Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Undivided Attention

First, as a follow up to a post from a week ago where I committed to becoming an early morning runner, I'd just like to (proudly) say that I have been rolling out of bed in the pre-dawn hours to get my runs in for the past week.  And I love it!!  Granted, my runs have been very short, slow runs as I'm just getting back to running post-injury.  It may not be as easy to get up when I have an 8-10 mile tempo run and need to be done by the time my husband leaves for work at 5:45am.  But I'm determined to stick with it as it is so worth it to have my workout done before the kids wake up.  There's nothing quite like returning to a quiet house, making a cup of coffee and doing a few stretches while the sun's rays are just beginning to peek through the curtains.  I'm hooked!

Of course, having some new kicks always helps, too!  I was an avid Asics fan for the past several years and just recently made the switch to Brooks.  My latest shoes are the Pure Flows and I am loving them. They are very lightweight shoes with minimal heel to toe drop (4mm) and are oh-so-comfortable!  Some reviewers say the shoes wear out quickly but mine are still fairly new so I can't tell yet how many miles I will get out of them.  I love the color, too!

Okay, now back to the original intent of my post -- Undivided Attention.  With an almost-teenager and two toddlers in the house (plus a husband and chocolate lab), there is always someone in my house who needs me for something.  I am constantly making food for someone, feeding someone else and cleaning up after everyone.  Not to mention doing the laundry, taking the dog out, organizing school/camp activities, hiring babysitters and trying to squeeze in my workouts (thus, the switch to early morning running!)

I often feel like I am never really giving anyone or anything my full attention.  (As I type this, I'm downloading pictures from my camera and doing stretches...)  What a surprise it is that I find my toddlers fighting. All. The. Time.

With this being the last full week of summer and all three kids going back to some sort of school/pre-school next week, I decided to make today just about the kids.  Well, my older son is out playing lacrosse so really it was just me and the girls.  I spent a good part of the morning doing art with them -- tracing their hands and drawing colored fingernails on them.  Then they got dressed in their outfits of choice which, of course, entailed rain boots despite the gorgeous, sunny weather.  Finally, we left the house to go for a "hike".

Our "hike" ended up being downtown on the waterfront instead of my favorite running trails.  They both wanted to see some water and I figured any place outside was fine with me.  I captured some fun pictures with my camera while simply enjoying just being with them.

I am not one who thinks I need to entertain my kids all the time -- I think being able to play with each other or by themselves is important -- but it also made me realize how little time I really devote to just being with them.  Being present.  Really listening to them.  I am filled with wonder, laughter, gratitude and happiness every time I really am present with them.  And, not surprisingly, the fighting stops completely when I'm by their side!  When I stop to think about all of this, I wonder why I can't find the time to do it more often.  In part it is because after a little while, someone is bound to become hungry.  Then the food-making, eating and kitchen clean-up cycle begins again!

But for a little while, when they had my undivided attention, it sure was peaceful and happy in our house and in our hearts.

How do you balance all the daily demands in your life and still spend quality time with your kids?  

- Kristen

Friday, August 24, 2012

Back in the Saddle Again (sort of)

Finally, after almost 12 weeks of no running, I'm just now trying to get back in the (running) saddle again.  I can't say my foot is really better yet but I guess I'm starting to feel like this may be the new normal for me.  I have rested and iced my foot, worn a walking boot, taken massive amounts of ibuprofen and even gotten a cortisone shot (which I since regret) and still it doesn't feel 100%.  The most frustrating part is that I don't feel like I have a very clear diagnosis of what is wrong or much of a path to recovery.

It all started the week before my marathon when I went to buy new running shoes for my race.  Just as I was leaving the store, I happened to mention something about all the toenails that I had lost during my training cycle.  The guy helping me with the shoes suggested I try tying my shoes in a different way that would keep my foot from slipping forward.  He showed me this new method and I could feel it pulling my shoe nice and tight over the top of my foot.  I put about 20 miles on the new shoes over the course of a week before my race and all felt fine.

The morning of the race, I was sure to tie my shoes with this new method and pulled them tight over my foot.  Yes, I should know better than to try anything new on race day/week!!!  Anyway, my foot felt fine during the race and I even felt great the day after the marathon.  In fact, I felt so great that I decided I would sign up for another marathon that was just a month later.  And in order to get started on my training right away, I went out for a 6 mile run just two days after my marathon.

Within 1-2 miles of starting out on my run, the top of my left foot began to hurt.  It was at this time that I did the second really stupid thing in a week -- I forced myself to finish my planned 6 miles.  By the end, my foot really hurt and that was the beginning of the end of my big plans for capitalizing on all my spring training and running a bunch of summer/fall races.

