Thursday, April 16, 2020

The New Normal

The day started like a typical Sunday. I was out running on the streets in my neighborhood before breakfast and the streets were quiet in the way they tend to be on a lazy weekend morning. Not a single car passed me as I casually ran down the middle of the road. Spring was all around me in the form of brightly-colored tulips swaying in the breeze and soft petals of cherry blossoms twirling to the ground like snowflakes. I basked in the chilly morning sunshine of a day destined to be in the 70’s and thought about what we might grill for dinner.

Except it wasn’t a Sunday. It was a Tuesday. Or was it a Wednesday? I can no longer tell the days apart as they all seem to be slightly different versions of the same day lived repeatedly. The streets were only empty because everyone was safely ensconced inside their homes, hiding from an invisible virus that is preying upon us all.

As I continued on my run, more and more people came outside for a breath of fresh air. Some were also on a run, others were out walking their dogs and many were in family groups slowly ambling around the block. My run quickly transformed into a type of video game where the goal is to keep at least six feet of space between myself and everyone else. This often meant jumping onto a sidewalk to avoid a family on bikes or quickly darting around a parked car to give an elderly couple additional space. A game of chicken was played whenever I found myself heading straight for another runner and one of us inevitably had to move aside to avoid violating social distancing rules.

This is the new normal.

I returned from my run to what would normally be a quiet house but instead was bustling with activity. My young girls were both busy with their online schooling. Between the two of them, they somehow need a Chromebook, an iPad and two tablets just to get through the day. One was on Zoom with her class (an app I had never heard of until last month and now is my main means of socializing) and the other was FaceTiming with a friend while also working on her math homework. My husband was in the kitchen pouring himself a second cup of coffee before returning to his new office, which could also be described as a card table in the basement. My son, who should have been in his dorm room all the way across the country, was sound asleep upstairs in the tiny room that became his a few months ago when we thought he would never be living at home for an extended time again. The only thing that wasn’t out of the ordinary was my sweet old chocolate lab, Ivy, who was snoring loudly in the living room. Unbeknownst to me at the time, we would have to put her down within a week and the last sense of normalcy in my life would be gone.

I wonder if my son will return to school in the fall. I wonder if he will get the chance to study abroad like he had planned. I wonder when the girls will start playing soccer again. I wonder when they will be able to play with their friends. I wonder when my husband will go back to his real office. I wonder if the grocery store will still be out of toilet paper and flour. I wonder when I will get to hug my parents. I wonder if any of us will get sick. So many unanswered questions.

So far, we are among the lucky ones as we live in a place where the governor took quick and decisive action in shutting down businesses, closing schools and enacting a shelter-in-place order earlier than other states. However, even with our relatively lower risk of coming down with dreaded COVID-19, going to the grocery store still feels a little like going into battle. We are all prepared with our face masks, gloves and Clorox wipes for the carts. We dodge and weave through the aisles as we try to avoid one another and patiently stand six feet apart in the crazy, long checkout lines that are the result of the stores closing every other register in hopes of further spacing people out from one another. When we arrive back home, after we diligently scrub our hands and sing the happy birthday song twice, we set about disinfecting the food appropriately or quarantining the non-perishables for a week in a little-used corner of the house. Social distancing, flattening the curve, N-95 masks, novel Coronavirus...these are all terms most of us had never heard of a couple months ago but are now a part of our regular lexicon.

Someday this will all be behind us but, for now, all we can do is take each day as it comes and do our best to adapt to this new normal while we wait for something resembling our old lives to return. In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy the empty streets and the quieter sounds of my neighborhood as I reacquaint myself with my love of running.

- Kristen

Friday, May 2, 2014

Boston 2014: Making new memories

As I waited to board my flight from Portland to Boston on Saturday morning, two days before race day, I questioned whether I should just be staying home instead. The waiting area was filled with runners, many of whom were with their spouses or significant others as well as groups of runners who were traveling together. There was so much excitement and anticipation in the air and I felt a little like an outsider since I was traveling alone. The next day was Easter and my family had big plans for the day -- an egg hunt and Easter Mass followed by a big brunch with my parents and my brother's family. I briefly wondered why I was flying 3,000 miles across country to run 26.2 miles and then fly back home. I wondered it if would all be worth it. Turns out, it was.

