Posts Tagged by ramblings

Clearly Winning at Life

Just when you think you’ve finally adjusted to your new routine. When you’re feeling pretty good about yourself because you just might have things together…and sometimes even manage to get everything done ahead of time instead of waiting until the last minute.

At the moment when you’re still riding out a runner’s high because you finally managed to run over 20 miles in one week for the first time since last fall. You’ve even had a few really good runs where you’ve been able to push and what do you know – despite the heat and the dead legs and the heaving lungs, you realize just how much you’ve missed this. How that deep, slightly twisted part of your brain that has formed over so many years of running is now rejoicing at the pain. Is brimming over with joy because your heart is pounding through your chest and you’re trying to hold on…just hold on for one more mile.

So when you’re feeling good about a strong week of running and that nice, productive weekend. When you’re excited that it’s Sunday night at 8:30, the baby is sleeping, most of your stuff is packed for the next day and you are ready to sit down on the couch and enjoy what is sure to be another exciting episode of Game of Thrones with your husband.

And right before that moment – when you’re patting yourself on the back for being so awesome at life, you realize that you need to sterilize your pump parts. So you put a pot on the stove to boil, dump in the parts, and once again congratulate yourself for thinking of doing this now…instead of at 6:00 Monday morning.

It’s just at that moment, the moment when you almost feel like superwoman, that the universe decides to throw you a fun little reminder that you’re not really as put-together as you’re pretending to be.

Because somehow, suddenly, it’s an hour later and you’re jolted out of your Game of Thrones-induced stupor by a weird sizzling sound. A sound that can only be made by plastic pump parts that have been sitting in a boiling hot pot for an hour…a pot that has finally run out of water.

And wouldn’t you know it – when plastic meets hot metal, it melts.

Yeah, so there’s that. Already winning at life this week.

In case you were wondering – it’s probably not a good idea to boil your pump parts for more than the recommended 20 minutes.

Also Game of Thrones and multitasking do not mix. Lesson learned.

Adventures in Treadmill Running…

…with a baby and a dog

The scene: Tuesday afternoon. Another freezing, windy, snowy day in Vermont.

The cast: One stir-crazy mom who has been on sole baby duty for almost 2 full days, a relatively happy though sometimes inexplicably fussy 2-month old, and a slightly neurotic, somewhat attention-starved pup.

The decision: to schlep this motley crew down to the basement so that mom can get in a few miles on the treadmill.

I’ve talked about my old, slightly broken and very worn treadmill before. It’s something I used to avoid running on at all costs — it shakes, there’s a rut in the center of the belt, and it just feels way harder than running outside. But after the winter we’ve been having, that treadmill and I are becoming the best of friends. Because even a barely functioning treadmill is better than nothing.

treadmill.jpgObviously this gym set up needs some work

But I’ve been hesitant to bring Amelia down there with me when I run because it’s in the partially finished, cooler, storage half of the basement. Plus I had no idea how she’d do. So I usually just plan my runs around Evan’s work schedule, passing the baby off when he gets home and getting in a few miles and a shower before she needs to eat again. I don’t run every day and I’m not working, so it’s pretty easy to be flexible right now.

Until yesterday. We were on Day 2 of Evan leaving the house before 7:00am and coming home after 9:00pm. The weather has been absolutely frigid and snowing…so cold that I don’t really feel comfortable bringing a two-month old outside for a run (maybe it wouldn’t have been bad…I don’t know. I’m new to this). I suppose I could have gotten up early to run before Evan left, but I’m just not dedicated enough to a) cut into my unpredictable sleep and b) get up even earlier so that I could pump first.

So the treadmill was my only option. I gathered up my supplies: the bouncer, a blanket, a frog wubbanub, and some brightly colored toys to keep Amelia happy and an edible bone to give the dog something else to do besides bug the baby. I set everyone up, got my shoes on, and stepped on the machine, nervous about how long Little A would last. She’s not the biggest fan of her bouncer, preferring to sit in the swing or even lie on her play gym. Usually her tolerance for the seat is only about 15-20 minutes. But I figured that was better than nothing. I’d run however far she’d let me and that would be good enough.

the set upMy company for the run

Turns out I was worried about the wrong child all along.

