maybe our wrinkles are covered by sunglasses

I really do get that this birthday isn't a big deal.  So much so, in fact, that when my (3 years-younger) husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday, my response was a new roller bag for traveling.  I really just wanted a new piece of luggage for our next trip to visit in-laws or a rare weekend getaway.

I wasn't surprised, then, when my husband presented me with my birthday gift.

A brand new roller bag!!

My enthusiasm was sincere when I jumped up from the couch to give him a big hug and get a closer look at the luggage.  I suppose I should have been a little suspicious about the fact that my birthday was still three weeks away...

When I opened the bag, it was empty with the exception of a note that read:

PACK ME!
Use these guidelines
* Pack enough for about 7 days
*For weather like California - about 70-75 daytime, 50's-60's night
*Swimsuit or 2
*Flip flops
*Running shoes & running clothes
*1 pair of fancier shoes/sandals
*Casual clothes - shorts, skirts/sundress, t-shirts
* Sweaters for night
* Good camera
* Lots of books/Kindle
* Sunglasses/sunhat?

Of course, the first words out of my mouth were, "Are the kids coming??!!"  And the glorious answer I heard was "Nope, just us."

Not that I don't love my kids but, well, you know how a family vacation differs from a couples retreat...  I am usually in need of another vacation after returning from a vacation with my toddlers.

All this happened late last week and now we are leaving for our mystery trip in just a few hours.  My parents are watching the kids for the first half of the week and my in-laws are flying in from New York for the second half.  I am all packed and ready to go...with no idea where we will end up!  I haven't been able to get much information out of anyone the past ten days.  Not that I haven't tried, believe me.  All I know is that we are flying and we will be at least one time zone away.  Not really a lot of info to go on, that's for sure.

It has been a long time since my husband and I went on a trip by ourselves, especially a week-long trip.  I am beyond excited and ready to go.  I would be happy going pretty much anywhere with him so there is no possible way that I will be disappointed.

Has anyone every surprised you with a trip?  Any guess as to where we are headed??

I know I mentioned in an earlier post that I was going to talk a little about my running but I need to find a way to zip up my overflowing roller bag...  

- Kristen

Friday, September 28, 2012

Happiness

A friend posted yesterday about things that make her happy.  She was inspired to write the post after reading a list that another friend made.  I can't think of a better thing to "go viral" than a list of what makes people happy!

Without further ado (and without much time left before the kids wake up), I'm going to see how many items I can get on my list before my day begins in earnest.

1.  Last night's sunset at my parent's house while celebrating my brother's big 3-0 birthday
the view while eating outside on a warm summer fall evening
2.  the quiet stillness of the morning after I've finished a run, everyone is still asleep and the possibilities of the day lie ahead just waiting to be discovered
3.  the sticky kisses I get from my little girls after eating syrupy pancakes
4.  coffee
5.  riding in the car with my son while he talks non-stop about school, his friends and his activities
6.  running on the trails of Forest Park
7.  finally relaxing on the couch with my husband after the kids are in bed, watching a show on netflix and just enjoying being together
8.  picnics on the front lawn
9.  watching my son read to his little sisters
10.  listening to Pandora and having spontaneous dance parties in the kitchen...then laughing hysterically as the kids try to imitate all my crazy dance moves
11.  sleeping late (or at least resting in bed) while my husband makes breakfast for the kids on sunday mornings
12.  lazy family bike rides
13.  watching how good my little brother is with his nieces and nephew and knowing how much joy awaits him when his first child (a daughter) is born next week
14.  going on a solo vacation with just my husband (more on that in a later post!) and being amazed at how much we love just being together
15.  Indian summer
16.  sitting on the floor with my dog's head in my lap
17.  knowing that we are stronger than we think we are
18.  taking the family to see my in-laws and extended family every summer and watching all the cousins play together
19.  seeing how happy my parents are after 43 years of marriage
20.  sitting on our porch swing at the end of a long day

Wow.  I made that list in just a few minutes and it brought so many great memories/thoughts to the forefront of my mind!  I could write an endless list of the things that make me happy -- I am thankful for so much in my life.

This may be a rare (never-happened-before kind of rare) day where I post twice.  I am determined to write again today about the Mystery Trip that I am going on tomorrow.  And since this is also supposed to be a blog about running, I may actually share some details on how my training is going.  :)

What makes you happy?    

