Running – Rock and Roll Dallas Half Marathon

(I wrote this yesterday after the race.)
I ran my first half-marathon today.  I thought it would be best to get my thoughts down immediately, because I have a feeling this may be like child labor – you forget the unpleasant bits and cling to the good.
I know I’ve already talked about it some, but I was really, really nervous going into this weekend. I think I may have started freaking people out a bit, because whenever anyone would ask, “Are you ready?” I usually responded with something like, “I guess.” or “I hope so.” You know, things that aren’t very encouraging to supportive friends and family. By Saturday, I realized what I was doing, and I began trying really hard to be more positive – not only for others’ benefit, but for my own, too.
I wasn’t worried about the distance or finishing; it was just that this was such a new experience. I travelled to a town I’m unfamiliar with to line up with thousands of strangers to run a very long race. What if I didn’t make it to the start line on time? How would I know where I was supposed to be? Would my family even see me cross the finish line, or would it be too chaotic?
The night before the race, my parents did me a wonderful favor. They let the kids sleep in their room. I didn’t have to worry about coaxing them to sleep in a new place, or keeping them from staying up late playing in bed because sleeping in the same room is a novelty. All I had to worry about was me getting a good night’s rest. It was the best I’ve had in months. In the morning, I was able to get up early, eat breakfast, dress, and mentally prepare without worrying about waking anyone or getting anyone else ready for the morning. It was amazing. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my first big race day.
My arriving on time fear turned out not to be completely unfounded. Our hotel was located right along the DART line here in Dallas. We looked into ticket prices the night before, but only glanced at the train schedule. Mistake. The one we needed only runs every 30 minutes on Sunday, and it was pulling away as we arrived at the station. It took us a while to realize this. The starting line was about a mile away from our hotel – not ridiculously far for the adults, but a little daunting with a three- and six-year-old. Luckily, the train arrived as we passed the next station, and we were able to ride anyway. I didn’t show up as early as I wanted to, but it was enough time to wait in line for the bathroom, stretch, and find my corral.
My father was extremely amused by the bathroom lines. I lost count of how many photos he took. He even took one of me exiting, saying, “She finished the race!” Sometimes, it doesn’t take much. 😉
Enough pre-race already! Let’s get to the nitty gritty.
The first five miles were a piece of cake. I hit my stride pretty early, so It was smooth sailing for a good while. I felt awesome. I’d say between mile five and mile eight is where the most daunting hills were lurking. If you live somewhere hilly and are used to them, I’m sure you think I’m a big weenie. Where I live and train, it’s pretty flat. I am only accustomed to smallish hills. I ran up as many as I could. The rest I walked. Meh. I’m not upset. I’ll find some hills and do better next time. The last four miles were either flat or downhill. Hallelujah!  Finishing was amazing. I felt like a rock star.
If you’ve ever considered a Rock and Roll Half-Marathon, do it. They’re very well-organized. My worries about finding my way on race day were needless. There is lots of good energy. The bands along the course make it fun – a Guns & Roses cover band was my favorite, surprisingly. You might even get to line up with a mohawked Elvis. You’ll also be supporting Susan G. Komen and breast cancer research, which is something that is more recently a concern of mine after two young friends having been diagnosed (and beating!) breast cancer. Just be forewarned – if you’re a softie like me, you will probably tear up whenever you see a survivor running, or someone with a “in memory of” bib.
I finished the race in 2:37:44 – about 12 minutes per mile. I’m proud of it. Since it’s my first half-marathon, I’ve earned myself a PR regardless. Woot! Woot! Also, Dad and Aidan saw me cross the finish. 🙂
How did I feel afterward? Crummy. I walked for a few minutes, but I got light-headed and had to sit down pretty quickly. I stretched, drank some water and Gatorade, and slowly tried to move again. It was slow going getting to the train station to head back to the hotel, between me and two hot, cranky kids. I can’t really put my finger on why I felt so yucky afterward today, other than my being unused to the hills on the course and the fact that I react really badly to my own adrenaline. I could feel the nausea happening a couple of times while I was running, and I pushed through. It may have finally caught up with me at the finish line.
After a hard-earned shower, lunch, and a catnap with my youngest, I feel human again. My feet are still a little angry, though. And yes, it is fun to spend a few hours in the company of thousands of other masochists. I will probably do it again sometime, just not right away. 🙂
I’ll try and remember to share some photos when I have a computer to dump them onto.