(In case you’re wondering why the dog had to come down with me, well…you’ve probably never had a boxer. He tends to have low impulse control on the best days, but since Amelia’s arrival he’s been getting himself into trouble more often. My poor, needy, slightly misplaced older child. I figured we’d all be better off if he was down where I could watch him. Plus, he usually hangs out with me while I’m on the treadmill anyway…content to just lie there and watch.)

The second he got his bone, Koli started sprinting around the basement, tossing the bone up in the air and having the cutest solo game of fetch I’ve ever seen. I started to run, patting myself on the back for being so resourceful. Why didn’t I think to do this earlier?

…until 30 seconds later when the dog began crying because he had gotten his bone stuck under the treadmill. I got off, retrieved the treat, told him to “go!” and started my run again.

And again I was interrupted by the dog’s cries. This time because no one was playing with him (poor, tortured creature). When his whining failed to give him what he wanted, he gave up on the bone and searched for other ways to pass the time. Checking on the baby, trying to play with her toys, getting into the cat litter, sniffing around in half open boxes — all of these activities were apparently way more interesting than chewing on a silly little bone. He’d take periodic breaks to run around the basement, searching for a place to hide the treat so that he could dig to “find” it. Apparently the treadmill looked like a prime location, despite the fact that he was too scared to actually get the bone once it was trapped under the moving belt.

I spent the entire run saying, “Koli no! Koli – go on!” “Go lay down!” “Koli!!”

Meanwhile, Amelia just sat calmly in her seat, transfixed by the sound of the treadmill and the sight of my moving feet. She sat there wide-eyed the entire time, like it was the most fascinating thing she had ever seen. That girl is going to grow up to be a runner, mark my words.

Amelia_bouncerAfter the run — she kicked off her blanket, pushed away her toys and spit out the wubbanub. But still happy as a clam.

Finally, 2.5 miles into the run Koli wore himself out. He sat down on the mat and stared sadly at the bone, defeated.

I picked up the pace for a final half mile and stopped the belt the second the numbers ticked to 3.0. Better not push it. We schlepped back upstairs where my happy baby hung out with me while I stretched. And poor Koli, after surviving a full 26 minutes staring at it, could finally eat his bone. Apparently the basement is no place to consume such a delicacy.

IMG 5609

Lesson learned: Apparently Amelia likes the treadmill. But next time I’ll leave the dog to his own devices upstairs.

And for our next adventure, we’ll be taking a 2-month old on an airplane. We may be crazy, but we need to escape the cold somehow. Plus my younger sister is running her first ever half marathon (!) and I need to be there. Pregnant Lauren secretly hoped she’d be able to run that half with her sister, but rational postpartum Lauren is content to just cheer.

Anyway, when I get back I’ll be sure to blog my expert tips about traveling with a 2-month old. Because you know, doing something one time makes you a pro. So stay tuned!*

 

*Obviously that final part is sarcasm. In reality, I need all the tips about traveling with a baby that I can get (Have you done it before? Tell me about it!)! We have nonstop flights both ways and we’re hoping she just sleeps the whole time. If not, I apologize in advance to our fellow passengers.

Recap, Run, Read, Repeat

I made it my big goal for 2013 to improve my blog titles. This current one is a winner for sure…

Anyway, this week has been off to a weird start. We have snow today, rain and 50+ degree temperatures forecasted for tomorrow.

In a two day span I’ve managed to break several pieces of nice glassware, including stuff that actually belongs to my sister (I’m blaming the dog…he’s too cute for her to get angry at. Me? Not so much…).

I think I’m still feeling tired from my super “long” and intense 10 mile run on Saturday.

I’ve been having weird dreams about Cylons (After years of making fun of him for his obsession with Battlestar Galactica, Evan finally convinced me to watch the show. We started buzzing through episodes on Netflix and we’re already into Season 3. Someone please stop me!)

And apparently I missed the memo that we’re all supposed to be excited about vitamins today. I keep seeing mentions about how today is supposedly National Vitamin Day, but according to this website, it’s actually National Cornchips Day. I think I’d rather celebrate that one, thanks. (A quick web search revealed that it may also be National Freethinkers Day, Curmudgeons Day, Puzzle Day, or Seeing Eye Dog Day…I suggest you pick your favorite one and celebrate!)