- Kristen

Monday, September 24, 2012

10 Running-Related Personal Questions

I'm a little late to the party (not the first nor the last time) but am finally answering the 10 Running Related Personal Questions asked by Sarah Bowen Shea and Dimity McDowell.  If you aren't familiar with their books Run Like a Mother and the follow-up Train Like a Mother, you should check them out.  (You probably also need to get out a little more as I don't think I really know any mother runners who haven't read their books!)  SBS and Dimity posted the following questions on their website a couple of weeks ago and here are my responses:

1.  Best run ever:  Hmmmm...that is a hard one.  There are so many amazing runs that come to mind.  If I had to pick a common thread, I would say most of them took place on the same running trail in Forest Park.  I can think of many runs with girlfriends on that trail where the miles just flew by.  But mostly, I think of all the solo miles I have put in on that trail.  It is heavily forested and full of twists and turns.  It is definitely the one place where I feel most connected to my body, mind and spirit.  Although I do go to Mass as often as possible, it is the time spent running on trails where my love for life is renewed, my spirit is refreshed and my soul is rejuvenated.

One of the many trails in Forest Park

2.  Three words that describe my running:  Energizing.  Essential.  Challenging.

3.  My go-to running outfit is:  I'm currently loving my lululemon speed shorts.  I don't have an absolute favorite top but lately I keep reaching for my Athleta Kickit Wick-it Tank.  I recently switched shoes from Asics to Brooks Pure Flows.

4.  Quirky habit while running:  If wearing a Garmin or using a GPS app on my phone, I have to run a specific mileage amount that isn't between two different miles.  It can't be 6.4 miles, for example.  It always has to be at a round mileage amount -- I'll run that extra 0.6 miles to get it to 7.0 miles.

5.  Morning, midday, evening:  If I was answering this two or more months ago, I would say midday.  But I recently made the switch to a morning runner and LOVE having my workouts finished before the kids wake up.

6.  I won't run outside when it's:  Over 85 degrees.  Or maybe even over 80 degrees.  I seem to have a harder time with the heat than most other runners I know.  I think it is partly because I hardly break a sweat when I run -- my poor body keeps all the heat inside on hot days and my face turns beet red.  (Side note:  I ran a half-marathon with SBS a few years back and had commented beforehand that I don't really sweat.  I don't think she believed me until after the race when she was wringing out her shorts and there I was looking like I had spectated the race!)


Mile 18 of the Portland marathon...my hair is a little wet but I'm not sure if that is sweat or rain!

7.  Worst injury -- and how I got over it:  Tendinitis in my left foot.  I'm just now getting over it after taking the entire summer off from running (and basically everything else, too.)  I actually still don't feel 100% but can't pinpoint what is wrong with my foot anymore.  It just feels a little off and sore at times.

8.  I felt like a badass mother runner when:  I threw up at mile 4 of the Newport Marathon last June and went on to finish the race within two minutes of my PR, which was set when I was a much younger gal.  Knowing my family was there cheering me on -- my parents, husband and all three kids -- kept me going and feeling badass.

9.  Next race is:  The Boston Marathon is next up on my calendar but I'm hoping to run some shorter races before then.

10.  Potential running goal for 2013:  To run a sub 3:30 marathon.  I'm not sure Boston is the best course for reaching that goal so I may have to sign up for another (flatter and faster) race within a month or two of running Boston.

- Kristen

Monday, September 17, 2012

Boston or Bust

It is official.  I will soon be a Boston marathon finisher.

Can't wait to cross this line
I received confirmation on Friday that I will be running the Boston marathon on Patriot's Day next spring.  Yes, April 15th is a long ways away but I am already counting the months.  Seven, in case you are interested.  I made (refundable) hotel reservations this morning and booked (refundable) plane tickets using award miles.

Although I am 100% planning on running the race, I also know that life happens.  Injuries happen.  And the last thing I want to do is arrive at that start line at anything but 100% healthy and ready to run.  I did that once and it did not end well.

I was registered to run the 2003 NYC marathon and had been planning the trip for months.  Plane tickets and accommodations were already paid for and plans to meet up with friends had been made.  Unfortunately, a nagging IT band injury sidelined me for an entire month prior to the race.  Ultimately, I decided to travel to NY and start the race, knowing I would not be able to finish.

Anyone who has had to drop out of a race after months of training and anticipation knows the agony of walking off the course.  The disappointment in heading to the finish line to pick up your checked bag and seeing the hundreds (or thousands) of finishers milling around with mylar blankets wrapped around their shoulders and medals hanging around their necks.  It was such a miserable experience for me that I vowed I would never again start a race I knew I couldn't finish.

Pretending to smile while surrounded by finishers...
Okay, enough negative talk.  I really am planning on being at the finish in Boston with a medal around my neck and a smile on my face.

Although I have qualified for it in the past, running the Boston marathon has never been a priority of mine.  I had other events going on in my life that were more important to me at the time.  Planning my wedding.  Taking a trip to Argentina to visit my best friend.  Putting in the requisite hours to be successful at work.  Having (more) babies.

