Mommy Wants a Timeout

In which I contemplate absurd moments in parenthood, occasionally attempt to refer to myself as a “triathlete” while keeping a straight face, and maybe post some random pictures of stuff I’m knitting

My Big Year…(Or, A Post About Birds and Running)

You know, as in “The Big Year,” that movie with Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black? About birding? This is my post about birds. Birds and running, actually, or how birds make running interesting (to me, anyway) and therefore much more tolerable.

The reason I’m thinking about this topic is that I received a round of applause from motorists along my running route last week, and it had nothing to do with my attire, my speed, or the fact I was NAILING my tempo pace just a day after a long, hard bike ride. No, they were clapping because I stopped running to jump off the sidewalk into the busy street, stop traffic, and herd a crowd of ducklings across the street after their mother. (I’d tried to talk her out of crossing a moment before, but she was determined. “Don’t do it, you stupid duck! The lake is on this side of the road! Think of your children!” She didn’t listen, she just quacked in agitation and tried to waddle past me.)

I’m sure we were a comical picture, me trying to hustle along these ducklings who were so tiny they kept falling over trying to run away from me. Once I got them safely over the curb on the far side of the road, (Have you ever watched very small ducklings trying to hop up on a curb? It took each of them at least three tries.) I looked up and saw drivers and passengers clapping for me. I gave them a wave and started running again with a smile on my face that lasted the rest of the run, even as I tried to salvage my tempo pace.

It was the second run in a week that was slowed down by my fascination with birds, especially baby ones. On Thursday I stopped in the middle of an 8-mile easy run to take this picture of Canada geese with a big group of goslings; 8 or 9 if I counted right.

Not the best quality picture...My eyes were still dilated from the ophthalmologist's that morning.

Not the best quality picture…My eyes were still dilated from the ophthalmologist’s that morning.

I’m lucky enough to live and run near greenspaces that are filled with different creatures that entertain me. Here is my “Big Year” list of birds I’ve seen during this year’s training:
1. Red-tailed hawk
2. Great Blue heron
3. Red-winged blackbird (these guys sing to me while I run…I love it!)
4. Mallard duck
5. Northern coot
6. Spotted towhee
7. Flicker (These woodpeckers are one of my favorites)
8. Robin
9. Scrub Jay
10. Junco
11. Sparrow
12. Bushtit
13. Crow
14. Seagull (They must be a little misguided, since there’s a mountain range and at least 60 miles between here and the ocean)
15. Anna’s hummingbird
16. Goldfinch
17. House finch
18. Chickadee
19. Wood duck
20. Barn swallow (While I was running along a path beside a blackberry hedge on one side and soccer fields on the other yesterday, a couple of these guys started swooping in circles around me. They stayed with me for over a quarter of a mile, crossing right in front of me. At first it was kind of fun. Then it got a little creepy…What was their game, anyway? I never figured it out.)

I’ve also seen a few other species I haven’t identified, since my Field Guide to Birds of North America is too heavy to fit in my hydration belt pocket.

All these birds, along with the occasional rabbit, raccoon, deer, or gopher entertain me while I’m running and cycling, and help me appreciate the surroundings I get to train in. And if a photo opportunity or a chance to do some animal rescue interrupts a workout, I’m okay with that. I’m doing my best not to take my triathlon hobby TOO seriously!

Dogwoods in bloom...Another beautiful sight captured while on a run!

Dogwoods in bloom…Another beautiful sight captured while on a run!

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My Legs Were on Hawaiian Time…

Well, this post is a little overdue. Our Kaua’i trip happened back in early March, and I promised to post pictures and a full report when I got back. Life constantly seems to interfere with my best blogging intentions…

Ahhh, Hawaii. Probably my favorite place in the world. This was my first visit to the island of Kaua’i, and also the first time we felt the kiddo could keep up on some fun outdoor activities. And keep up he did…through hikes that had me huffing and puffing, a pretty long kayak ride, and some quality beach time.