Koli_1.28.2013This pretty much sums up how I’m feeling this morning

So what follows is a semi-random brain dumb…brought to you by the letter R.

Recap:

Thank you for weighing in with your thoughts on the $500 Marathon. I loved reading everyone’s perspectives on the resolution options and running the 2013 New York City Marathon. I knew how I felt about the whole thing, but I was actually somewhat surprised that so many also decided to go for the refund (or said they would if they had been registered).

For those who are interested, I have tabulated the results of my super unscientific blog-comment poll. According to the comments on my last post (and not tweets, emails, etc), the majority of people felt that the refund was the best option. 76.7% of people who commented one way or the other about the issue said they took/would take the refund (vs. 6% who are running the marathon in one of the next few years and 3.3% unsure).

So there you go NYRR. I just did all your analysis for you. You’re welcome.

Okay, so I realize this sample is in no way representative of the population of runners who registered for the 2012 NYCM, but now I’m even more interested to see what happens this year. It would be really cool if NYRR gives us some sort of breakdown on what participants chose to do (too much to ask??). And if most people chose the refund, I wonder how that will impact the organization.

Anyway — for those of you who are running this year…I do hope things have settled down a bit before November and that the race will be a great experience.

Run:

xcskiingtracks_yard.jpg

It’s been cold lately. I know this. You know this. No one can stop talking about it. We’re supposed to get some relief over the next few days (which currently means 22 degrees in Vermont), but running last week was a lesson in character-building.

When I woke up on Saturday morning determined to finally get myself back into the double digits, the temperatures hadn’t seemed to get the memo. A double digit run in single digit temps is not exactly my idea of fun.

I procrastinated long enough for the air to hit a balmy 10 degrees and then finally sucked it up and headed out into the frozen tundra. 10 miles in 10 degrees seemed oddly fitting…in a slightly masochistic type of way. My body didn’t really know how to handle it — I was cold, then hot, then cold again. The wind was bitter. I was afraid my face would literally freeze off. But in the end? The run was kind of awesome.

I don’t really love running in such cold temperatures. 25 – 30 degrees I can do. Anything below that becomes a test of fortitude. One that takes a little extra effort in order to get myself psyched up.

But the funny part about Saturday’s run was that despite the frigid air, I started to really and truly enjoy it. Overnight flurries had left a thin fresh layer of snow covering the shoulders of the roads and the branches of the trees. Something about the clean crisp white, the rolling farmland and mountains, and the fact that I didn’t have to battle stoplights, city slush or traffic brought me to the exciting revelation — Vermont winter running is way better than Providence winter running…even with the colder temps and extra snow. I’d so much rather run where the scenery makes the miles fly by than where I’m dodging cars, bikes, other pedestrians and piles of dirty slush. All complaining about winter running stops now (or at least that’s what I told myself on Saturday…we’ll see how long this declaration lasts).

Unfortunately, that run took way more out of me than it probably should have, and I spent all of Sunday trying to recover. Marathon training has officially begun!

Read:

Just a few running related articles I came across this past week that I thought worth sharing.

Is There One Right Way to Run?

Very interesting article that highlights a new study on the way a traditionally barefoot tribe from Northern Kenya runs — and contrasts that with the results of the original Harvard study that helped support the barefoot/anti-heel striking trend in 2010. Scientists in each study analyzed a different tribe of traditionally barefoot runners from different regions of Kenya (the Kalejin Tribe vs the Daasanch) to determine their natural foot strike. I found the article interesting because it’s something that I’ve believed all along — there is no one “right” way to run. I changed my footwear/form because what I was doing stopped working for me. But like I said in my post last week — if your form works for you, don’t let the minimalist running trend pressure you into changing it!

Training for Boston By Starting From Scratch

I loved this piece by Amby Burfoot about getting back in shape because it’s a great reminder that all runners (even the elite) have to start from somewhere. I especially loved this part of the article. Basically sums up my training at this point.

