Friday, September 19, 2014

Long Run 11 Miles

This week I was all set to do only 11 miles for my long run. It was a drop back week meaning I had built about three weeks in a row of increasing mileage and now I had a week of lower mileage to rest and recover. After being torn down from the stress of the previous weeks' efforts, the muscles now repair and rebuild in a stronger manner. I was to continue maintaing the 150 heart rate effort even with the shorter distance.

I had spent the evening before sitting in my van for nearly four hours waiting for runners to come by. They were a part of the Rival Game Relay which was having its inaugural run that evening. The relay teams started in Ames and would end near Iowa City. It was all in conjunction with the Iowa State/Iowa football game. I knew two runners that would be on two different relay teams and was very excited that the relay would come through Huxley. I'll cut the whole 8:30 pm-12:30 am down to a few soundbites.

I didn't realize how many teams would be out there. 

It turns out only eleven. 

The teams had different start times based on the pace they figured they would be able to average over the course of the run. This meant some started at 6 pm and others started at 2 am. With only 11 teams or more realistically 11 runners on the course at a time, it wasn't like there were a wave of people coming through Huxley.

I saw four runners in that time span.

I bought and brought enough gummy bears for 100 hundred runners.

96 runners missed out on some fine tasting gummy bears.

I know this for a fact.

I shooshed a cat away from the gummy bears.

I scared a neighbor who came out to check on the van parked near the trail behind his house. He had a baseball bat in one hand and a flashlight in the other. Poor guy. I should have offered him some gummy bears. 

I caught up on all my social media.

I organized all my Pinterest boards.

I made glow in the dark necklaces for 12 runners. Only one runner took one.

I saw an incredible moonrise from my side view mirror. Then it went up into the clouds and the runners probably never saw it.

I had a chatty conversation with a guy on a bike named Sean who was with the relay and was out to help the runners. He started in Cambridge. He thought he was headed towards Baxter. I informed him that he was in Huxley and that Baxter was east of Cambridge. 

The cows who usually stare at me when I run passed were lowing all evening long. If I were out running in that area in the dark for the first time and heard a cow low, well, I would probably leave a chip myself.

I crawled into bed by 1:00 am. 

After dropping the kids off for school the next morning, I fell back in bed. I knew I would have better effort with a bit more sleep. For the merits of rest and recovery see above.

I woke up at noon.

I was out the door by 12:45 and now hoped to get in all 11 miles and not be late picking up kids.

I made it with time for chocolate milk.

And that's my 11 mile long run.

For the next three weeks my mileage increases for my long runs and for the week overall. I'll be starting at 36 miles for total weekly mileage and 18 miles for the long run. Go ahead and say some prayers for me.   

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Shopping, Dodgeball, Canning, and Water

Here are some things. That's right- some things.

Homecoming- formal or informal/Prom dress shopping freaks me out. Last Friday night I took Audrey and Luke to Des Moines to look for an outfit for Homecoming. Ballard's is informal but nonetheless as soon as Audrey was in the changing room, I started texting both my sister and a friend. Why do I do this alone? Why can't I arrange a group shopping event? We found a couple cute dresses and a necklace. For shoes, I suggested she wear cowboy boots with the dress because I think it would be darling. She thinks not. As far as I know she might be going barefoot. Apparently I've upped my stamina and can shop for about eighty percent of the outfit in one day now. We find the clothes and either the jewelry or the shoes but not the entire thing. I've got two more years to get it down. 

Luke had to come with us because Bill and Ben had a youth group party. Luke is a good shopping participant because he generally gets special treats like his own bottle of pop, maybe a toy and gets to play the iPad while Audrey is in the dressing room. He's a very good sport until the last half hour. Then his goal is to get us out of the store as fast as possible. This is usually motivated by the fact that he hasn't gotten his toy yet and Target closes at ten but I'd rather take him than Ben any day. 

Back to Bill and Ben. The youth group event involved pizza and dodgeball. This is the text conversation Bill sent us while we were shopping.

Bill came home with athletic tape wrapped around one fingertip. Ben was fine. 

Speaking of stamina, I have two days a year of canning in me. Maybe three tops. Last week I canned 6 half pints of candied jalapeƱos, 12 pints of red salsa, 4 pints of green tomato salsa, and 2 1/2 pints of green tomato pickles. The jalapeƱos were one day and the rest were another day. I'm so proud of my efforts. I listen for each melodic pop as the jars cool and seal and then later cradle the jars as if I'm some sort of preserving champion. Then, just like that, I'm done with canning. As in so done that I can't get rid of the fruit flies, giant pots and pans, canning paraphernalia, and dirty towels fast enough. And I have air conditioning! Serious kudos to all the women who canned quarts upon quarts of everything without air conditioning.

