smart car pull trailer kayak

It’s my party and I’ll peddle/paddle if I want to

This has been my birthday weekend.  I am a mere 24 months away from being the same age my father was when he had his double bypass surgery….at 40.  In the past 20 years since his surgery I have watched my Dad go from climbing mountains with a vengeance to barely being able to climb a set of stairs.  I have seen friends struck down in the prime of their lives.  I will not go quietly into the night.  No, no.  I want to enjoy my time here.  I want to DO things.  Ranger Up put it best on their t-shirt; now if they just had a female version….

With that in mind, I have made a point to myself over the past couple of years to do many of the things that I have wanted to do.  That includes this weekend.  Yesterday, Perry and I went for a paddle kayak dog down the Potomac.  We had a lovely time.  The water is starting to get chilly and unlike some of the crazy folks I will not be paddling once the water gets cold.  Therefore, I am soaking up all of the miles I can get right now.  Plus, it is a great core workout without having to do a single crunch.  It was a gorgeous day and I had a grand time.  Even HRH Perry had a good time, although, he is quickly learning that the water temperature isn’t what is used to be.

Just as an aside, did you know that a Smart Car could pull 2 kayaks and a trailer?  IMG_4822

Today was spent out in the mountains of Western Maryland. Our local PBS station (MPT) has a program called “Outdoors Maryland.” An older episode of theirs (running 2-3 years ago) did a short segment on the Western Scenic Railroad, and how you could load your bike onto the train and then ride down the mountain from Frostburg.  I’ve been wanting to go and wanting to go and could never get folks to go.  Enough! I decided to go.  With or without any of my friends. Lucky for me, I had one friend who was more than happy to get out of the city for a while and my birthday just happened to be the perfect excuse.

J and I picked up our rental bikes from Western Maryland RailroadCumberland Trail Connection and rode next door to the Western Scenic Maryland Railroad. We got our bikes, and ourselves, loaded onto the train and started up the mountain to Frostburg.  The leaves on the trees are already starting to turn up there.  It was a beautiful trip up the mountain.  Once we got to Frostburg we were reunited with our 2 wheeled steeds and headed back down the Great Allegheny Pass to Cumberland.

It was an awesome ride and even better its totally downhill. Yes, folks, 15 miles of a gentle 1% grade all the way back to Cumberland.  The path is in excellent condition and covers some gorgeous ground in Western Maryland.  It doesn’t require a great deal of railroad tunnel marylandeffort which leaves you the ability to look around and appreciate the scenery with only the sound of the crunch of your tires on the trail. It was a nice break on my legs from running and all of the miles just flew by.  Even cooler?  You get to go through a tunnel!!

My only complaint about the day was that I was at a loss for options of where I could eat.  Pretty much all of the places in Frostburg and Cumberland were not gluten friendly. We wound up stopping at a bar once we got back to Cumberland and I got a salad (not very fun for the birthday girl).  I have made a note that the next time I do the trip I will make sure I pack a picnic lunch.  I had so much fun, yes, I would love to do it again.

I still have way more things that I want to do, but I am determined to make this year the year.

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You know you are a gluten-free runner when….

Contrary to the gluten-free morons who are jumping on this bandwagon because their sisters-boyfriends-trainers-girlfriend told them to, I actually cannot eat gluten.  Well, that’s a lie.  I CAN eat gluten.  I won’t get hives, go into anaphylactic shock, or burst into flames.  I will, however, experience a whole host of GI and physical issues that I won’t embarrass you with.  This means that I eat no gluten, period end of discussion.  When I have been gluten bombed I know it within 20 minutes and I spend the next 24 hours in massive pain, agony, and not wandering far from a bathroom.

This leads me to running.  What most people don’t know is that when you start running longer distances all the jostling does funny things to your GI tract.  Meh, that’s old hat for me.  What most runners don’t have to deal with is checking every major energy source that is on the race course to determine if it has gluten in it or not.  Nothing says “I’m not finishing” like ingesting something that you shouldn’t.  After I’ve trained, paid for the entry fee, and gotten up at the crack of dawn I am finishing.  Which typically translates to I either have to bring my own stuff, or doing copious amounts of research before I go.  Luckily, all of the GU Energy Lab products are gluten-free.  As are Gatorade drink products.  Yay! Score one for the GF crowd.