In contrast to last year’s trip to Maui, when I had a pneumatic boot protecting my injured foot, this year I was in good shape for running and swimming, and was looking forward to doing both in the new scenery. Unfortunately for me, my legs seemed to relax into that comfy “Hawaiian Time” as soon as we got there, and resisted all of my attempts to encourage them to move faster than my long, slow run pace (even though I never ran longer than 4 miles.) Blame jet lag, blame the warm weather and humidity, or the early-morning, pre-coffee timing, but the running was nothing to write home about. I did, however, see some beautiful sights on some of those sunrise runs:

I'm never up this early at home!

I’m never up this early at home!


An endangered Hawaiian monk seal taking a nap.

An endangered Hawaiian monk seal taking a nap.


I didn’t limit my lower-body workout to running. Hiking up hills is great exercise too!

Checking out the Waimea Canyon views

Checking out the Waimea Canyon views…


This guy's always eager to explore!

…pretending he’s on Mars…


Heading off for a canyon hike

…and heading off for a canyon hike


One of my favorite hikes: the shoreline next to Maha'ulepu Beach.

One of my favorite hikes: the shoreline next to Maha’ulepu Beach.

Oh, and there was some swimming, too, although I must admit I’m always so fascinated by what I see under the water I rarely concentrate on getting a workout in. I’m not comfortable in a snorkel mask, though, so I get lots of practice holding my breath!

Poipu Beach Park

Poipu Beach Park


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We also took a kayak tour up the Wailua River, followed by a hike to a “secret” waterfall in the jungle (not so secret, judging from the hordes of visitors that hiked in shortly after we arrived!) I did earn bragging rights by being the first person present to jump (or wade, slowly) into the water and swim to the falls. Even in Hawaii, waterfall pools are…umm…refreshing? Bracing? Freakin’ cold, more like. Nothing like Oregonian winter-white gooseflesh to make me look fantastic in a bathing suit!

The lush greenery along the Wailua River

The lush greenery along the Wailua River


Hiking along the river to the falls

Hiking along the river to the falls


Not a bad place for a (COLD!!!) shower!

Not a bad place for a (COLD!!!) shower!


Couldn't convince this one to go all the way out to the waterfall with me. Wimp.

Couldn’t convince this one to go all the way out to the waterfall with me. Wimp.

My husband took a helicopter tour of the island with my dad and brother…By all reports, it was amazing, but I’m both too chicken and to prone to motion-sickness to have joined them. Oh, and speaking of chickens…They are EVERYWHERE on Kaua’i! Just part of the local character…

Some local chicks...

Some local chicks…


And a baby daddy?

And a baby daddy?

As much fun as we had on our visit to Kaua’i, there were a couple adventures that will have to wait for the kiddo to get a little bigger and stronger…

We'll kayak the Na Pali coast someday. Until then, this is as close as we'll get.

We’ll kayak the Na Pali coast someday. Until then, this is as close as we’ll get.


This trail is calling us, too...An adventure for another time!

This trail is calling us, too…An adventure for another time!

So there’s the briefest vacation report I can manage…Better late than never, right? And because I can’t get enough of baby birds (more about that in a future blog post) I’ll leave you with this parting shot:

Adorable (and endangered) Hawaiian Nene.

The adorable (and endangered) Hawaiian Nene.

Saying “No” to Fear

I know I promised my next post would be pictures from Kauai, and it’s long overdue, but today I watched the coverage of the attacks at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, and it got me thinking about fear and my relationship with it.

My generation’s early adulthood was shaped by the events of September 11, 2001. Like everyone, watching those planes fly into the World Trade Center shocked me and changed my perception of the world I live in. It also made me afraid. Afraid to fly, afraid to travel, afraid to do many of the things I had always dreamed of doing, and had, in fact, done fearlessly in my earlier life. (I was twenty-one that day, and had already gone to Europe a couple times by myself.) Add that to my deep-rooted fear of failure and humiliation, and my twenties were characterized in a large part by an unwillingness to try new things; getting married, working on my career, and having a baby were safe, expected, and predictable things that made me feel secure.