In other accomplishments, I flooded our laundry room earlier this week. I had turned on the water in the laundry room sink to soak the boys' riding clothes and walked away because it takes a while to fill up. As duly noted, it does not take an hour plus to fill the sink unless you want to count how many towels you have and see if the basement storage room is water-tight. It's not.

In fact, not only is our storage closet not water tight, neither is the rest of the basement. In a separate incident but still within the same 24 hours, Audrey commented to me (on her way out the door in the early am because once again, eleventh grade is busy) that the carpet in her hallway was squishy and that she could see her footprint in it. This prompted Ben to comment the same thing about the carpet by his bedroom door. Bill bolted out of bed and discovered that the sump pump and the battery back up pump both failed and we now had a water sensory play area covering portions of our basement.

In a matter of hours my sister and Valor and a friend were over helping me as Bill managed the sump pump situation. People, my husband is a pro at this kind of stuff. He really shines at analyzing a problem, coming up with the solution and executing it all without emotional breakdown. Beth and Jenn boxed our basement belongings swiftly while Valor held open doors, rode the plastic tractor in the garage, and carried in some lunch groceries. 

To the boys, having the basement void of any obstructions, otherwise known as furniture, is basically the best thing ever. Too bad three dehumidifiers and many fans were floating and drying out the carpet. I daresay if you are going to be building soon and have the necessary means, leave one large room free of anything other than carpet. Your kids would be more than entertained. It's been one of Ben's biggest complaints about our house- it has furniture. Also entertaining for them is the fact that the boys are sleeping in the camper until we can be back into the basement. Audrey has commandeered Luke's room.

I would like to say that I handled the whole ordeal gracefully and with a cheery smile but really I was buffeted around most of the day. I've still got a heaping helping of pride that my friends knocked right through. I don't give myself enough grace when it comes to handling my now noticed shortfalls. On my run this morning, I was about to lament all this  over again to God when He grabbed my heart and said "So what? I know all this and I still love you. You are always in relationship with me even when you don't feel like you have been. I am still here. I am always faithful. That is who I am."  

My sister called today to see how things were going and I said I hadn't flooded anything today so it was looking good.

There ya go, friends. Have a good and, hopefully, dry day.   

Friday, September 12, 2014

Long Run 16 Miles

This week 16 mile long run was done naked.

Excuse me?!!

Hang with me. Let me explain. Running naked is lingo for running without any devices such as music, watch, heart rate monitor and so on that today's technologies afford us.

Phew! Because the bouncing, the itchiness is too much to bare bear.

My first trail race of the year, the Zumbro 17 miler was run near Theilman, Minnesota around the Zumbro Bottoms State Park. The trails are reserved normally for hiking and horseback riding. Besides this and the trail race, twice a year the trails are opened for motorcycles to ride on. You can read about the family's past riding experiences here and here. We were headed up there to ride again this weekend.

Ever since the Zumbro race, I've had an itch to get back there and try the trails again. In planning out my training schedule, I told my coach when we would be going there and that I planned on running the trails. She scheduled sixteen miles. Awesome!

Earlier in the week with maps and race routes in hand, Bill and I discussed where and when I should run. We decided the best choice was to leave Friday morning and then he would go out with me that afternoon. I wouldn't be able to run the exact course as the race since some of the course was marked especially for the race and not always on the main trails but I could run a good majority of the same trails if I wanted to.

On Friday morning it took forever for us to leave. We were prepared but there are always last minute things that eat up time. I became anxious that we would get there later and therefore out on the trails later and might end up fighting for daylight on the trails and I hadn't brought an extra light source. Then I realized I forgot to pack my Garmin watch which would give me time, distance, pace and heart race readings. I had the HR strap but not the watch. It was still plugged in and charging in our closet. This made me more anxious. How would I know how many miles I had gone? We weren't even five miles north of Ames, forty-five minutes late at that, and I was tense, breathing shallowly and a ball of stress.

There was nothing I could do except choose to not worry. I would have to or I wouldn't enjoy this run. It was a crucial moment. I told Bill about my worry and said I had decided to not worry about it. I shut it off and we talked about other stuff as we drove the four hours northeast.