That being said, I will be running the Dirty Damsel trail race soon.  As with all race packets they send you electronically, this one also had a full line up of what would be available post race. “Water, Gatorade, and soft drinks will be available after the race. Food is typical post-trail food, including pizza, breakfast burritos, bagels, peanut butter, bananas, trail bars, chips, cookies, trail-mix and M&Ms. Free food and beverages will be available at the finish line for all racers and volunteers.” Nothing says buzz kill like having to either skip by all of the food or get all excited because you think there is something you can eat (chips, M&Ms) only to flip the package over to find out, oh no, sorry it has wheat in it.  (Yeah, I’m looking at you Pringles.) So while everyone else is partying down, I’ll be the dork with the lunch box containing food I can eat.   Wow, it’s high school all over again….

Now I’m not asking the to have a whole array of gluten free food, but would it kill them to at least have a couple of options?  Oh wait, that’s right they do bananas.  Yay.  Here’s to hoping that they have plain M&Ms.

Swimming not running to my best PR: Must be the tutu

Around the mid-Atlantic states you get this wonderful phenomena called humidity. Even though fall is nearly upon us some days the air is so thick you feel like you are swimming through it.  When you are asthmatic (which is already like trying to breathe through a straw) these days are the days where some wise guy shoved peas into that straw.

A dear friend of mine, D,  asked me to come down and run the Mulberry Island 5k with him.  He’s been battling some injuries and person health issues and this was going to be his first time back road running in well over a year.  Even though I ran the half marathon last weekend I figured I had to get back into the pool sometime so why not go down, hang out with his awesome family, and get a run in too.  I also had an ulterior motive.  I bought him a camo tutu and it was the perfect opportunity to get him to wear it.  (In my defense, he had agreed to wear it for the half-marathon since we were all wearing tutus…I just don’t think he expected to wear it before then.)

Looking around the start line it was filled with young gazelles.  The start gun went off and off scampered the gazelles (who I later found out crossed the finish line in sub 15 minutes).  As we headed away from the start line the air hit you like a truck. You could literally see how thick the air was.   D and I settled into a steady rhythm, but I knew that he was shortening his stride to stay with me.  I kept urging him to go ahead Army Camo Tututhat Perry and I would be fine, but he opted to stay with us.  Perry was happy as a clam running along.  I was wondering why I was struggling so bad (other than the air quality) then my phone at the 1 mile marker said, “1 mile.  Time, Ten Minutes 42 seconds.”  Holy biscuits and gravy, WHAT? I looked at D and said, “Gee, no wonder why I’m struggling.” Finally, after the water station at the half way mark he stretched his stride out.  I could tell as I watched him pull away from us that he was not only starting to feel better with the longer stride, but his confidence about running on the road was coming back to him too.

Meanwhile, Perry and I, ok I, was struggling with the air quality; it was hot, humid, and thick.  I had taken my inhaler before we started and then again shortly after we left the start line as a precautionary measure.  We kept pushing through the course.  My mind was very divided on how I was feeling.  One half of me kept pushing me more and more.  The other half of me was screaming to make it stop.

Crushed it

Crushed it

As we came around the final corner I could see the finish line.  I could hear D, his wife and kids all cheering.  I kicked it into high gear.  Ok, for most people it’s their normal pace, for me it was high gear.  I sprinted to the finish line.  I was looking at the clock as I crossed under it; 32:01.  Are you freaking kidding me?  Seriously????  Back in May when I did The Color Run in DC I finished in 47 minutes.  Today, four months later, I finished 15 minutes faster.  It must be the tutu, I think it has rocket launchers is in. Now, to just keep that kind of pace up over longer distances.  Baby steps.

Leaping tall buildings

After the half-marathon yesterday I waited and waited for my “runners high” to hit me.  Pain hit me, but no runners high.  I kept waiting and waiting.  Even after I woke up this morning I looked around; nope still not there. I was still a little stiff, but not as bad as I would have been if I had not gone and gotten a 90 minute massage yesterday (thank you Brenda) I was still missing something.  Wasn’t quite sure what, but I knew I was out of whack some how.

One of my favorite people in the world had recommended CorePower Yoga.  She has a studio out in CO Springs, and has raved for weeks about it to me.  When I found out they had a studio here I had made a mental note of their schedule.  It has been a while since I had been to a true yoga studio.  (No, yoga classes in gyms do not count as true yoga, but that’s a topic of a separate conversation.)

I mentally went through my body check list to see if I was ok enough to actually go to a class.  I knew I was going to probably struggle, but I didn’t see a reason why I could not go to class.  I went back double checked the schedule and found a class that suited my abilities.  Level one, what could go wrong with a level one class?

When I walked into the Falls Church studio I immediately fell in love.  It had the most wonderful welcoming vibe this was definitely the ‘cool kids’ yoga.  As I made my way through the class I started to feel better and better; even with all of the chair that we did. Chair is one of those poses that makes your legs scream at you.  I held my own though, my legs finally calling uncle during the last iteration.  The room was apparently warmer than it normally is for a level 1 class (which is usually not heated), but the sweat felt good. By the time we were done I was soaked, but unbelievably happy. I finally felt what I was expecting to feel after my race, proud and like I could leap a tall building.  Apparently, my runner’s high was just stuck in a telephone booth….