A thousand times over, it was worth it.


Even the flight to Boston for the marathon is awesome, whether traveling alone or not. I don't just love running -- I love everything related to running. Most people don't understand or share my obsession so I don't talk about it too much. But put me on a plane of runners headed for the Boston Marathon and it's like I was suddenly with my people. I immediately hit it off with the girl sitting next to me and we traded stories of past races, our qualifying marathons, favorite marathons, bucket-list races, pacing strategies, fueling options, goals for Boston, training, injuries, running clothes and favorite running books. We exchanged phone numbers and bib numbers so we could track one another after the race. Even the flight attendant was joining in on our conversations as she filled and re-filled cups of water for all the runners who were focused on hydrating during the long flight. By the time we landed, I knew it was going to be a great weekend.

As we were about to get off the plane, my new BFF and I wished one another good luck and then both looked with confused expressions towards the front of the plane. We heard a familiar noise but it was one neither of us had heard on an airplane before. It was a cowbell. The flight attendant was standing at the front of the plane wearing her Boston Marathon jacket from a previous year, ringing a cowbell loudly and cheering for the runners.

more cowbell!!!

After getting off the plane, I realized the last time I had been in the Boston airport was in the pre-dawn hours on April 16, 2013. The place had been crawling with federal agents and bomb-sniffing dogs and I had been overwhelmed with tremendous sadness. The feelings came back to me momentarily and then they passed and I felt okay again. It was at that point that I realized the weekend would be filled with many such moments where I relived feelings from last year and then moved past them and could begin to associate new (happier) feelings with each new place or event. Each time that happened, a little bit of fear was replaced with a little bit of peace.


My dear friend, Sarah, picked me up from the airport and we headed back to her house. The last time I had been in her house was in the hours immediately after the bombings when my husband and I evacuated our hotel and were dropped at Sarah's house... Those feelings of fear returned as I entered her house but, again, dissipated quickly. We had a delicious pasta dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant and went to bed early. The next day, Easter, was spent at her uncle's farmhouse with her family about 15 miles outside of the city. The drive to her uncle's house seemed somewhat long and then it hit me how far I would be running the next day!

just hanging out with horses on Easter Sunday...

The evening was spent relaxing at Sarah's and watching all the inspiring stories on TV of people who were injured in last year's marathon and the heroes that courageously risked their lives to help them. I went to bed with a heart full of excitement but also a little fear for what the next day might bring.

laying out the race day outfit the night before...would not be needing those arm warmers, though!


I woke up well before my alarm went off on Marathon Monday and couldn't believe the day had finally arrived. Months of anticipation, hundreds of training miles and countless hours spent cross training and strength training was all done in preparation for this one day. Although I wasn't looking to set any records in this race, it still was important to be well-trained or it would be impossible to truly "enjoy" every minute of it. As I stated last month, my goals for this race were not time-related. I knew I wasn't going to run a PR and with all the significance of this race, I simply wanted to soak up everything I could from the experience.

However, let's be honest. I am a competitive person. I would be lying if I said I didn't care at all about my time. And no matter what your goal, you need to at least have a plan for how you would like to run a race, especially one as long as 26.2 miles. My coach last year told me that qualifying for Boston at Boston is something to be proud of. So at the very least, I was planning to run sub-3:45. But mostly, my race strategy was to finish feeling strong and happy.

I met up with a college friend of mine, Sara, for the bus ride to the start. We had ridden the bus together last year, too, so it was fun to do it again. The bus ride passed quickly and next thing we knew, we were at Athlete's Village and waiting in a crazy long line for the porta-potties.

all smiles for the bus ride to Hopkinton

By the time we were finished with the porta-potties, we only had about ten minutes of standing around before my wave was called to start walking towards the corrals. Sara and I hugged goodbye, took a quick picture and I headed out of Athlete's Village.

ready to run

walking to the start -- can't stop smiling :)

The crowds are so amazing at Boston that they begin before you even cross the start line. There were hundreds of people standing along the barricades cheering and handing out last-minute supplies to runners as we walked towards the start.

a little runner humor as we walked to the start line

I had barely entered my starting corral when the runners began to slowly surge forward -- the race was underway! We walked towards the starting line and suddenly, mere yards before crossing the start line, something unexpected happened. With thousands of spectators screaming loudly and the starting line banner looming overhead, I found myself with tears streaming down my face. They were tears of pure emotion -- tears of joy and happiness were washing away all the fear and sadness. What a way to start off my marathon journey!