Once at the campground it was a flurry of activity unloading the bikes and gear, settling the boys, and gearing up for the run. The boys had snacks, new movies, games, homework and the campground to explore and play around while we were gone. We had a map, hydration (two in my front vest and a full 2 liter bladder on my back plus Bill's pack), fuel and a sense of adventure. And to be honest, a little bit of anxiousness on my part still.

One thing my coach had strongly advised me on was to not let Bill push the pace on me. I wasn't too concerned about that because you see, I have run farther than Bill ever has. He's still faster than me but I've gone farther and run harder stuff and so I win!! It was good advice though and it was more of a mindset for me to take the lead in doing what I needed to do instead of going with the crowd, never mind the crowd being one other person. We took a gravel road out of the campground at a slow pace. It climbs out of the bottoms and so I slowed us to a walk. We wrapped around and as we turned a corner came upon two on horseback. A little further up the trail we started to hear the roar of bikes thoroughly enjoying the downhill. We pulled off to let them pass and were glad we were on foot and not on a horse with the bikes coming up so fast.

At the top of the trail we stopped to look at the map and two more riders, both a part of the club that puts on the trail ride, came up and talked with us. Bill told me riders did this all the time. They pull over to chat with others or help someone out. The fact that they stopped for us what pretty amazing to me. Call me a sap at this gesture but when they pulled away and we headed up to the overlook, I teared up a bit. I was definitely more anxious than I thought and this loosened me up. 

The overlooks always get me. It was fun to take it all in, take a breather, send a quick text to Audrey back home all without fear of being struck by lightning. Really the entire trail looked and acted differently than a few months prior when there was a stream coursing down the middle of it and mud in all the rest of the places. I would point out to Bill "There was a stream here." or "This was one giant mud pit." He would point out to me which trails they did or didn't ride. He enjoyed himself immensely as we ran along because for the first time he got to see the trails from a slower pace. In fact, he was the most talkative he'd been in a while. 

The part I most wanted to run was Ant Hill. This was the section where I had to walk the downhill because of my knee. I had a score to settle with this little stretch of trail. It was as before: technical. The rocks, large and small, are scattered all about and nothing was a sure footing. I wasn't very fast but I ran it. I won't be encountering anything in October near the degree of difficulty this entire trail system has but it does wonders for keeping the brain fresh and adrenaline pumping.

One section of the trail is wide and has gravel. It was fun to run down and had these little build ups that you could launch off of. I had Bill capture a still of me but the shutter speed on his phone isn't that fast. After I tried that about four or five times, I had him take a video of me. The video doesn't do any justice to exactly how I felt. I felt like I was flying. Instead it looks like I barely got my butt off the ground. Ha! 

Ah, no video because I never had a chance to get it from Bill's phone. Believe me, it is epically underwhelming.

As we approached the campground, we determined that we had done a little over twelve miles out there. If I ran the gravel road out of the campground and back I could get in the rest to get to sixteen. Bill stayed at the camper and I headed out for the last miles. Let me say here that those were the longest miles of the day. I was getting tired and my feet were hurting. I made the mistake of looking back toward the campground and just like a barn-sour horse, I was done being out there and headed back. 

After passing the second overlook, I realized if I had my watch and HR strap with me, I would have been slave to it and not enjoyed the run. Missing the forest for the trees, so to speak. It reminded me of when I taught piano. Eventually we have to give ourselves freedom to turn off the metronome and play by feel and with feeling. It was a good lesson to be reminded of. It had been a great naked run. 

 Next week- 11 miles 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Were you wondering how long it would take for me to write about food again? Wonder no more, friends. Today we talk sun-dried tomatoes. Except the tomatoes aren't dried in the sun. Today we talk candied tomatoes. Yet again, they aren't candied exactly.

Today we talk about tomatoes that are oven roasted and preserved in the fridge/freezer with a covering of olive oil.

Well, I'm making a mess of this whole thing.

Here ya go. Head to Anastasia's blog and read about how to make your own sun-dried tomatoes

I made a batch a couple weeks ago and it really can't be easier. Easier than writing this post, at least. I froze most of the tomatoes and left a jar in the fridge to use right away.

Last night I made Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil sauce for supper. Bill commented that it was a nice, lighter version of chicken alfredo. While technically not true, he was right in essence. It is a lighter sauce with bright flavors. I would maybe add a pinch of salt to pop the flavor a bit more. 

Here's the thing. I sort of got to the point in the last couple of years where I felt like sun-dried tomato had been over-used. Every thing I tried didn't end up tasting nearly as spectacular as my taste buds were prepared to receive. After munching a few plain one right off the pan and then in the chicken dish, I'm ready to give them a try again.