A GF half marathon: my first

Today I ran and completed my first half marathon. I got up before the crack of dawn and drove 70 miles to go run 13.1 miles. I must be insane. After yesterday’s anxiety attack about doing this on my own my best friend recommended to me to put the pin of Perry the Platypus on my shirt. Her reasoning; the last time you took a flat dad why not take a flat Perry. IMG_4711.JPG She was right, though, a couple if times during the run when I started to get anxious I reached down and touched the pin. I know it sounds weird, but it did help.

My biggest fear going in was that I was going to get gluten bombed the day before and I’d have issues on the race course. All this week I was even more militant than ever ensuring that there was no possible way I was going to get sick. Some times it pays to be a little over zealous.

I ran this race at my pace, but along the way I met several girls who were going about the same speed at I was. I kept them in my eye line to keep moving along. I thought I was doing awesome, until I saw this guy.

IMG_4717.JPG Are you kidding me. Holy crap running this race is hard enough let alone carrying a flag the whole way. Good grief!

The miles clicked away until I hit the 10 mile marker. Then I hit a wall. In my mind I knew it was only 3 more miles, but holy biscuits I swear that from 10-11 felt longer than the previous 10 miles put together. When I crossed the 11-12 marker I swear I was going backwards. Are we there yet?!

Forward motion. That was all I wanted. If I walked, crawled or dragged my happy ass forward that’s all I cared about. In the end, I finished. I even finished faster than I was anticipating. I think it was the girls I was pacing with.

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When I got through the timer and got my official picture taken (unofficial below) they corralled you through the food area. One tiny problem. All of the food they were trying to get us to eat I couldn’t. Good thing I packed a lunch box. You’d think with the number of folks out there with allergies they’d serve Kind bars vice cookies. Then again I’m sure cookies are cheaper.

I hobbled to the car, changed out of my exceptionally wet clothes, turned on the heated seat and made the 70 mile drive home. There’s only one question I have. When is that euphoric runners high suppose to kick in? All I feel is tired. My lungs hurt more than I wish they were and my legs want to chop themselves off. All that said, I finished dammit.

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Linus and the missing security blanket: half marathon edition

You remember Linus don’t you?

I’m kind of like Linus, except my security blanket is Perry.  He goes everywhere with me.  He goes kayaking, hiking, and when the weather is right he runs errands with me.  When he is with me I feel invincible.

Tomorrow I am running the Run Like a Diva.  Unfortunately, not only is it a bit too far for his little paws on asphalt, but he is also banned from running.  Wha??  You mean I have to do this completely, totally, and utterly ALONE???  Oh crap.  Cue the anxiety attack.

I’m doing this race tomorrow to take the scary out of the March half that I am doing with a bunch of my friends.  I’m doing this race, at a walk, to prove that I can cover the distance.  When I walk it then I will know that March is just about building some speed. Given my bouts of anxiety and my absolute disdain for the unknown tomorrow is also about addressing the unknown.  Tiny little problem, I’m doing this alone.

The course starts at 0730 out in Leesburg.  Considering that I live about 1.5 hours away from the start line and the parking lot closes at 0655 that means I have to leave my house no later than 0530.  Which means getting up early to get there.  Which doesn’t bother me in the least.  It does, however, bother everyone that I would call my support network.  So, I’m going it solo.

I will fully admit that I am scared shitless. I will also fully admit that I would really love support.  Unfortunately, I’m going to have to tackle both of these things head on, without my security blanket.  Maybe if I put him in a t-shirt and he looks super cute they won’t notice?

So what are you doing this weekend?

My co-workers on Friday were discussing their weekend plans. When the conversation came around to me I casually said; oh I’m going to Colorado Springs to do a 5k. After they picked their jaws up off the ground the peppering of questions began from why would you want to do that to isn’t that kind of expensive for a 5k. What they didn’t factor into their inquisition was friendship.

As we all know as we get older good friends are hard to find. Great friends are even more difficult. A few years back I managed to find an amazing one. Tiny flaw; she was stationed in the UK. Seeing her required selling of organs to get a plane ticket. This past summer she moved to Colorado which means instead of selling a kidney or part of my liver I can actually afford to see her once in a while.

This past winter the stars aligned and I happened to get a business trip to the UK. During the course of that trip we spoke about The Color Run and how fun it would be to do together. We hatched a plan that I would just fly out for the race in the fall in Colorado since that was her next duty location. Nothing says figure it out like trying to get her registered for a US race from a UK IP address!