Miles 1-5:

In order to accomplish my goal of finishing strong, my plan was to "hold back, hold back and hold back some more" in those early, downhill miles. Only by saving my quads from the thrashing of the downhills would I have them in decent shape for the last 6 miles of the race when I really needed them. So as hard as it was, I really forced myself to slow down in those early miles.

I was already feeling very warm at this point in the race. The temperature was in the high 50's at the start and quickly moved into the 60's with full sun on us the entire time. I made sure to stop at every fluid station and alternated Gatorade and water. I also walked through each station for a good 10-15 seconds to give my legs a little break.

Miles 6-10:

The miles continued to just tick off as I continued with a fairly easy pace. Last year was my first Boston Marathon and I thought the crowds were incredible. This year, they were ten times as loud. It was insane. The entire course was packed with people screaming, waving signs, yelling encouragement, thanking us for running and handing out everything from orange slices to ice pops. There were literally thousands of kids along the course with their hands stretched out before them, just waiting for a high five from a runner.

I found myself running almost entirely along the edge of the course where I could be closer to the crowds. I was giving high-fives to hundreds of kids and yelling my thanks right back at the spectators and volunteers. The energy they injected into my race was immeasurable.

Miles 11-15:

The miles continued to pass by almost too quickly -- I was enjoying the race so much that I didn't want it to end. I glanced at my watch to see I had crossed the half-marathon mark in 1:48:xx. Other than being hot and already covered in a crusty layer of dried salt from my sweat, I was feeling great. Just past the mile 15 mark, I saw my running coach, Rick. I waved frantically as I approached him and then surprised many people around us (but not him) as I jumped high into the air and he caught me in a giant hug. He told me I looked fantastic and I told him I felt fantastic. Then I was on my way again -- my smile even bigger than before.

I think this was near the half-marathon mark

Miles 16-20:

The energy from seeing Rick led to an accidental sub-8:00 pace for mile 16 so I again reined in the pace to save some energy for the Newton Hills. The hills start at mile 17 and continue with the culmination of Heartbreak Hill just past mile 20. My splits look a little erratic in here but with my walk breaks through aid stations and constant high-fiving of kids, it is hard to know for sure. I still felt great and loved the challenge of the hills.

somewhere in the last few miles...

Miles 21-26.2:
7:52 (pace for last 0.41 Garmin measured longer than 26.2)

Heartbreak Hill begins around mile 20.5 and as soon as I crested that hill, I no longer needed to hold back pace. I didn't purposefully try to speed up but just let my legs do whatever they felt like doing, which was a couple faster miles.

this was just past the 1K to go sign

Every time I thought the crowds couldn't get any louder, any crazier, any more packed with people, I would hit a new section and would be blown away by the spectators. Not only was I still high-fiving kids along the edge of the road but I would wave my arms up and down to get the crowds to yell louder. Somewhere around mile 24/25, I ran past a fire station that was blasting the Bee Gees song Stayin' Alive. I stopped running and began doing some boogie moves that I'm sure would make my teenage son cringe. But I simply could not get enough of the race, the day, the people of Boston and this amazing race!

As I turned right on Hereford Street and then made the infamous turn left onto Boylston Street, my emotions got the better of me. I held things in as best I could until I crossed that finish line and then the tears began again. This time, they were tears of such relief and happiness that I just let myself cry for a few minutes and enjoy the weight of that beautiful finisher's medal around my neck.


lovely crying face ;)

I crossed the finish line in 3:36:31. When I looked at my time, I realized my first half and second half splits were exactly the same (1:48:xx). But because the second half of the course is so much harder than the first, I really ran a much stronger second half of the race. That led to me finishing strong and happy, exactly as I had hoped to do.