I rounded up a few recipes I thought I might try out in the future.

Sun-Dried Tomato and Mozzarella Quinoa Burgers
If my family caught me trying to pass this off as an actual burger, I would be hanged. I will call them patties, instead. Also, I will use two eggs and not one and a half and leave out the chives.

Sun-Dried Tomato Jam and Whipped Feta Crostini
I think you just drooled a little bit there. Bill and I have had some sort of tomato jam/compote at our favorite restaurant, The Cafe, and now I'm think I pretty much must make this for us. Only change I can see with this one is skipping the fat-free part, unless it comes naturally fat-free.

What would you toss these tomatoes into? Pile them on a sandwich? Blend them with mayo and fold into a kitchen sink kind of pasta salad? 


Friday, September 5, 2014

Long Run 15 Miles

I'll admit I'm way behind on my race re-caps. I ran the Superior 25k and survived, obviously, but have yet to tell you about it. I'm working on it but it's going to be a long, long post. So rather than wait until that is done (along with the summer races) to tell you my next adventure, I'm going to plunge in and tell you what is next for me.

A 50k trail race near Omaha at the end of October.

50k is 50 kilometers or 31 miles.

Did your stomach just do a flip-flop? That's ok. Mine did as well when I first thought about it. Now I'm in the middle of training with little over seven and a half weeks to go and I'm mostly focused on the training so my stomach has settled a little. 

I'll share in another post how I chose this race and distance but for now I want to share thoughts and such from my first long run of my training plan which was 15 miles. I hope to share once a week about the previous weekend's run on the following Friday. That means I ran the 15 miler last Friday.

My plan for the long runs is to do them on Fridays while the kids are in school. This gives me plenty of time during the day to get it done without taking time away from the family. It also means on Saturdays I only have to do a short recovery run of 3-4 miles and then Sunday will generally be a rest day. 

This past Friday I was ready to execute my plan. Eat a light but still substantial breakfast- toast with peanut butter and honey and possibly a banana- and have my gear ready to go once I got home from dropping the kids off at school. The school drop-off didn't go according to plan and I got home about forty-five minutes later than I wanted to be. In that time I had had two stressful phone calls with Bill and once I got home I ended up talking with a friend and our discussion turned more serious. I took care of my pack, made my last minute preps and headed out the door all while on the phone with her. I was starting out close to an hour and a half later than I had hoped. The sun, even in late August, was burning warm and this being Iowa, land of rich top soil and humidity, was going to make this run a battle of not only miles but of mind and physical challenges as well.

The route I chose isn't a very shady one. It's on the limestone bike trail that leads east out of town and onto gravel once in Cambridge. My goal was to get in 15 miles with a heart rate of 150 bpm or less. I gave myself plenty of time to warm-up, going extra easy. I started sipping water fairly soon into the run but caught myself passing the first couple of miles without much water intake. I would need to keep up on this but since this was the first time with my new pack, I didn't know exactly how that would all work out. 

I ran to Cambridge and decided to take the gravel road first and the bike trail second. I stopped by a friend's house to see if she was home so I could refill my water bottle. As I would later learn, that should have been plural as in bottles. Renae was home and like a true friend and friend of a runner, she let my sweaty self in, refilled my bottle and refilled it again as I guzzled an entire 10 oz while we chatted. Finally I tore myself away from her company, agua and air conditioning and headed out to finish the not quite eight miles left. There is a very nice hill just east of her house. I knew I would be walking it however I didn't get far into it before I had to stop and answer a call from the school, make a call to Bill and take care of a volley of texts from both Bill and Audrey. That was the next couple of miles, slow, on and off running, drinking water, on and off walking and praying. By this point, my thoughts were so wrapped up I had to pray. As you can imagine, fifteen miles does give you plenty of time to do this. Plus, I cannot answer nor solve all of the problems that pass my way but I can lay them down at His feet.

The toll of the late start, the extra stresses and the lack of taking in enough water started to show as I left town. It felt like my pace was down to a crawl. I resorted to walking here and there to keep my heart rate low. Sometimes it seemed like even thinking about running caused my HR to rise too high. I was more liberal with my water consumption during the last half, going through both ten ounce bottles and pulling out my last water bottle stashed in my pack and it helped.