Running – Jitters

My posts have been few and far between lately. I apologize for that. I’ve been busy with a birthday, work, training, and I’ve fallen off the wagon. I think I have four Project 52 photos to catch up on. Oops!

My first half marathon – the Rock and Roll Half Marathon in Dallas – is this Sunday. I’ve done all the training I can. I’ll be walking and taking it easy for the next couple of days, and I’ll be doing a lot of praying. Praying that I survive it. Praying that I can get a good night’s sleep before the race. (I spent half the night on the couch last night, because I was paranoid about keeping John awake with all my thrashing about awake in the wee hours of the morning.)

I did not expect to be so anxious about it. That was probably naive of me. This is a big deal, and it’s completely new to me. Why wouldn’t I be anxious?

I’m also worried because in the midst of all my anxiety, I’ve lost four pounds this week. Unintentionally. I’m worried that lighter means weaker. I’m not sure why my brain is translating it that way. I will try my best to focus on the positive. Lighter means faster! 😉

Running – Long Run & New Gear

My long run each week usually happens on Friday. Last Friday, the wind was blowing at 15 miles per hour, and since I really didn’t want a repeat of my last experience, I made the decision to postpone it until today. I am glad I did. Today was only mildly windy. It was cloudy for half of my run and sunny for the other half. The only downside was that after a major downpour yesterday, the humidity was 97%. I’ve lived in Louisiana long enough now that I should be used to breathing my water.

Anyway, drumroll please…I ran 13.5 miles today, and I finished in 2:35. That’s about 11:30 per mile, which I’m feeling really good about today. The bottom line is I know I can finish. After my last two long run experiences, which were awful, I’ve been a bit worried about the race. Now, I’m feeling a heck of a lot better about it.

I also changed up some of my gear a bit today, some of which probably has a lot to do with my performance.

1. I used GU. I’m not sure why I’ve been so hesitant to try it out. It just sounded a little odd, eating this strange gelatinous substance while running. I bought a whole box of the tri-berry, fairly certain I’d like the flavor since I usually mainline fruit punch Gatorade on long runs. I bought one each of the orange and chocolate. I ate (?) the chocolate about 15 minutes before starting out – just like the directions say, because I’m that kind of girl. It was awesome. It was the right consistency for gooey, sticky chocolate. About five miles in, I tried the orange. Yuck, yuck, yuck. I normally like orange, but orange GU is just not right. With about four miles left to go, I broke out the tri-berry. It was pretty good. I’m not upset about having a whole box of it. I would have been really upset if I’d bought that much of the orange. I know this definitely helped me keep going today. I had scheduled out when to use them, regardless of how I felt at the time. I didn’t really feel like I needed the first two, but I was desperate for that last one. I’m glad I used them. In addition to getting me through the run, I think they helped keep my blood sugar from being completely out of whack once I finished.

2. Water belt. I have been using the Camelback Delaney. It holds a gigantic 24-ounce water bottle. Knowing nothing about running with a water belt when I purchased it, I thought this would be great. I wanted to be carrying as much as I possibly could, right? And, because I’m a girl, I also chose it because I liked the color. After several runs with this belt, I hate it. Carrying just the one giant bottle, I feel completely lopsided. I favor my right leg until the bottle is halfway empty. I empty it way too quickly, simply so I can run without the extra weight. And it bounces, and bounces, and bounces, and twists. I can’t tighten it enough for it to stay in place. It drives me bonkers. It would probably be more suitable for hiking, but it is no good for running.

I picked up a new belt at Academy Sports the other day. I debated whether to try it out or take it back. It doesn’t carry nearly as much water as my other belt – just 16 ounces between the two bottles. I finally decided to take it out of the package and try it on. I fell in love with the feel of it. The part of the belt around the front is stretchy, and it has adjustable webbing with a clasp in the back. All my GU, car key, and iPod fit in the pouch. The weight of the water is evenly distributed, and I just felt lighter wearing it than I did with the Delaney. I wish I’d tried it first, because it cost about half as much as Delaney did, too. I also decided to forego Gatorade during my run today and went with water instead. I don’t think I could have done that without the GU. I think I will be sticking with water on race day, too.