I had been planning to watch some friends finish the race from Boylston Street but the crowds were so packed that I couldn't possibly find a place to squeeze in near the finish. So I opted to walk to Boston Common and pick up my gear bag instead. The day was so beautiful and the Boston Common was filled with runners resting on the grass and families reuniting. All around me, I saw hugs, smiles and happiness

Eventually, I wandered over to the W Hotel where I was hoping to meet up with my friend, Petra, who I had only met online. She lives in the UK so this would be a rare chance for us to see one another. As I walked into the hotel bar, I was given a laurel wreath to celebrate my accomplishment. Petra and I found one another easily and finally got to squeeze one another in person. We quickly ordered up a pint of Samuel Adams 26.2 Brew and toasted to an incredibly special day.

continuing the celebration that evening

On any given year, the Boston Marathon is the best of the best. But the 2014 Boston Marathon took it to a whole new level. It is one that, for me, will never be topped. I am proud and honored that I was able to be a part of something so special. And although my time qualified me to again run Boston next year, I am almost positive that I will not be running Boston again. It was just too perfect and I want to leave it at that.

heading home with a heart full of memories

Early the next morning, I was already on my way back home to a busy week with my family. But I will carry a piece of that day with me forever in my heart, just as I will always carry a piece of Boston 2013 with me. 

- Kristen

Monday, March 17, 2014

Boston Training and Goals

The longer that I go without writing, the more I have to write about. And the more I have to write about, the harder it is to begin... May as well go back 11 months, right?

Last April 15th, in the hours just after the Boston Marathon, I remember turning to my husband and saying through tears that it was "my first and last Boston Marathon -- I will never run it again." Of course, anyone who is even remotely tied into the running community knows how much we all want to be there this year. Runners all over the country signed up for marathons, ran countless training miles and pushed themselves to the limits of their abilities in order to qualify for this year's Boston Marathon.

Here's a little data to illustrate my point. This shows the Google search history for the phrase "qualify for Boston Marathon" from 2008 through the week after the bombings.


We runners want... be a part of something historic honor those killed and injured in last year's bombings recognize the heroes that ran towards danger in order to help save lives be together with our running family help the people of Boston come one step closer to healing from this tragedy
...and to show the world that our spirit cannot be broken.

Because of all these reasons, last September 11th, I registered for the Boston Marathon. At the time, I hadn't run in over two months due to a chronic knee injury that began to plague me over the summer. I had no idea if I would even be running this spring but I hoped and dreamed and prayed I could somehow make it to Hopkinton on April 21st.

Over the past few months, my knee has slowly improved to the point that in mid-February with just 9 weeks left to train, I bought plane tickets to Boston. My training has been much different this cycle than last year. I can only run 3 days a week if I want to keep my knee pain in check so I am also supplementing with 2 days a week of deep water running. I am walking that very fine line between being trained and being injured -- trying to figure out just how much my knee can take without setting me back. I am so lucky to live just five minutes from incredible trails where my mind wanders as my feet just follow along the mud-packed trails.

Yesterday was a good test for my current fitness. I ran the 15K Shamrock Run in Portland. It is a very tough course with a long uphill climb followed by some fast miles to the finish. I have been running mostly flat routes for months in order to minimize the stress on my knees so this hill was HARD!


I finished in 1:10:52, which was a little over two minutes slower than my time last year. Truth be told, I was initially a little disappointed in my time. No one likes to feel as if they are getting slower. But then I remembered how lucky I am to be running at all and how much different my training has been this time around and I quickly changed my perspective.

I have to learn to appreciate every race for what it is...not for what it isn't. So I celebrated with a green smoothie! (Yes, I'm so wild and crazy.)


Last year, I was very focused on my time goal in Boston. This year, I will be focused on everything but time. I want to high-five all the kids standing along the sidelines. I want to scream with the girls at Wellesley. I want to give encouragement to the other runners. I want to thank all the volunteers for their support. I want to cheer for Dick and Rick Hoyt as they complete their last Boston. I want to take pictures along the course. I want to show my gratitude at being lucky enough to be a part of the race. I want my face to hurt from smiling so much. Basically, I want to savor each and every moment of the 26.2 miles.

And after the race, I want to celebrate! (Preferably, with something stronger than a smoothie!)

Who else is running a spring marathon? Boston? And have you ever ran a marathon just to enjoy it and not with a specific time goal?

- Kristen

Thursday, February 6, 2014

My Favorite Mile

I turned and headed for the door as she lightly took hold of my elbow. Walking through the narrow hallway, I was careful to leave plenty of room at my side so that she wouldn’t accidentally rub up against the wall. Shortly thereafter, we hit a new challenge – the stairs. I hesitated, stated loudly that we were at the top of the stairs, and nervously began the descent to street level.