Fast forward 12 weeks.  The top of my foot now feels all tingly whenever I touch it, which I'm guessing is the result of the cortisone shot.  And now when I run, my foot/ankle just doesn't feel right -- it doesn't hurt -- but something about it feels a little off.

However, I have Boston 2013 in my sights and have to start building my base from nothing in order to start really training by December.  So I'm doing my best to build VERY slowly and get back running again.  I have run a total of 4 miles this week.  Two 1/2 mile runs and three 1 mile runs.  Yep, I get all dressed to go and run 1 mile!!  With so many friends running Hood to Coast this weekend, it is tough to be sidelined and not out there in a hot, sweaty van with 5 other girls.  But at least I'm putting one foot in front of the other and trying to get back in running shape.

Sadly, I'm sure I'm not alone in having to take a lot of time off and recover from an injury.

What is the worst running-related injury you have sustained and how much time did you take off from running?

Have you had any good/bad experiences with cortisone?  I, for one, wouldn't do it again and wish I had done some research before getting the shot...!

- Kristen

Monday, August 20, 2012

Dog Days of Summer

All over Facebook, my friends across the country have started posting their back-to-school pics.  You know the ones -- the pics of their cute kids standing at the front door of the house, fully-loaded backpacks on their backs and big smiles on their faces.  Although we still have two weeks of summer left here in Portland, all the back-to-school pics have made me realize school is just around the corner for us, too.

The end of summer is always such a bittersweet time.  In some ways, I look forward to school starting again.  Everyone will be back on their usual and predictable schedule.  I'll run into all the moms and dads at school functions that I haven't seen in almost three months.  My son (12) begins his fall soccer season.  My older daughter (3.5) starts her first ballet and soccer classes.  My younger daughter (2) will continue to learn and grow at her Montessori preschool.  The trees turn gorgeous shades of red and yellow that light up the streets at twilight, making perfect vistas for an early evening run.  And my husband will begin his annual love/hate relationship with Notre Dame football.

But it is also a time of reflection.  Did we have enough lazy mornings eating pancakes in our pajamas?  Did we do any spontaneous activities like driving to the beach for an afternoon or having a picnic in the park?  Did we go to the pool enough times?  How many family vacations did we take?  Did we enjoy every moment of sunshine that we possibly could?  (Here in Oregon, we pretty much HAVE to enjoy all of our sunshine because we won't see it again until next summer...I feel guilty if I do anything indoors when the sun is shining!)  But the biggest point of reflection for me usually has to do with my relationship with my kids.  Did I give enough of myself to them over the summer?

This summer was a challenging one for me because of the injury to my foot (extensor tendinitis).  It has kept me off the running trails the entire summer.  It has also kept me from doing just about any activity on my feet.  For someone that thrives on the endorphins released during/after a hard run and looks forward with anticipation to long trail runs, it has been mentally (and physically) very tough.  At the same time, it has made me realize how much time my running usually takes up each day.  I never have been an early morning runner.  My runs generally take place on Mondays through Thursdays between 8:30-11:30am.  (Plus a run on the weekends when my husband watches the kids.)  Not coincidentally, those are the hours my youngest kids are in preschool.  What it also means, however, is that all of my "free" time is spent running.

A new school year signifies a new beginning, similar to a new calendar year.  So I am making a new (school) year resolution!  I resolve to become an early morning runner.  There.  I said it.  I have so many excuses for not running early in the morning.  1) It means getting 1-2 less hours of sleep in the morning.  2) I really have a hard time pushing myself to do a "hard" workout right when I wake up.  3) I am worried about running in the dark.

However, despite my excuses, I can picture myself finished with a run by 5:45am (the time my husband leaves for work) and still having an hour to myself before the kids wake up.  I'll get to shower, drink coffee and maybe even read an email or two.  All before 7am!  And it will mean I still have time to do a few things for the family when everyone else is at school.  Grocery shop, begin preparing dinner and do all the things required to run a family.

I can't wait!  Huge thanks to Dorothy at Mile Posts for being my inspiration today.  :)

What about you?  Do you run in the morning?  If so, how long did it take to make it a habit?

- Kristen

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

It's Not Easy Being Green

I wanted to use that title in honor of Kermit the Frog.  But in reality, I have found it so easy to be green!  And I'm not talking about the reduce, reuse and recycle-type green, although I do believe that is also very easy to do.  This time I'm talking about green smoothies!

I bought a Vitamix at Costco a couple of weeks ago and I have been obsessed with using it ever since.  I thought I would make maybe one smoothie a day at most.  Nope.  I have been making at least three smoothies every day and if it weren't for my husband and kids wanting to eat "real food" every once in a while, I probably would be making smoothies for dinner, too!