There’s no joy, poetry, or rhythm to those first few weeks. Your body seems to have forgotten that it’s been running since you were three years old. There’s no connection between your shoulders, your arms, your knees, and your feet. They don’t work together like the fluid, well-oiled machine you remember. Instead, they rattle and rumble and lumber along. You don’t run like a Kenyan, you run like a Quasimodo.

So far as I know, there is no way to avoid this process, and there is only one way through it: sheer will. You go out and force yourself to do the ugly thing tomorrow, and then the day after that, and then the day after that. You trust that a better day will come. No matter how slow, awkward, and horrible each run feels, you envision a more-fluid future. You stay optimistic.

The Race Grows Sweeter Near Its Final Lap

A touching story about love and running. Huge thanks to Ali for sharing this one!

{on}Repeat:

And finally — tunes have been a run-essential these days, especially when I find myself on the treadmill with nothing to stare at but my own reflection. The best way to get through a treadmill run is to plug in, blast the music, and just go. Here’s what I have on repeat lately.

Ludacris ft Usher & David Guetta — “Rest of My Life” (My new run jam)

Maroon 5 – “Lucky Strike” (there’s lots of great songs to run to on their new album, but I love the beat of this one)

Mumford & Sons – “I Will Wait” (Really the whole album is amazing…just like the one before that. Mumford & Sons has been the soundtrack to many successful training and tempo runs.)

Swedish House Mafia – “Don’t You Worry Child

Usher – “Numb

The Barden Bellas – “Bellas Finals” (What? The song’s got a great crescendo and energy!).

I want to know — what’s your latest run jam? I’m in need of some fresh tunes!

 

Fail Better

Failure has been on my mind a lot lately. Not just the fear of it, but the actual, raw experience of failing. Both the tiny failures that I seem to make every single day and the large ones that (in the moment) make it seem as though life as you know it is now over.

It’s funny how as you grow older your definition of failure (and by association, success) changes. When I was younger, failure was so black and white. An “A” on a test, placing at a cross country meet, acceptance into a good school – these were the successes I measured my life by.

These days, it’s not so concrete. I try to measure success in life by the bigger picture. Do my best to not get caught up in the small failures of everyday. To not let myself be defined by inconsequential things like whether I can run a certain weekly mileage, make X amount of money, or boast impressive race PRs. To really live the way that I vowed I would in 2013.

But change takes time and sometimes, no matter how hard you try to not get bogged down, the crap piles up on you. Your list of recent failures (big and small) seems a mile long and all-encompassing. And you start to think that failure is the only thing that defines you.

baking fail_cinnamon raisin breadBaking fail: “homemade cinnamon raisin bread” aka “a hard dense rock of semi-sweet bread-like substance”

Yesterday was one of those days. A day when I sat, immobilized by my failures — the failure to reach my goals, failure to help my family in the way that I want, failure to contribute to society in any meaningful sort of way, and (ironically) my overall failure to stop focusing on the negative.

In other words, I was having a major pity party.

I will pause for a moment to mention that the logical side of me realized how silly I was being. I know that I am not defined by my failures and that, in the scheme of life, these recent failures over which I’m currently stressing are not that major. They are not life-threatening, or ending, or crippling. They are just LIFE. But logic doesn’t always prevail, and instead of being able to rationalize your way out of a pity party, some days you just really need a win.

So as I sat there feeling sorry for myself and angry at a world that is anything but fair, I finally convinced myself to lace up my running shoes. Not expecting much out of the run, but determined to at least take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and abundant sunshine.

snowy trail

The run started off just exactly the way you’d expect on a day when nothing seems to be going right. I stepped in dog poop, was unable to get it all out of the crevices of my running shoes, and ended up with poo on my leg because of my awful tendency to kick myself with my heels while I’m running. Disgusting, but oh so fitting.

Determined to not let this stinky setback derail an otherwise perfect day for running, I kept plugging away. I spent the remainder of that run thinking about failures. And two funny things happened. First – I found my thoughts turning away from the negative and instead toward all those past “failures” that were actually success in disguise.  All those many failures that seemed bad at first, but resulted in some really amazing life changes.