Besides praying, I couldn't help but thinking a few things. It did cross my mind that I was running only half of what I was hoping to complete in two months. How would I ever be able to do so? To answer that, I knew that even if I walked, I could probably do it, barring any major injuries. The issue with hydration was not something I figured out until near the end. I paid attention and learned and that is what counts. There will be aid stations with water available every few miles so this won't be a problem. For my long runs from here out, I will need to make sure I take a bladder to hold water or stop to fill up along the way. The only way home was by getting home. I was on a trail that really didn't have any great access points except at intersections of which there are three- beginning, middle and end. The point was for me to get in the miles and I would, running or not. I had to decide that and make it happen. 

It seems like I made a stink at the beginning of this post about it being hot and muggy and starting later than I wanted, etc. Even though this was all true, I tried not to let it bum me out. I chose to deal with it and learn. I knew this could make me a better, mentally stronger runner if I didn't whine and did the work anyway. I couldn't help but think this is so very similar to our real lives. My extra time at the school that morning and the ensuing conversations were not what I would have chosen. However, those were the things that were given to me that day and I would have to surrender to the work before me all the while being completely caught in His mercies. 

Running can be an ego trip. You put in the work and for the most part, you have something to show for it in the end. It's easy to get caught up in the check it off the list, the see what I did kind of thing. I'm not saying all of that is bad. As a mother, it feels so good to have done something and it stayed that way. But those fifteen miles? They humbled me. They taught me to respect the miles (it's still fifteen, even if you've done them before). They also taught me that sometimes your goal is to get the miles in, get the work done, climb the hill, walk the flats and finish because that's the work put before you to do. Even if you feel like you have nothing to show for it, no high, no rush, it still counts. It still counts.

Whoa! Really long-winded with this one. Not what I expected to do. I'm not leaving anything out this time. Maybe a few weeks down the road my long run will say: "18 miles. Done." because I will so exhausted I will be taking a nap.  

If you made it to the end congrats and have you ever thought about long distance running? Just kidding.

Thoughts? Different perspective? Questions? 

Alrighty. Next week- 16 miles    

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


This Spring we purchased a Slackline. A Slackline is like a tie-down for hauling only you attempt to walk across it. It's great for balance, core strength and entertainment. I had seen it on the web several times and asked Bill if we could get one. The one thing holding us back from getting one is that we had no way to set it up. We don't have any trees on our lot. Eventually Bill figured out a way. Somehow he anchored two things in the ground (very technical talk) and then tensioned the line over a step stool and limestone brick on one end and a bike stand and limestone brick on the other. It works just fine.

Like I said, it's great for balance, core strength and entertainment. Our neighbors sat on their back deck and watched us. 
Ben, Bill and I have each made it sort of across. Audrey, Luke and Lucy have not. :)  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Back to School, Back to Blogging

All the cool kids are doing it.

That is, hittin' the books again. 

Last Monday I piled up the school supplies, divied them up, labeled them, threw them in a bag and then we hit the back to school night like pros.

Luke, in 3rd grade, is in a new building but since it's designed exactly the same as his old building all we had to do was find his classroom and desk. No problem. We met his teacher, signed the party sheet (Christmas), and put away neatly in his desk (the only time ever his desk will be this clean) his school supplies. That's when I realized I sent him to school with zero pencils sharpened. Oh well. The pencils will get sharpened, broken, sharpened, chewed on, and eventually will be left in bits at the bottom of his desk. He's come home with papers completed in pencil, so it looks like that has resolved itself. 

Ben, in 6th grade, is also in a new building. Before we left, Bill asked Ben if he had gone up earlier to find his locker and try the combination. Hah! No. With Audrey I was on top of the locker thing and finding all her classes. With my second child, I'm, well, not in such a worked up state. We found his teacher, his locker, practiced two times and left.

Back to school is easier the older your family gets.

Audrey had no official back to school night. She went in earlier that day for student council work and had already been at school the week before for marching band. Plus she's a junior. In 11th grade. She has two years left in high school. We assume she found her locker and all her classes and has the appropriate supplies. In fact, she had to leave earlier than the boys the first day so I have two separate pictures of the kids. Being a junior feels very busy. 

The question always is "How did this happen?" 

It just does. It's supposed to.

I'm not going to lie to you. Seeing them grow and change makes me oh so happy and ache a little all at the same time. I don't want to go back and I won't ever, ever prevent them from going forward into more and more of who they were made to be. I think my heart just can't keep up sometimes.

As you've noticed, I took a big break. My writing this past year slowly dwindled away with bursts of posts here and there and then finally stopped altogether. But now, I'm back. I think. It took me two days to write this.

Thanks for sticking with me this long.