3. New running shorts! I have searched high and low locally for shorts that I like for long distance. I came up empty, so I turned to the internet. There, I discovered Lululemon. It’s probably the best/worst thing to ever happen to me. I was incredibly excited to find shorts that actually had multiple pockets and a decent liner. I was not excited about how pricey they are, but if I’m going to be wearing them for 2.5 hours, I want them to be comfortable. My Lululemon turbo run shorts arrived on Saturday. For starters, they actually look cute.

They have two lovely pockets for gels up front.

There is a zippered pocket in the back for your mp3 player, keys, whatever you want to put in there.

But my favorite part? The reflective ruffle. It’s functional and adorable. I’m a sucker for ruffles.

After wearing them for the first time today, I can tell you without a doubt this will be my go-to shorts for long runs. I’ll probably have to work hard to keep myself from wearing them every time I run, actually. Maybe I should buy more. I love these shorts. The material breathes well, moves well, and the liner fits me perfectly. Let me say it again. I love these shorts! I’m going to have to find a Lululemon store.

My next mission will be to find some super great socks. The ones I’ve been wearing hurt my toes after a while.

Superhero Birthday Party

My little boy’s birthday is coming up this week, so over the weekend, we celebrated with an awesome superhero birthday party. Even though he really doesn’t play with or follow any particular superhero, this was Aidan’s request. And since fun ideas for boy birthdays are far more scarce than for girls, I wanted to share the festivities with you.

WARNING:  If you are a comic book lover, you may want to look away. Some comics were sacrificed to live a second life as superhero bunting.

Since it’s in the first photo, I’ll start by talking about the bunting. Quite honestly, I’m fairly certain none of the comics I cut up were worth anything. I bought them dirt cheap in a lot on EBay. I still have a huge stack leftover, as I had no idea how many I’d want or need. I cut each page into a big triangle while watching television one evening, then I just stapled the triangles onto ribbon and draped them around the house. Throw in some primary colored balloons, and you have an easy party display.

The kids and I also each picked out a new Superhero t-shirt from Old Navy for the party. I found mine in the men’s clearance pile for $3.99. I had to pay full price for each of the kids’, though. Oh, well. I’m sure we’ll be wearing them again.

Cupcakes. I always serve cupcakes at my kids’ parties. It saves all that cake-cutting hassle. Plus, they’re simple to make on your own and save some money. I always use boxed cake mix and homemade frosting. This time, I tried a new Marshmallow Frosting recipe. It’s my new favorite. My cake mix made 24 cupcakes, so I doubled the recipe to be sure I had enough frosting. I had extra, so the night before the party, we made chocolate chip cookie sandwiches with it, too. So yummy, or should I say SUPER yummy.

The printable cupcake toppers came from Tweet Events on Etsy. She also has a printable party banner to match, but I didn’t buy it since I planned to annihilate some comic books.

For the party favors, I made superhero capes and masks for all of the kids. I had planned to do blue and pink, but there was no pink felt at my fabric store. I used red instead, which matched my color scheme better anyway.

To make the capes, I cut a trapezoid-ish shape from the material, then attached elastic straps to keep it on. I had absolutely no desire to be tying and retying capes on kids all afternoon. The elastic worked really well. I added a lightning bolt to the back of each cape to make it a little more fun.

You can see in the gift-opening mayhem that most of the little boys kept their capes on. The girls could have cared less. I should have made them tutus. 😉

Birthdays have always been kind of a big deal in my family, so the biggest worry in all of my party-planning stress was, “Will he have fun?” It doesn’t really matter what everyone else thinks of the party, as long as Aidan loves it.

We pulled it off. This is one happy little boy. A super happy little boy. His party was a super success. I can hardly believe he’s about to be six!

If you’re looking for superhero related party activities, try an obstacle course! And let me know how it goes! I had one all planned, but it rained for a few days before the party and since our yard holds water, it was still a little too soggy to do it. I didn’t want to end up with a bunch of muddy kiddos and angry mamas.

Eat – Chocolate Peanut Butter Dip

A few weeks ago, I unearthed my copy of Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious. I found it in the clearance bin at the bookstore a few years ago and decided it was worth a shot, considering the only vegetables Aidan eats are corn and potatoes. He won’t eat any kind of fruit.