  • Like my failure to succeed at any other sport as a child (I had my heart set on being a gymnast but was completely inflexible; a dancer but too uncoordinated; a soccer player but was afraid of the ball), which eventually led to the discovery of and love affair with running. And all the many successes that have come since.
  • Or the failure to get into UNC’s public health program (the school I wanted most and, as it happened, the only one that did not accept me) that led me to Brown and ultimately to Evan (as did the failures of many past relationships).
  • The failure to keep myself injury free last year which led to a rekindled passion for running — as well as a changed stride and new choice of footwear that has totally changed my running life (and made running feel better than ever).
  • And the failure to find a way to sustain my job in Rhode Island last June which led to a move up to Vermont and a new way of life in the absolute best state in the US (based on my totally non-biased expert opinion after 7 full months of living here).

All failures that looked suspiciously a whole lot like success with the perspective of a little time.

Second – the more I thought about failure, the faster I started running. I don’t know if it was actually the warm temperatures, the fact that I took several days off from running in order to ski all weekend, or if there truly was something in my sub-conscious mind that converted a rumination on failure into the absolute best run I’ve had in months. But whatever the reason, I felt stronger and happier out there running than I have in a really long time. And my splits showed it:

7 miles in 53:22 (8:19, 8:01, 8:12, 7:36, 7:21, 7:15, 6:35!).

Ironically — I finally got the win I so desperately craved after I realized that I no longer needed it.

winter sunset

Sometimes failure sucks. And sometimes it seems overwhelming. But rarely is failure for nothing. Many successful people fail over and over again before that finally leads to their success. Usually failure means that you at least tried. And after all — wouldn’t you rather live a life where you tried and failed than one in which you tried at nothing at all?

I know that this year, like years past and all the years to come, will be full of failure. And I need to accept that it’s okay.

Try again. Fail again. Fail better.  ~Samuel Beckett  {emphasis mine}

And so my goal for this year is not to avoid failure. It is not to be successful in everything I do, or only attempt those things in which my success is guaranteed.

Instead, my goal is to try again, to fail again, and ultimately to fail better.

Failure leads to strength. It leads to open windows, overlooked opportunities, growth of character, and perseverance.

In other words, it leads to sweet success.

A life without failure is boring. So don’t be afraid to fail. Just strive to fail better.

 

Fresh Perspective

Last night, after a wonderful, relaxing extended holiday with family, Evan and I returned to a house that was, in a word, freezing.

photoIce inside the windows…not a good sign.

Sometime while we were gone, the heat stopped working. We have an old (drafty) house with old equipment, and apparently a draft had caused the pilot light to go out. I have no real idea of how long ago that happened – all I know that is that the temperature was already lower than the lowest setting on the thermostat, and with the sun going down, it was only going to continue to drop.

After our attempts at being handy and fixing the issue ourselves failed, we bit the bullet and called the heating company for a last minute (expensive) emergency visit. They informed us they would send someone out – but that it’d be a least an hour.

I was immediately annoyed. At Evan. At myself. At our crappy old house. At my inability to control everything. At the fact that this wasn’t exactly the wonderful “Welcome back to Vermont!” homecoming I had envisioned. My thoughts quickly went from “this is a minor inconvenience” to panic mode:

OMG we’re going to freeze. Our pets are going to freeze. And then our pipes will freeze and burst and our house will be destroyed and we’ll have nowhere to live and it’s freezing out and I can’t feel my toes or stop shivering, and why isn’t the stupid heat starting up?? Get me out of here!!

Obviously not the most productive reaction to an already crummy situation.

Unfortunately, I have a tendency to be a bit dramatic in uncomfortable situations…or in situations that don’t quite live up to my ideal expectations. This character flaw has been with me since I was a kid. I would put such high expectations on things that when they didn’t turn out exactly the way I had originally pictured, I’d be disappointed and upset. Instead of finding the positives in a situation gone awry, I would count the entire thing as a failure.

This sort of dichotomous thinking (where things in my head were either classified as “all good” or “all bad”) doesn’t really get you very far in life. Nothing is ever going to be perfect, just as most situations are not completely bad. Life is not black and white – it’s full of grey area. And learning to accept and live in that grey area is an important part of growing up.

I have worked hard throughout most of my adult life to escape this tendency for dichotomous thinking. To embrace the grey area. But in certain situations, I still find myself focusing on the negative – and letting one negative experience shape how I view the bigger picture.