So, Friday I got on a small screaming delightful human packed flight and headed to CO; from sea level to nearly 8k feet. I had taken a baby aspirin in the morning to help with the altitude sickness (a trick that works). I knew we were only walking it but I still didn’t want to walk it with a screaming headache! As I exited the security portion of the airport there she and T were both standing! I squealed with delight and sprinted across the vestibule area! Oh happy day. Seeing them made up for the crappy delightful flight.

Saturday morning we got decked out in our Glam Runner tutus and headed down to the start line. Even Dixie, C’s flat coated retriever, got decked out.

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As we walked to the start line, three girls and a dog dressed in tutus, passing drivers must have thought we had gone mad. The closer we got to the start line we started seeing more and more angel wings, crazy wigs, and tutus. None of the outfits, not even the hot guys in blue wigs, were more awesome than our puff painted shirts, tutus, and dog in full costume. IMG_4645.JPG

We laughed and giggled and had a grand time through the whole race. There were tons of people who stopped us and asked C, “Can I get a picture with your dog?” Including the really hot guys in the blue wig. We walked, not ran, the whole thing but we had a FABULOUS time doing so.

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We walked home from the finish line happy, giggling, and covered from head to toe in color. As C opened the gate I opened the Map My Fitness app that I had started on our way down to the start line. We had walked not just a 5k, but over a 10k! Granted, many of you scoff at not only the paltry distance, but the fact that it was a walk. To you I say, while yes, it was at a walk, it was an over 6 mile walk at elevation. For an asthmatic who lives practically at sea level that’s pretty awesome.

What made it even more awesome was the fact that not once did my body scream that it was hurting or my mind say ‘are we there yet?!’ The first I attest to all of the time I’m doing in the gym lately. The latter I put squarely on the believe that anything is possible when you are surrounded by amazing friends.

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Run, Fat Girl, Run!!!

There are two types of runners, gazelles and dump trucks.  We both get there, one just looks prettier crossing the finish line.–me

I have never been what one would call a graceful runner.  Even in elementary and high school I was always the last kick picked for any sort of running type sport. I can still hear the taunts and the names being shouted at me.

Many moons ago I was in the U.S. Navy.  Running and physical training (PT) are required. I always struggled with pacing.  Finishing was never a problem, it was always the pacing I had trouble with.  I always crossed the finish line in many different shades of pink to red to purple based on how my breathing was.

Knowing that my career was on the line I asked one of the senior petty officers in the office to run with me during the PT test to help keep me on track.  He was kind enough to agree (considering that his normal pace was way faster than mine and his legs probably have an extra 8 inches on mine he should have been deemed a saint).

This particular race course was near the beach in San Diego.  It didn’t matter what direction you ran in you were always running into the wind.  ALWAYS.  Being asthmatic I struggle with my breathing anyway.  If the wind blew too hard in my face it took what little breath I had away.  My entire mental capacity goes to breathing not to pacing.  Hence my request for help.  Fisher stood with me at the finish line and said, “don’t worry, you’ve got this.”

A spot I will always remember

A spot I will always remember

The proctor counted down and then we were off.  As we rounded the second corner I caught in my sights the pretty petite “Barbie doll” of the command.  She had sprinted off the start line like a rabbit.  I had just kept my pace since the start line, just putting one foot in front of the other. Not faster not slower, just a metronomic pace thanks to Fisher.  I have no idea what he spoke to me about, but I do remember that he was telling me stories and keeping me distracted.  We started gaining ground on her and then we passed her.  As we kept pulling further and further away from her I remember he said to me, “see I told you you had this.”  I just putting one foot in front of the other.  That particular PT test I landed my best time ever (which still wasn’t super fast compared to others in the command, but it allowed me to pass with an “excellent”).

What does that particular day, that particular run, stick in my mind?  It was only a mile and a half.  It didn’t have any crazy elevation changes.   That race in that day taught me an exceptionally valuable lesson.  Just keep your own pace, run your own race, and you will cross the finish line. Yes, I will admit that kicking the skinny “Barbie’s” butt had it’s own sense of satisfaction.

This leads me to where I am right now.  I’m running for me. Not for the military.  Not for my career.  Not out of wanting to escape a bad marriage.  For the first time in my life I’m running for me.  I may not be fast, but as that run with Fisher so many moons ago taught me, it’s not about being fast it’s about completing.  For with completion comes a sense of accomplishment.  I may be fat.  I may be an asthmatic. I may be a girl.  I may not be a competitor, but I will be a completer.