Friday, October 14, 2016

More photos because Maine is beautiful

 Here is the cottage we stayed at in Maine. It was a super-old house, built before plumbing was a thing. Two bathrooms were added in more recent years, but you have to sit on the toilet sideways to fit in the bathroom. Awesome. It was great though: it's nice to have a backyard for even just a few days.
We did lots of hiking. The kids did great and we had our best family hiking experience since Oliver was born.
He always had a stick in his hand, often using it as a lightsaber or pointing it like a gun and telling people to put their hands up. It's a little disturbing coming from a three-year-old.

 He does cute things too though: he picked up these leaves and wanted to carry them back for his preschool teachers.
 This is the lake behind the cottage. It was small and shallow, so perfect for the kids.
 Look - there is photographic evidence that I exist!
 Scott took Phoebe out...

...and Oliver too. He seems to have forgotten that last kayaking incident. He was pretty happy.
 We brought the kids' bikes. They love getting a little more freedom than they get on city streets.
 We hiked a place called Step Falls.
 We enjoyed the view from the top, slid down some slick rocks, and headed down.
 On the way down, Oliver tripped and fell. He was running downhill with a stick in his hand and didn't let go of the stick to brace his fall, so face-planted in the dirt and rocks and roots.
We made a few more stops for side-of-the-road waterfalls and such.
Phoebe was pretty stoked that she photo-bombed the boys.

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Fall in New England

 I have some catching up to do.... School started just after Labor Day. Bruce started middle school, Phoebe started first grade, and Oliver started preschool! They are at three different schools with three different schedules, so I spend most of my day picking up and dropping off kids. Bruce said the first week of middle school was boring ("it's all introductions.") and was happy to dig into learning the following week. He is running cross country, playing piano and drums in the jazz band, and working on activities with the Boy Scouts. 
Phoebe thoroughly enjoyed the freedom of summertime, but was happy to get back to school where she sees her friends every day. She says she isn't going to be a firefighter anymore; when you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, there is a different answer almost every day. Some of the recent responses: astronaut, scientist, veterinarian, taekwondo instructor, and preschool teacher. She is taking guitar lessons and learning to play Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off." She joined a soccer league (more on that later) and is still passionate about taekwondo. She has a double black stripe belt and is immensely proud of it. I love taekwondo too: it is the one time during the week that I see her focused and serious. It lasts 45 minutes and it is wonderful. I keep waiting for all those skills of patience and respect and whatnot to translate into other areas, but so far not so much. But those 45 minutes! Ahhhhh.
Oliver started half-day preschool! It is a city-run preschool that is free and part of the public schools, so when I enrolled him forever ago I thought we would just try it and see how it goes. It was free, so there was nothing to lose. For the two weeks, he moaned about how he didn't want to go to school while we walked there. When we arrived, he would run in and say goodbye and be just fine. After those first two weeks, he was happy about preschool all the time. He loves his teachers and talks about them constantly. It is a small class with only five kids and two teachers, so it has been a good transition for him. Now that all my kids are in school for at least part of the day, I thought I'd have so much time on my hands. But I've been running most of my mileage while they're at school rather than waking up super early (more sleep = happy mom!), I started volunteering at my neighborhood food pantry, I'm getting back into a more regular routine of writing, and I'm working on a few side projects (a blood drive next week!). Today was classic: I dropped off Oliver, walked to the food pantry and worked for a few hours, walked home and grabbed a sandwich for Oliver and a sandwich for me, ate my sandwich while walking to pick him up, pushed him in the stroller while he ate his sandwich to the pet store, picked up hermit crabs for Phoebe's birthday this weekend, and walked home. I do a lot of walking. I don't have a FitBit, but the mileage on my iPhone's health app usually logs a couple non-running miles. Today it was 4.4 miles walking, 7 miles running.
Scott has been working a lot, so when we get a free weekend we take advantage of it. One weekend we went apple picking (the photo of Oliver above) at a farm near the beach. We picked apples (and Oliver sampled most of them), got cider donuts, and went for a hayride. Then we drove down the street to Crane Beach and played in the sand. The ocean is cold, of course, but that didn't stop the kids from getting in.