Now that I'm married, my best friend has moved back to the States, my new job is taking care of my kids and my baby-making days are over, it is finally time to see what the hype is all about.  I have heard so much about the screaming Wellesley women, the legendary Heartbreak Hill, the final turn on to Boylston Street before the finish and the storied history of the race that it is time to experience it myself.

Boston or bust.

Have you ever started a race you knew you couldn't finish?  Would you do it again?

Do you have a specific race on a bucket list?  

- Kristen

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering the 2001 MCM


Like other significant events in history, September 11, 2001, is a day that will never be forgotten.

I was not yet born when Hiroshima was bombed or when JFK was assassinated.  The first significant event I remember was when the Challenger blew up.  I was in 7th grade Social Studies class and we were watching the event live on television.

Fast forward 25 years and I was sitting on my couch in Durham, North Carolina, doing some studying before heading to my grad school classes.  I had the Today show on in the background and my 1 year-old son was playing quietly nearby.

I watched with horror as what initially looked like an accident turned out to be a series of incomprehensibly evil acts committed against thousands of innocent victims.  If I close my eyes, I can still picture the scenes of people who would rather jump out of a 100 story window than to stay and suffer any longer.  People with husbands, wives, children, dreams, hopes and plans for the future.  Those scenes are forever etched in my memory.


I remember picking my son up from the floor and holding him closer as my tears fell onto his soft, wispy, baby curls.  I remember a fear building up inside of me as I wondered what kind of a world he was going to grow up in.  What kind of a world had I brought this child into that human beings would bring this kind of destruction upon innocent victims?

The television coverage continued and we saw hundreds upon hundreds of people running from the buildings, covered in dirt, dust, blood and tears.  As the day wore on, however, we also saw images of hundreds upon hundreds of police and firemen running towards the buildings and into harm's way.  My heart broke for the countless thousands of people who lost their lives that day and for their families.  But it also swelled with pride for the unbelievable acts of courage and heroism that were displayed that same day.


As it so happened, I was just six weeks from running the Marine Corps Marathon on that day.  In the weeks that followed, there was a lot of talk about canceling the MCM and possibly the NYC marathon.  Ultimately, it was decided both races would go on, partly as an effort to show that we were stronger than the fear that filled us.

The start of the MCM was crowded with marines who were carrying American flags and planned to do so for the entire 26.2 miles.  Spectators were holding signs in support of the USA.  I could feel the emotion of everyone around me and the tears were flowing freely during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner.  This was going to be an unforgettable day.

The  route actually runs right along the Pentagon for a stretch of the race.  From miles 4-6, we were a mere 50 yards from the point of impact.  There were no spectators allowed on this part of the course and I remember it being eerily quiet.  I looked to my right and there was the Pentagon with a huge hole in it.  No one could take their eyes off of it and all I could hear was the sound of shoes hitting the pavement and the beating of my own heart.

The only thing that broke the silence during those two miles was the non-stop chanting of USA, USA, USA as we would run beneath an overpass.  The cheers echoed and once out of the tunnel, all would go silent again.


None of us who were alive that fateful day in September 2001 will ever forget it.  And those of us who ran the MCM in October 2001 will not forget that experience, either.  It was a day of triumph.  A day of remembrance.  A day of patriotism.  And a day when I hugged my son even tighter at the finish line and knew that life would go on.

But I would never forget.

- Kristen

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

My week in pictures...

Although my son starts 7th grade today, my little girls don't go back to their (very limited) preschool schedule until tomorrow.  As much as I'd really like to put some words on paper today, I just can't do it unless I want to subject myself to to non-stop fighting, screaming and crying while I type.  I decided I'm not up for that much drama this morning so I thought I would just post a few pictures from the past weekend, including our one night trip to the Oregon coast.

My three loves

 

I found a use for all those ripe tomatoes...chickpeas, tomatoes and tofu just before roasting

Funny faces

A rarity -- a picture with me in it!

Love this one

Running on the beach

My boys
Beautiful sunset on the second-to-last night of summer...
The drive home

I'm really looking forward to school starting and getting into a rhythm again.  As much as I love summer, I also enjoy the predictability that begins when school starts.  College football, soccer games, early mornings spent rushing everyone out the door, school functions, cooler days, fall races...and the realization that we are all getting older with each new year.  Okay, so maybe I don't enjoy that last one so much...

I have a lot on my mind that I keep putting on the back burner until school is back in session and I have some time to process it all.  Until then, I'll just continue to carry the weight of the world (or at least my family) on my shoulders!



Did you do anything special/fun for the Labor Day weekend?

Are you looking forward to school starting or will you miss the lazy (ha!) days of summer?

- Kristen