Then I turned thirty, and started evaluating my life (and my fears.) I made a conscious decision that I would not let myself pass up things I wanted to experience because I was anxious about what could go wrong. It wasn’t so much a decision not to be scared as a commitment not to let that fear stop me. Was I afraid to fly? Sure. But I was more afraid of never seeing a sunset on Maui, so off we went. Afraid to swim in the ocean? Heck, yeah…But more afraid that if I didn’t control my fear of fish, rip tides, big waves and sharks, I would miss out on the opportunity to see something remarkable…So I dived in. (Okay, okay, I waded in, slowly, and the first time a fish swam near me I ran back to shore, hyperventilating, until I got the nerve to go back in again, but you get the picture.) Afraid to travel solo with a three-year-old? Yes, but more afraid I’d never get to see Las Vegas if I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity I had. So I hit the strip with a kiddo and a stroller, and it was awesome! Oh, and I was also afraid I would fail if I tried to finish a triathlon…But I sucked it up, learned to swim, and the rest is history.

Last December, a shooter opened fire in the mall I wasted countless hours at as a teenager. Two people were killed, people I’d knew personally had to run for their lives, and our community was stunned. Two days later, another gunman opened fire in an elementary school in Connecticut. I don’t even need to describe that unspeakable tragedy; you know it as well as I do. My five-year-old son was oblivious, and went on with his life as usual. But I was threatened by a wave of fear that made me want to avoid public places, to keep him inside, to shelter him from everything I could for the rest of my life. Then I gave myself a mental head-shake, and thought to myself, what’s the point of living if you’re going to spend all your time trying to anticipate every possible threat? Not only will you be eaten alive with worry, but you’ll miss out on all the joy in life, and probably end up getting blindsided by some crazy thing you never could have prepared for, anyway. I’m not going to do that to myself, and I won’t let my child grow up that way either.

Watching the Boston Marathon tragedy unfold, I feel the temptation to withdraw, to try to shelter myself and my family from the outside world. But I know this is an irrational tendency. As frightening as each of these events is, they’re so much more rare than they seem. And every day, millions of acts of kindness and heroism go unrecognized. I will keep reminding myself that there is more good in the world than bad, and I’m going to embrace life instead of being a victim of fear. I’ll never be one to go rushing headlong into danger or anything, but every time I consider not doing something I want to because I’m afraid it could turn out badly, I’m going to remind myself not to let the fear make my decisions for me.

Running…With Bugs

Ahhh, the joy of having your beloved 5-year-old crawl into bed with you first thing in the morning, cuddling his warm body against yours, snuggling close for a kiss, sharing his plethora of cold germs…Yep, this little guy is the reason I’ve spent more time WITH a cold than without so far this winter; at least it sure feels that way.

Nonetheless, I’m managing to get my three-a-week runs in, and I’ve only missed one or two of my twice-weekly swim sessions. As far as I’m concerned, I’m putting those miles in the bank just in case I get REALLY sick one of these days, or need to take a few days off for a minor injury. And I’m trying to stay cheerful in spite of my ever-present sniffles…Though I do wonder what the people I pass on my usual running route think of me, smiling and waving as the snot drips down my face. Most of the time the rain washes it away anyway, so maybe it’s not that big of a deal. All part of the joy of training in the Oregon winter!

In just nine short days, I’ll be saying goodbye to the nasty weather and aloha to the warmer rain of Kauai! Alas, it’s only for a week, but remembering last year’s trip to Maui in a pneumatic walking boot, I have high hopes for this being a wonderful vacation. Ocean swimming, hiking, kayaking…I’m prepared to have an awesome time, with or with out viral companions!

Stay tuned for pictures in a few weeks!

2012, The Year in Review: My Identity Crisis

Since my injury last spring effectively ruined my summer identity as a wannabe triathlete, I spent the year considering some alternate identities to hold me over until I’m back on the race circuit.