Take this past year, for example. Every year has its ups and downs, but in truth 2012 was probably the best year of my life. I got engaged, planned a wedding, moved to Vermont (a place I have wanted to live my entire life), spent the month of June celebrating my wedding with all the people I love most in this world and traveling to the Caribbean, started a new life with Evan, gained a ton of extra free time (which has its advantages and disadvantages, I’ll admit), hiked and ran around Vermont, traveled all over visiting friends and family, ran 2 amazing relays, an unplanned marathon, and a few other fun races. I have faced more change this year than any other in recent history. That in and of itself is a pretty exciting accomplishment.

grafton_inn_wedding_ponds

But for awhile, I didn’t really see it that way. Instead, I focused on the many months of running I missed due to my stupid injury and the time it took me to get back into shape. I thought of the lofty running goals I set and how I didn’t reach any of them. I thought about how I didn’t PR in any distance, or really improve at all. And I thought about how I lost a really good job and became (for the most part) unemployed. How I’ve had a really hard time finding full time work here and how stressed I allow myself to get over the fact that I am doing little to contribute to the family financially. I focused on these shortcomings and got ready to write 2012 off as a frustrating year, ready to get to 2013 and start over.

It looks so silly when I type it out. So melodramatic and immature. Fortunately I can say that all it took was a little bit of self-reflection to realize just how dumb I was being. The downs that I experienced this past year were relatively minor and normal. It’s just the cycle of life. And in the end, I’d say that everything worked out pretty wonderfully. So what if I didn’t run a ton of races or have a bunch of shiny new PRs to show for it. Does anyone really care what my marathon or 5K PR is anyway? Sure, I love improvement, but that PR certainly doesn’t define me. It’s not going to get me a job interview or a raise in life. In fact, no one besides my family and running friends is even remotely interested in how long it takes me to run 26.2 miles.

On New Year’s Eve, when Evan and I were reflecting on this past year and everything that has happened, I realized just how often I slip into this way of thinking. Of classifying an experience as “bad” simply because it didn’t turn out as wonderful as I had planned. And letting my running accomplishments (or lack thereof) impact how I feel about myself. Even if I’m able to take a step back and eventually realize how crazy I’m being, I hate that this is my gut reaction. And frankly, it needs to stop.

I don’t normally make resolutions for the new year. I much prefer setting goals – they are more concrete and often include relatively defined steps I can take to achieve them. But this year, I think I could benefit from one simple resolution: to gain a little perspective. And to stop reacting so negatively to little setbacks.

Which brings me back to last night. And my ridiculous fit when we couldn’t get the house to warm up. The fit that was only making a bad situation worse.

I realized I was doing exactly the thing I had resolved not to do, only a day after I had resolved to stop doing it. (Work in progress, I suppose). So I snapped out of it, put some pots of water on the stove and stood right there in the kitchen with Evan – bundled in our winter coats and ski socks, drinking tea in the warmth of the steam from the boiling water. We still had electricity, warm clothing, a roof over our heads, and each other. In other words, things could’ve been a whole lot worse.

steamheat

As we waited for the repairmen to come fix the heat, we warmed our hands in front of the steam and talked about our trip, our plans for the year, and what we could do to make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen again. And for the first time ever, I felt a wave of gratitude for our electric stove.

evan_bundled

We ate soup huddled under a blanket and dressed in layers. I set Koli up under a bunch of blankets and tried to convince the cats to stay near us (stubborn little buggers wouldn’t have it, though). And then at 8:00, after the heat was fixed and we started the long wait for the house to sloooooooooowly warm itself back up, we crawled into bed to watch the season finale of Homeland on the computer. Was it the best way to spend an evening? Not exactly. But, I have to admit that in the end, it was kind of fun.

Koli_bundled…though I’m not quite sure Koli agreed…

I have high hopes for 2013. Things I want to accomplish, ways in which I want to grow. As excited as I am for the new year, however, I realize that it’s not going to be perfect. Life never is. I may not be able to control everything that’s going to happen this year, but I can control how I react to it.

Here’s to a fresh perspective in 2013.

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