Once outside, I was confronted with a whole new sea of challenges that included uneven ground, train tracks in the middle of the downtown streets, curbs, car traffic, people walking towards us while distracted on their cell phones and an increased level of panic took ahold of me. Within minutes, I realized I had gotten us lost on our short half-mile walk to the track and had to stop at a corner while I consulted my phone.

What had I gotten myself into?


It all started 16 months ago when my brother and sister-in-law welcomed a beautiful baby girl into their lives. Ten fingers, ten toes, chubby little cheeks, peaches-and-cream complexion, rosy red lips and the most beautiful blue eyes you could ever imagine. She was perfect in every way. Except one.

could she be any cuter?!

Doctors had noticed something unusual on an early ultrasound and a few months after her birth, an MRI confirmed that something was wrong with her optic nerves. Almost a year ago exactly, they delivered the news that sweet baby K was blind. Although I wasn't surprised, hearing it was still devastating and I mourned for all that she would never get to do or experience.

Despite the fact that I have never been friends with, worked with or otherwise interacted with someone who was visually impaired (VI), I certainly had a lot of assumptions about the life they would lead.


Fast forward to this past November. I was sitting at my desk one morning reading a story about a woman who served as a guide runner during the NYC marathon for a visually impaired woman. The guide talked about how it was the most incredible and rewarding experience and she couldn't wait to do it again one day. After reading this story, I immediately knew it was something I wanted to do.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any organizations in Portland that matched up VI runners with guides for races or even just training runs. I posted questions on all forms of social media, contacted national organizations to inquire about local chapters and reached out to everyone I could think of in order to get started.

Eventually, I found someone who was part of a Facebook group dedicated to VI runners and their guides who was more than willing to assist me. Through him, I was put in contact with a woman in Portland, Jen, who is completely blind. She and I began emailing back and forth and, ultimately, she agreed to be my guinea pig and teach me how to be a running guide.

That explains how I found myself last week, lost on a street corner in downtown Portland, trying to find my way to a nearby track.

Last week, I ran 47 miles. Some were hard, some were easy, some were on a treadmill and some were on a trail. As every runner knows, all miles are not created equal. And of the 47 miles I ran last week, one of them stood out far and above the rest as one of my 

It was the one easy mile that Jen and I ran together on the track.

This woman is truly unbelievable. The day before we ran together, I emailed her to confirm we were still on for our run. She responded that despite a possible concussion she endured while competing in a goalball tournament in Finland from the previous week as well as some leftover soreness from a skiing accident she suffered a few days earlier, she still wanted to run. [Jen is on the US National Goalball team that competes in the Paralympic Games.]

When we were walking towards the track, she mentioned she hasn’t been running much since finishing Hood to Coast, mainly because in the winter she focuses on biathlons. You know, biathlons, where people ski and then shoot rifles?! Yeah, she does that, too. And if that all weren’t enough, she and her legally blind partner have a 2 year-old son.

Clearly, there isn't anything she can’t do.

Jen and I are planning to run again next week and I hope to find other VI runners who are looking for training partners as well.  Eventually, I’d like to talk someone into running a 5k or 10k race with me as their guide. And if all goes well, I would love to start a network of local VI runners and sighted runners who are willing to be their guides for occasional training runs and/or races.

But first, I have to overcome my fear of running with Jen on sidewalks, city streets and through the everyday obstacles that most of us don’t even notice. Last week, I was only comfortable with running on the track. This week, we’re going to try a path along the downtown waterfront. I can tell you one thing for sure – Jen won’t be the nervous one.


Meanwhile, my little niece is continuing to defy all the doctors’ dire predictions and is progressing just like any other toddler. She has shocked everyone (except her parents, who knew all along that she had vision) and proven that she isn’t blind. We won’t know the extent of her vision impairment until she is older but I now know, regardless of her diagnosis, there isn't anything she can’t do, either.


Lastly, all this talk about someone as courageous as Jen reminds me of another Jen who lived her life without fear. This month, in a few select cities throughout the country, Cycle for Survival is taking place. I can guarantee it is the most fun you will ever have at a fundraiser and I encourage you to see if there is one taking place at a city near you. I talked about Jen in a post last year and her belief that anything is possible if you live a life without fear.