I tried for “fashionista.” Unfortunately, the summer’s cute dresses and skinny cropped pants looked a little funny with the clunky running shoes I keep my custom orthotics in, so that idea never really got off the ground.

I flirted briefly with being “SuperMom,” but again, the foot injury interfered with my ability to chase the child around the park and backyard for hours, which seems to be the kiddo’s idea of what SuperMom should be doing. (I will stubbornly cling to my identity of “Pretty Good Mom,” however; I think the hours spent doing craft projects and teaching him to love veggies has earned me that much.)

So finally, after much deliberation, I settled on being “Suzy Homemaker,” at least until I’m back to my former triathlete-ish self.

Here is the substantiating evidence to support my self-ordained title:

See how my garden grows? Lots of healthy organic veggies!

Just a bit of this summer’s homegrown produce.

Homemade jam…Made from berries the kiddo and I picked together.

I'm sporting just one of around 8 sweaters I managed to knit over the year.

I’m sporting just one of around 8 sweaters I managed to knit over the year.

The downside to the massive amount of time spent knitting while I waited for my foot to heal…was a horrible case of wrist tendonitis, which put me on the knitting DL for a while. Who knew you could get injured sitting on the couch recovering from injury?

Fortunately, the foot is mostly healed, and the rest of the body is gradually remembering what it’s like to run 6 or 7 miles at a time. Swimming is going, well, swimmingly, and cycling…Okay, pending better weather and a saddle that doesn’t leave bruises where bruises shouldn’t be, this WILL be the year I establish a good relationship with my bike!

I’m not a New Year’s Resolution type of gal, so I won’t set any hard and fast goals for the upcoming year. Still, I have high hopes for finishing an Olympic distance tri, improving my 10K time, and getting some quality open-water swims in. On the parenting side, I’m hoping that consistent discipline paired with lots of love and affection will help us navigate us through this current rough patch of defiance and into calmer waters by the time kindergarten starts in the fall. And if he just grows out of it on his own, well, I have every intention of taking all the credit as a self-proclaimed “Pretty Good Mom.”

Here’s what WordPress had to say about my blog over the past year, if you’re interested:

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

To a Dear, Dear Friend

I’m sorry for the departure from my usual trivial content, but I’ve just got to get this out.

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For all the time you spent curled up in my lap, sharing your warmth with me (even though I know your motivations were purely selfish.)

For all the comic relief (like the time you jumped into the wall mirror, thinking it was an opening into another room. Or that time you misjudged the distance to the top of the refrigerator, and fell into a huge dish of olive oil.)

For putting up with a toddler grabbing handfuls of your fur and pulling on your tail, and giving only the mildest of meows in rebuke.

For the way you always held out hope that that same toddler would someday learn to pet you just right, and so never gave up rubbing against him and purring.

For catching that mouse under the coffee table (even though I have a sneaking suspicion you brought it in from the garage in the first place.)

For that piercing yowl you would use to demonstrate your part-Siamese ancestry, usually in the early morning hours when the rest of the house was sound asleep.

For greeting guests at the door as if you were a friendly dog, not a noble housecat.

For the house-wide presence of vacuum-resistant cat fur that will remind us of you long after you have left this earth.

For those big, beautiful green eyes that seem to imply an intelligence that, unfortunately, you never actually manifested.

For the absolute ecstasy you demonstrated whenever someone scratched your chin.

For the way you would find the softest part of my body, usually my belly, and knead your paws in it until you were hypnotized.

For all these reasons and more, your passing leaves a hole in my heart that, I’m sure, will never quite heal. I love you and will miss you terribly.

R.I.P. Caliban, 2001-2012

R.I.P. Caliban, 2001-2012

And the Nobel Prize for Spam Literature Goes To…

This may be the best comment captured by my WordPress spam filter so far; it’s a real literary masterpiece. Just had to share!

“I loved as much as you will receive carried out right here. The sketch is tasteful, your authored subject matter stylish. nonetheless, you command get bought an nervousness over that you wish be delivering the following. unwell unquestionably come further formerly again since exactly the same nearly a lot often inside case you shield this hike.”