When I originally purchased the book, I made some purees and tried a few recipes with no success. I couldn’t even get him to try what I’d made. Since he’s become a little more adventurous lately and is willing to try new things, I thought it was worth another shot.

This Chocolate Peanut Butter Dip has carrot hidden inside. 🙂















1/2 cup (creamy) peanut butter

1/2 cup cream cheese

6 tbsp. chocolate syrup

1/4 cup carrot puree (You can make your own, or you can substitute baby food carrots.)

1/2 tsp. salt

Just mix everything together until it’s smooth. The serving suggestion in the cookbook is fruit slices. Neely and I ate apples, but I added graham crackers to the plate for Aidan.

Of course, I was nervous as heck the first time I presented it to them. I feared they could sense the subterfuge. When they asked me what it was, I told them, “It’s chocolate peanut butter dip. It tastes like a Reese’s peanut butter cup.” According to Aidan, I think everything tastes like candy, but in this case, it’s pretty much true. And it worked! They love it! The afternoon snack has gotten a makeover.

Running – When It’s Bad…

I like to keep it real around here, so if you’re looking for an uplifting post today, look elsewhere. This ain’t gonna be it. (The running update comes toward the end. All the other is to describe my state of mind.)

Last week, to put it bluntly, sucked. When it rains, it pours, and boy, did it. On Sunday evening, I got to spend a few hours at the only urgent care facility in town with my eldest, who had busted his head open on the mailbox. He ran full-speed into it. And there was nothing else around. Mind-boggling. To make it even more fun, I entertained impatient phone calls from my husband throughout the experience, because he needed to put in some extra hours at work and was eager to get back.

It was bedtime for the kids when we got home, but as I settled in to relax, I noticed a call I’d missed in all of the hullaballoo of getting them both in their beds. It was a call I should probably have known to expect soonish, but it caught me off-guard anyway. One of my closest high school and college friends’ father had passed away. Cue grief.

Monday passed in a funk. Bad news really gets me down. And as always, it somehow brought other, completely unrelated problems to light.

The memorial service was scheduled for Thursday. My husband is working 20 hour days. I have a child in school. I couldn’t pull him out of school for three days to travel to Tennessee. Cue guilt. Major guilt. I am still feeling major guilt. I wanted to be there so badly. I just can’t seem to get past the darn GUILT.

On Wednesday, I locked myself out of the house…wearing a tank top and shorts that I would never wear in public. And I was without shoes. And it was about to rain. Luckily, I found one neighbor at home, who was kind enough to let me borrow clothes and call a locksmith for me. Two and a half hours later and $75 lighter, I was able to get back into my house. I was an hour and a half late picking Neely up from preschool. And here’s another helping of guilt for imposing on the ladies who took care of her until I showed up. Note to self: memorize more people’s phone numbers. They were all stored on my cell, which was inside the house.

Through everything, I still managed to keep up with my training plan. I’m not sure how, short of a miracle. Friday, I had a 12-mile run on the schedule. I didn’t have a good feeling about it. Nothing had gone well for the rest of the week, and this was no different.

It was warm and sunny out, but we had a lake wind advisory in effect. The weather report said to expect wind gusts up to 17 miles per hour. They weren’t kidding. Only it didn’t really feel like gusts. It felt constant. I almost bailed on the run before I even started, but I decided to give it a go, in case it’s really windy on my actual race day.

By the time I’d run 7 miles, I was done. I had worked so hard against the wind that it felt like I had run much farther. I wanted to plop down on my butt and cry. If I hadn’t been 5 miles from my truck, I might have. I walked a little bit and tried to start back running. I didn’t make it very far. I walked some more, thinking that if I caught my breath really well, I could finish it out. I finished, but there was lots of walking involved. I felt like a complete failure when I was done. Up to this point, I’ve been able to run the entire distance of each of my long runs.

The only thing that made me feel a little bit better was my time. Three weeks ago, I ran 10 miles in 1:45. Last weekend, I ran 12 miles in 2:30. (Crazy slow!) On Friday’s run, I finished the 12 miles in 2:22, with all the walking. I’m hoping for better this week – weather, time, luck, everything.