We get a big bin delivered every Thursday filled with fresh, organic vegetables from a farm in Salem.  When it first started arriving about six weeks ago, we never seemed to eat all the veggies in the bin.  Every week I would end up composting wilted red leaf lettuce, radishes and kale to make room for the new delivery.  It wasn't that we weren't eating the vegetables but that we couldn't possibly eat them all.  Enter the Vitamix.  I will put almost anything that arrives in the bin into a smoothie.  Last week I put something called a kohlrabi in my smoothie.  No idea what a kohlrabi is but it arrived in the bin so I promptly chopped it up and threw it in the Vitamix!  Now I find myself having to buy extra vegetables every week because our weekly delivery isn't nearly enough.  And I couldn't be happier about it.  :)

The best part of my new favorite food/drink is that all the kids love the smoothies, too.  I can make a smoothie with celery, kale, cabbage and spinach along with a banana and a few frozen strawberries then sit back and watch as my toddlers guzzle it down!  I have been amazed at the things they love to drink in smoothies.

I realize I may be late to the smoothie/juicing craze but I am so glad I finally joined the party.  Here's a before pic of my banana, peach, celery and kale breakfast smoothie that I shared with the kids:

And here is the after pic:

If nothing else, this smoothie obsession has been a fun distraction from the fact that I still can't run.  And I can probably credit my smoothies with keeping me in my current size clothes while I sit around and do nothing all day.  Ha!

What about you?  Are you a green smoothie drinker?  Or a juicer?  What is your favorite recipe?  

- Kristen

Monday, August 6, 2012

You Gotta Start Somewhere

I am new to this whole blogging thing.  It wasn't until a few months ago that I even started subscribing to and reading blogs.  But the more blogs I found, the more I knew I wanted to start my own!  There is something about reading what other (mostly women runners) write on their blogs that made me realize what a great outlet a blog can be for getting out emotions, connecting with others and putting goals on "paper".  I have loved hearing other people's stories about picking a challenging goal and then putting in the hard miles and training runs to realize their goals.  I have also loved reading about their personal lives -- fun family vacations, frustrating mornings with toddlers, the balance of work/family/exercise, exciting milestones in their or their children's lives and the little things that make up all our days.

So this is my starting point -- everyone has to start somewhere, right?!

I can't predict exactly where this blog will go from here but I hope to share many of the same things that others have shared in discussing my life, family, running, goals and dreams.

One of my first goals is to simply get back to running.  I ran the Newport Marathon (in Newport, Oregon) on June 2nd of this year and have been injured ever since that day.  I have what is called extensor tendinitis in my left foot.  After putting in so many miles and never really having any injuries, this is new territory for me.  The most frustrating part of it all is that the tendinitis was supposedly caused by my *stupidly* tying my shoelaces differently for the marathon.  I should know better than to try something new right before a big race!  It pulled the laces tight across the top of my foot and caused the tendinitis that I just can't seem to get rid of, even after two months of almost NO running, a cortisone shot on the top of my foot and daily icing.  I'm really trying hard to nip this in the bud as I have to start running again in another month or so to begin training for my next marathon...

Speaking of my next marathon, I am planning to run Boston in April 2013 and will be so disappointed if this injury keeps me from realizing that dream.  I have qualified for Boston several times in the past and have never actually run it.  But I have a big birthday coming up in a couple of months (yikes!) and want to run Boston as part of my celebration of turning 40.  But even more important than running Boston, this injury has made me realize just how much running means to me.  There are so many things that I love about running that it will have to be saved for another (or many more) posts.  Let's just say I hope to be running for the rest of my life so right now I'm just trying to balance my near-term goal of Boston with my long-term goal of a life spent running.  In order to do this, I'm really taking it easy but it is hard to do...especially since I live in Portland, Oregon.  Here in Portland, we run in the rain, sleet, mist, fog and generally gray days for nine months of the year and, as a reward, are able to run in the gorgeous Portland summer.  It is so hard to wake up every day to beautiful weather and not be able to run on my favorite trails or my well-worn neighborhood routes!

Because I have never suffered from any injury, I have always taken my health and my running for granted.  Warm-up and cool-downs -- what's that?  Cross-training -- who has the time?  Stretching -- ha!  I would like to say that I will become more respectful of my body and my limitations once my foot is completely healed.  And that I will never take running for granted again.  At the same time, I feel like the clock is ticking and that any future PR's will start to slip away after I turn 40.  I have never really challenged myself to see what I am capable of doing and hate to think my best days might be behind me.  Has anyone set PR's past 40??  I hope so!

Okay, I think that's it for today.  As I'm typing, I'm simultaneously watching the USA women's soccer team in a semi-final match against Canada.  After two extra periods, it is about to go to penalty kicks to resolve the tie.  So I'm getting distracted!  Thanks to anyone who is reading this -- not that I think anyone is out there yet.  :)

USA just scored with 30 seconds to go in the final period!!!  Wahoo!

- Kristen