Fellow bloggers, if you routinely delete your spam comments without reading them, you may be missing out on some amusing content. Or you might have a real life…

Weekly Workouts in Parenting

My weekly schedule for running typically includes a long, slow distance run, a speed or tempo run, and a middle-distance, middle-speed day. I’m a routine-oriented person, so it’s pretty reliable that these days fall on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, each week, barring any major changes in my son’s preschool schedule, or my own work routine.

The parenting routine is a little less predictable. It does, however, parallel the run workouts in a few ways. Each week contains some mix of the following:

The Speed Workout: Get up and get dressed, we’re going to be late to school! How fast can I make this PB & J sandwich for his lunch while encouraging him to hurry up and finish his oatmeal? Get your shoes on, get in the car! Drop him off at school, grab a latte, then rapid-fire grocery shopping, workout, school pickup and a haircut for kiddo. Drop off overdue books at library, head to Tae Kwon Do, then throw together something like a healthy meal for dinner; cleanup, bedtime…And I’m spent.

Middle Distance Day: Not so many errands to run, just a steady diet of housework, helping the kiddo with homework, etc.  (Seriously? Homework at the preschool level? Yep, it’s true!) Hubby’s home on time, so making dinner is a little less rushed (and he puts kiddo to bed!) Pleasantly tired but not exhausted by the end of the day.

The Long, Slow Distance Day: Husband gets up early and heads out for a full day of work; a dinner meeting that night means I won’t see him until after the kiddo’s asleep. No school today…What will we do to entertain ourselves? A trip to the park, a stop off at the grocery store…Back home for lunch, and the kiddo’s afternoon whining corresponds with my afternoon fatigue; a little “quiet time” in his room and a little TV time for me restore us slightly, and we spend the rest of the afternoon coloring, playing with Legos, and passing the time until dinner. The pre-dinner hour brings another bout of the whinies, which I do my best to ignore, though eventually they result in a timeout and some tears. Dinner improves the little guy’s temper, and pretty soon it’s time to get ready for bed. The stall tactics and foot-dragging bring me to the brink of losing my temper, but eventually he’s in his pajamas. Story time, and then he’s tucked into bed…And tucked in again, 10 minutes later. Finally, all is quiet. I collapse on the couch in exhaustion.

Comparing the challenge of running to the challenge of parenting is no contest; parenting taxes me emotionally and physically, and often leaves me feeling worn out, as opposed to running, which generally leaves me either energized or pleasantly fatigued. But there is one major similarity: all this hard work is going to pay off eventually…Isn’t it?

Hard to believe such an adorable creature could be so much work, isn’t it?

 

How To Win An Age-Group Award

I’m not an overly competitive person. Sometimes, during a race, I’ll see someone running a few yards ahead of me, and contemplate passing them. I’ll even accelerate a little. Then, when my legs start to burn and I’m breathing a little fast, I’ll think, “Nah, not worth it.” I’m just missing that killer instinct that the great competitive runners have. Also, the speed. I’m definitely missing the speed.

I’m not particularly concerned with where I finish in the standings most of the time, either, as long as I gave the race my best effort. I like to see improvement in my times, but I don’t care too much for my ranking. I have, however, lucked into a few age-group awards, which were a nice ego boost for me…There’s something about a colorful ribbon that is satisfying in a different way than seeing a new PR on the race results sheet. When people congratulate me on an age-group placing, though, I usually feel obligated to explain why I didn’t really deserve it…or try to convince them that they, too, could win one without necessarily being super fast. So I’ll share them with you, too: my tips for taking home an age group award.

1. Pick a race with a small field. I avoid the mega-races, and it’s not because I won’t place in them; huge throngs of people just freak me out a little. Plus, it’s hard to find parking. I prefer a race with 150 or 200 people, which feels more friendly and personal to me. And it definitely improves the odds.