They dug a million holes, buried each other in sand, built castles with moats and dams, and had a blast.
This has been our other recent weekend activity: soccer. Phoebe has been begging to join the youth soccer league and I've been resisting because I feel like we do a lot already. But she kept begging, so I caved and now our Saturday mornings are spent at soccer practice and scrimmages. Phoebe is on the red team, which she was pumped about because it's her favorite color. As it turns out, she is pretty good (I guess being aggressive is a positive thing here). At her first practice, she scored three goals. Each time she scored, she threw her hands up and screamed and did a victory dance. Her team has a tradition of having a "pig pile" at the end of practice; I believe Phoebe started this.
Last weekend was a three-day weekend (Columbus Day or Indigenous People's Day or whatever you want to call it) and Scott had the whole thing off, so once again we took full advantage. We drove to Maine and rented a little cottage on a lake. We kayaked, biked, and hiked in Maine and nearby New Hampshire. The photo above is Bruce biking with me on my run, which he's done a few times. He has biked 10 miles with me and been just fine; he keeps up and usually chatters the entire time, sometimes about the molecular structure of Fritos and sometimes about theoretical war between squirrels and people. He's a great running partner.
The fall foliage was out in full force in Maine.
The kids had a day off school for Yom Kippur, so we drove down to Hartford to see the new temple during its open house. The kids were wild before and after (pictured above), but by some miracle were amazingly reverent and quiet in the temple. Even Oliver held my hand and walked calmly next to me and listened to the tour guide. Afterward, I asked the kids if they felt the spirit. They said they did. I asked where they felt it the most. "The room with the big chandelier that was really quiet," said Phoebe. That would be the celestial room (photos of it and other rooms in the temple here).
And despite all the craziness afterward, here is what Phoebe wrote in water by the fountain: "I (heart) God's House."
 There was a visitor's center after the tour that had this statue of Christ in there. I told the kids to smile so I could take a picture, but they wouldn't listen (except for Bruce, of course).
 But when Oliver gave Jesus a big hug, I thought that was probably a better picture anyway.
 And then Phoebe joined in the hug. Sometimes these kids make my heart explode.

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Akron Marathon 2016

 After the Boston Marathon, I started shopping for a fall marathon. I wanted to either run Hartford (good course where I PRed like a decade ago, a 2-hour drive away) or Akron (hometown warm fuzzies, lots of family running, hilly course). I applied to be an elite in the Akron Marathon and when I was accepted, that made the decision for me. I got a free entry and access to lots of nice perks (course previews, indoor bathrooms before the start, locker room afterward, pre-race dinner, personalized fluid stations!), so started training in earnest. I really really really wanted to break three hours. It has been a few years since I've done it, and it's time to do it again. I worked really hard and my workouts indicated that a three-hour marathon was possible, so I went for it. I knew the hills would slow me down a bit, but I still thought I was in the hunt for the sub-3 marathon.

The start was fun. I was next to my big brother, Dave, who was also an elite. We didn't stick together long - off he went. There were lots of women to run with, but I couldn't tell who was running what: there was a marathon, a half-marathon, and a relay all happening at the same time.

The first few miles are flat or downhill, so I clicked off a few quick miles that were faster than the average I was shooting for but it was downhill. Then came uphill after uphill. The hills seemed long - the kind you can look up and see for awhile. When there were downhills on the other side, they seemed steep - not like a nice recovery from the last hill but more like stabbing and braking in the quads. Maybe running the race in reverse would have been better.

I came through the half according to plan in 1:28. However, I planned on still feeling fresh and that just didn't happen. My legs felt heavy and I knew the back half of the course was hillier and harder and running a negative split on it wasn't likely even on a good day. Right around mile 13-14 is a huge mile-plus-long hill that really sapped me. I ran a few crappy miles trying to recover from that, all the while still going over more rolling hills. Around mile 22, a pacer with a sign saying "3:05" ran past. I knew I was way off-pace. I tried hanging with him, but couldn't even manage that. My left calf was screaming and my right quad was tight; I felt off-kilter and the weather was getting a touch warm.

Still, I had told myself before the race I was going to be positive. I even wrote, "I can" and "I will" on my hands to get me through the rough patches (and I sure needed them!). And so I did. I plugged away at the last few miles and made the last few turns into the finishing stadium. I finished in 3:08:45.
I may have made this face a lot over the last few miles. This is what I call "ugly face running."
When I finished, a race official put a lanyard around my neck and told me I was fifth place. I was stoked because I still had no idea where I was place-wise, and the top five finishers got prize money. A few minutes later, however, the official came back and said he had made a mistake and I was actually sixth place! So much for the money.

I finished in my usual state: hypothermic and zombie-like. I sat down for a few minutes to catch my breath, drank lots and lots of water, and then hobbled to the locker room where there were showers and food. After a hot shower, I felt much better.

I also got to meet Meb Keflezighi, one of my heroes (pictured at the top of this post along with Dave). He's an Olympian in the marathon, still nailing amazing times at age 41, has a couple of kids that he admits to loving more than running, and seems to be a well-rounded human being. I'd briefly met him the night before at the elite pasta party, but only to get an autograph and picture with him. He was in the locker room and few people were in there, so I got to tell him that he is my hero. I also babbled about how awesome he is because he finishes races that most elites wouldn't finish and I totally admire that about him. It probably didn't sound too great that I was pointing out his epic failures, so I added, "That's a compliment" at the end of my ramble.

Dave and I wandered out of the stadium and met up with our family fan posse for more cheering and snacking. My brother, Dan, and sister, Janis, ran the full marathon as well. My sister, Marissa, and her husband, Tevita, ran the half marathon. We celebrated with ice cream, then headed home for a more legit dinner and hangout with family and friends.

All in all, I'm glad I went and I do want to run Akron again - but next time I'll add long uphills and steep downhills to my training and I'll take it easier at the start. I'm not sure when the next time will be: I turn 35 in two months and am feeling like I only have a few more shots at PRing in the marathon before I need to accept the fact that I'm aging and be happy with that. Translation: my next few marathons will be on flat and fast courses!

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