Have you ever been a running guide to a VI runner? Do you think you would be interested in doing it one day? 

- Kristen

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

20 things I learned while on vacation

Hello and happy new year! Once again, it has been an eternity since I have blogged. I have a feeling that is going to change now that I am running again, the holidays are behind us and the kids are back in school.

The holidays are such a busy time of year for us, as they are for everyone. In the midst of all the usual Christmas decorating, baking, present shopping, menu planning and endless trips to the grocery store, we also have a birthday to celebrate. Mia was born two weeks early, on December 23rd, and her birthday only adds to the craziness of the holidays. 

Here I am the day before Mia was born...out for a walk in the snow with no idea a baby would be in my arms less than 24 hours later.
Back home on Christmas Eve with a 1 day-old baby

This year was no exception as we were hosting a Christmas dinner at our house, had family staying overnight with us and a Christmas brunch planned for the morning. It was a fun chaos, however, and nothing beats watching kids open presents while relaxing and drinking hot coffee in pajamas in front of a warm fire. Ahhhh...if only the whole day had been so relaxing! 

We actually left our house on Christmas Day for a week of skiing in Utah with my in-laws, including my sister-in-law and her family. There were eleven of us in a condo for a week and we had a great trip. As I was reflecting on the 12 hour drive back home (yes, you read that right, 12 hours!), I realized I had learned quite a bit in the past week.

1. I learned taking down the tree and having it on the curb by noon on Christmas Day so you can hit the road by 3pm feels very Scrooge-ish.

2. I learned restaurants are closed on Christmas Day (duh!) so be prepared to eat your Christmas dinner at the only thing that is open, even if that means a McDonald's at a truck stop. And if you are a vegetarian like I am, "dinner" at McDonald's may mean oatmeal.

3. I learned we are creatures of habit. On our way home, we stopped at the same truck stop McDonald's on New Year's Day, where I once again ordered an oatmeal for dinner. Apparently, we spend all our major holidays at McDonald's. You don't need to tell me how disgusting this is. I already know.

Christmas Day and New Year's Day at McDonald's.

4. I learned 12 hours in the car with a 3 year-old feels like a month.

the minivan

5. I learned you are guaranteed to have at least one child who has a bathroom emergency that requires you to race off the freeway to the nearest gas station only to hear the words "I don't really have to go" once you get there.

6. I learned you don't always have to look hard to find the motivation you need to start marathon training.

view from our hotel room in the middle of Idaho

6. I learned running shape does not equal ski shape.

7. I learned (as I do every year) how much I love, love, love to ski. Despite the fact that I have Reynaud's syndrome and my toes are usually painfully numb, I still just love the feeling of freedom that comes when I am flying down the mountain.

8. I learned how much I love skiing with my teenage son, especially the rides up the chair lift with him and my husband when we all laugh, tell jokes and tease one another.

another beautiful day on the mountain

9. I realized how much I can't wait until my daughters can ski all over the mountain, too. They did awesome.

10. I learned my husband is a great vacation planner. He literally did everything for this trip, from finding the condo we rented to making dinner reservations at night. 

11. I learned having a built-in entertainment system in the car (DVD player) with headphones for the kids is invaluable.

12. I realized how fortunate I am to have in-laws who I love so much.

13. I learned how exhilarating (and how hard) it is to run in single-digit temps on a snow-packed trail at 7,000 feet elevation.

trail leading into downtown Park City

14. I learned (again) how beautiful, big and wide-open Oregon, Idaho and Utah are as we drove through them.
somewhere near the Idaho/Utah border

15. I learned the speed limit in Utah is 80mph.

16. I realized how much I wish my sister-in-law and her family lived closer to us.

riding the cabriolet up to the mountain

17. I learned (again) that I may have a little bit of crazy in me as I like nothing better than waking up and attacking the day. Thankfully, this trait is shared by my husband. 

18. I learned where my husband got his competitive streak as I witnessed one of his parents (who will not be named but let's just say it wasn't his mom) cheating in a board game by writing down a word well after the buzzer sounded. This is when he was playing against his own grandchildren in a friendly game of Scattegories.

19. I learned what an investment my parents made in me by teaching me to ski at such an early age. It is physically back-breaking work to stand over your 3 year-old and help them down the mountain but it is so worth it for them to learn as a child.