2. Pick a race that’s called a Fun Run, or even better, a Run/Walk. If it’s a Fun Run, you can hope most people aren’t taking it too seriously…Put your game face on, and you might beat some of the more casual runners. If it’s a Run/Walk, and you run it, you’re pretty much guaranteed to finish ahead of a big part the field, drastically improving your chances of placing!

3. Pick a race where they give age-group awards 6 deep. The race’s website usually mentions this, since people really like taking home awards! (Pretty ribbons…I want more pretty ribbons!) Races sponsored by local running clubs are great for this…And the entry fees are usually pretty affordable, too.

4. If all else fails, be really old. Or really young. In my most recent 5K, there was one runner in the 80+ category. He won first place. There were two in the 75-79. Even the last-place guy could claim a top-2 finish! Also, the 10-14 year-old category tends to be sparsely populated. (Though if you’re reading this blog, good luck getting there again! Better to just stick with your running program, and know that when you hit 70, your competition will thin out considerably.)

This is all for fun, by the way. Except for an elite few who have the God-given talent to be really fast, most of us should be focused on our personal goals, not beating other people. But it’s really hard to get your nonrunner friends excited about the fact you just beat your 5K PR by 10 seconds…Better to just show them a pretty ribbon. Take a picture, post it on Facebook, and wait for the congratulations to start rolling in!

Swimmer’s High

Lately I’ve been feeling like the management at my gym has been adding some sort of substance to the pool water that makes it especially viscous. It’s really the only explanation for why I’ve been training and training, and still feeling so sluggish in the water. I’ve been busting out Total Immersion drills and interval workouts twice a week for months now, with no visible payoff. Yes, my strokes-per-length have decreased, and I’ve seen a few other minor improvements, but it’s been a long time since I’ve had a major swimming breakthrough. Until today, that is.

This morning was Superhero Day at my son’s preschool, so I bundled him into his Batman T-shirt (complete with cape) and dropped him off in the company of Ironman, Superman, a Transformer, Catwoman, and, inexplicably, a fairy princess, then headed off to the pool. (Okay, there was a latte stop, some Facebook and Twitter time, a load of laundry, and a kitchen cleanup in-between, but you get the point.) I faced my morning swim with my usual reluctance and grudging resignation, but guess what, folks? Today, it DID NOT SUCK!!! In fact, today I finally had the kind of revelatory experience that my hardcore runner friends annoy me by bragging about: a runner’s high! Except it was while I was swimming! (I’m still waiting for it to happen while running, actually.)

I’ll spare you the details of my 700-yard warmup and just say that when I started what was supposed to be 500 yards at moderate effort, and then some 100-yard repeats, I began to feel like a superhero myself. I was gliding through the water effortlessly, painlessly, (but not slowly,) breathing easily…Even my flip turns were smooth! And at 500 yards it felt so good I decided to keep going until it didn’t. 800, still great. 1000, no problem. 1200, I could keep going forever. 1400…My swim cap, which had been creeping a little further back with each flip turn, finally popped off my forehead and tangled itself around my ponytail like one of those little bun-covers the Mennonite women wear, leaving me with a swirl of blonde bangs obscuring my view. That’s where I finally stopped. 1400 yards continuous swimming, a flip turn at each end, and a heart rate that never went above 130, at a pace under 2 minutes/100 yards.

I’ve swum further than that without stopping before (though it’s been a while). I’ve swum faster, too. But it never felt that easy, and I always WANTED to be done at the end. Today, I really felt like I could have gone on for miles, blissfully. Rather than welcoming an excuse to stop, I was truly annoyed that I had to. (Swim cap issue aside, I had to go pick up my little Batman from school.) But with no time or wardrobe constraints, I would really have liked to see how long I could have kept going.

I’m under no illusion that my next swim will be so easy, or that this was anything more than a lucky day where things just came together right. But I might be a little more excited to head to the pool for my next few workouts. In any case, I should probably send a letter to the gym’s management thanking them for altering the chemistry of the water to make me, finally, a good swimmer!

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