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:

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


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 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