20. And, finally, I learned all beers are not created equal. This one was consumed in front of the fire pit on the base of the mountain on New Year's Eve after a hard day of skiing. It was my last beer of 2013 and was the perfect end to a great year.

Deschutes River Ale

Did you go anywhere over the holidays? Do you ski or have another sport that you love? 

- Kristen

Thursday, December 5, 2013

On Friendship

We'll be friends forever.

That same phrase was written over and over in my junior high school yearbook. I still have that yearbook stashed away in a box in the basement, much to my husband's dismay. He would like to be able to walk through our storage room without tripping over boxes that lie untouched for years at a time. But while I am not generally a pack rat, there are some things that hold so many memories and tie me so strongly to the past that I simply cannot part with them. And my yearbooks are one of the things where those memories are so easily brought to life.

Many of those friends who wrote the words above are no longer in my life. They may be someone I would enjoy running into on the street some random day but it turned out that we weren't actually meant to be friends forever. (Shocking, I know.) Our lives have moved on and taken divergent paths that are likely never to cross again.

However, I still consider myself blessed in the friendship department. No, my inbox is not overflowing with invitations to go out on the weekend and my phone isn't ringing off the hook with a girlfriend just wanting to chat. In fact, my husband and I often joke that we don't have any friends because of how frequently an empty weekend on the calendar stares back at us. But I feel lucky to have a handful of friends who I could call at a moment's notice and know they would drop everything if I needed them. And most of those are friends I have had since I was a child.

There is something about a friendship where your roots are co-mingled with one another's. Where your foundation shares the same soil. Where you remember one another in that awkward phase of life. Where you grew up knowing each other's family and siblings. Where you remember their first crush, their first broken heart, the first car accident one of you had after receiving a newly minted license...and many more "firsts". We knew one another when we all had flawless skin, taut bellies and no sign of gray hairs.

My group of childhood friends and I have been there for one another through so much of life.
High school (some as far back as preschool),
grad school,
good times,
bad times,

and general confusion about where we belong in life.

We've been through that period where, after trying so hard to perfect our lives, we realize we are really all building our lives on quicksand and it could all shift or fall apart in an instant through unexpected events. This realization has led us to cling a little harder to the things we know. And part of what we know is one another. It wasn't until the last of us had our last child (which was me at age 37) that we all seemed to return to our roots and come together as a group. It coincided with our 20th high school reunion and the retrospective nature of that event likely spurred us on.

I read a book recently by Anna Quindlen called Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake. I could relate to many parts of the book but loved this one quote in particular:

"The thing about old friends is not that they love you but that they know you. They remember that disastrous New Year's Eve when you mixed White Russians and champagne, and how you wore that red maternity dress until everyone was sick of seeing the blaze of it in the office, and the uncomfortable couch in your first apartment, and the smoky stove in your beach rental. They look at you and don't really think you look older, because they've grown old along with you, and, like the faded paint in a beloved room, they're used to the look."

Of course, this says nothing about all the other meaningful friendships we have made over the years -- college friends who have known us over half our lives or neighborhood friends or friends we met through a shared passion. I have some incredibly close friends from various stages in my past who I am blessed to have in my life. In fact, I am spending this weekend in Seattle with two of my dearest friends, both of whom I met on a 20 mile training run almost ten years ago. I can't imagine the past ten years of my life without these two women in it!

meeting up with these two sisters this weekend...

One difference with some of these "newer" friendships, however, is that we have the ability to somewhat reinvent ourselves with each new friend. We can share as little or as much of our history as we want with them and, therefore, help shape their view of us. But there is something special about those friends that have known you all your life -- that know all your faults and flaws and have seen you at your worst -- and yet are still by your side.


...and now.

Do you keep in touch with your childhood friends? 

At the end of the day, I am eternally grateful for all of my friends...both new and old!! I just happened to come across a box of old things yesterday that made me particularly nostalgic.  ;)

- Kristen

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

And yet another reason I love running...

Just when I think I can't love running any more than I already do -- when I think I know all the reasons I love to run -- I get hit over the head with the realization that I've missed something.  Something important that running brings to my life and yet I wasn't even aware of the connection.

Anyone who reads my blog knows that my writing has slowed way down in recent months.  Waaaaay down.  As in, I haven't posted anything since September.  I know that "they" say the key to a successful blog is to post often -- sometimes multiple times a day -- in order to keep readers engaged.  Clearly, having a successful blog using that definition has never been my goal.  I write simply because I love to write and because I want to connect with others who share common interests and goals.

I never pressure myself to write and give myself the freedom to do it only when the words come on their own.  I hadn't given it much thought but assumed I wasn't writing lately because I have been injured for months and haven't been running.  Yes, some of my posts have nothing to do with running but, for the most part, they are fairly running-related.  (I am, after all, the Happy Running Mama!)

However, two nights ago, I woke up in the middle of the night and felt like my head was going to explode.  Not because I drank too much wine the night before but because I had so many thoughts and ideas floating through my head.  When I am asleep and dreaming, the creative part of my brain lights up like fireworks at night.  If I could just hop out of bed at 2am and sit down at my computer, I know the words would flow like water from a spout.

But, lately, all those thoughts and ideas dissipate into the dark recesses of my mind by the time I sit down at my computer.  This is due mostly to the fact that my writing takes place after the mind-numbingly painful first hour of the day.  The hour that involves getting three kids up, fed and dressed as well as getting lunches made, the kitchen cleaned and all three dropped off at school.  That hour seeps not only the creativity but also some of the optimism right out of me.  That hour is, by far, the most challenging hour of my day.

In months past, I would go for a run immediately after dropping the kids off.  It might be cold, rainy, foggy or windy but I would lace up my shoes and head out the door.  When I returned, I would often sit at my computer and the thoughts would come to me quicker than I could type them.

Circling back to the point of my post (finally), what I realized is that my creative juices flow on a run the same way they do in my sleep.  My mind wanders free during a run and goes places I don't normally go during a day filled with driving the kids places, doing laundry and refereeing fights.  I never realized before that running gives me the time and space to daydream.  To let my imagination run wild. To fill me back up with hope and optimism for not only the future but even just to make it through the day.  And this has all been missing from my life for the past few months.

So, yes, I suppose in a sense I haven't been writing because I haven't been running.  But it has nothing to do with writing about running and everything to do with the creativity and freedom and passion that running brings to my life.  A new reason to love running that I never realized until today.


I will be surprised if anyone is still reading this after all that rambling and I'm not sure it all even made sense to anyone but me!  But just in case someone is still there, I'll give a little update on the last few months...

As far as my injury goes, I have been diagnosed with something called chrondomalacia.  Basically, the cartilage under my knee is a little rough and that is where all the pain is coming from.  The damage to the cartilage is permanent and surgery is not really recommended or very successful in fixing this problem so I am left with few options.  Mostly, I am focused on strengthening my glutes and improving the flexibility in my hips.  These changes will, hopefully, help pull my kneecap so it is tracking correctly and will keep the pain at bay.  At the same time, I am constantly icing and taking ibuprofen in order to decrease any inflammation under the kneecap.

While it has been a long road, I am optimistic that things are finally starting to improve.  Last week, I was able to run a mile with no (additional) pain in my knee!  Without a doubt, it was one of the happiest miles of my life and I was grateful for every step of it.  If all goes well, I will very slowly and carefully continue to increase my mileage and hope to be running longer distances soon.

The rest of my life has been busy with family activities, including my niece's first birthday party, a trip to the pumpkin patch, lots and lots of soccer games, a weekend in Vegas and Halloween.  All of this is most easily shared through pictures...

my little niece...who needs hands to eat cake?!

Ian and my dad at my niece's party

a rare night of dress-up for J and me

first day of soccer practice

watching my oldest play soccer

beautiful October morning spent kayaking with a dear friend

Oregon Ducks game with friends

weekly Wednesday coffee date

one of the many days in October when I looked outside and wished I could go for a run

one of the last pictures where I am still taller than my son

Vegas at 7pm

Vegas at 3am (like many things in life that seemed like a good idea at the time....)

family pic

Now that October has left us and taken with it the beautiful Indian Summer we were experiencing, the dark, dreary days seem to have arrived for good.  Although I will miss the sunshine and the warmth that it brings, I look forward to Thanksgiving with gratitude.

Does anyone else find they are more creative after a run??

- Kristen