My First 5K

By 9 am yesterday, I was determined to not read any more of the newspaper or any blogs (I only read one, and it was a doozey).  I really don’t want to remember that day, ten years ago.  I think my life is very different today, all because of that event, and I wouldn’t change my life.  But that day hurt, and I don’t want to re-live it.

On to other topics.

Saturday, I ran my first ever 5K.  A 5K is a mere 3.1 miles, for those of you who aren’t familiar with them.  I have only run in 1 other race, two times in the Army Ten Miler in Washington, D.C. which caps its participation at some number over 20,000.  The race this weekend, the Pooler 5K (which donates the proceeds to my husband’s unit), is much much smaller than that ten mile long slog through the nation’s capital, both in length and number of participants.

While last year’s run was a lot of fun (great company at least), I felt each time that I did those ten miles, that it would be a much nicer race if it were only a 10K…6 miles is so much nicer.  After that, it’s just not fun any more.

10K races are hard to find, especially in my area (not a significant metro region).  After last year’s race, I decided I would train for a 5K…no more of this 10 mile stuff.  Having completed this 5K, I can say that this race, small venue/small distance, was great.  I may never run 10 miles again.  Here is why:

  • The race started at 8 am.  By 9 am, I was on my way home to get Peter ready for his football game, which was at 1030.  I even had time to shower before we left.
  • Parking was great; traffic was light.
  • I never ran more than 7 miles in my training program.  Generally, I ran 3 miles.  It doesn’t take that long to run 3 miles.
  • I was only a little bit sore on Saturday night.  I did not need to take any Advil.   
  • Although I did manage to lose my husband in the post-race “crowd”, I found lots of people I knew who could help point him out to me.
  • I didn’t feel the need to elbow my way past legions of pokey little puppies during the race.
  • I actually had enough energy left to sprint the last 100 yards.
  • I did not collapse at the end of the race, and after a few minutes and a half bottle of water, was able to move to the finish stretch to cheer on other racers.

Since it was my first race, I set a PR (Personal Record).  My goal was to do it in less than 30 minutes, and I did it in 28:47…with a pace of 9:17.  I generally run a 10 minute mile for a 3 mile run, and was pretty happy to do a 9:40 mile for a shorter run, so that pace is great!

Bill finished 1 second ahead of me – he says he had his chest stuck out.  He could have done it faster, but, sweet guy (not at all hard-bitten) wanted to keep me company.  I do run faster when he’s with me.  I might have run even faster if he was a quarter mile ahead of me, though. 

Best thing…to add to why small races are better than huge races:

  • I placed 8th in my age group with that time – and in the top half of the runners overall (210 out of 436…although 6 runners had errors in their time, actually making me 216 out of 436…still, barely, in the top half).

There’s another local 5K race in 9 weeks, and I plan to go.  I think I might be hooked.

Girls’ Weekend

This afternoon, I am running away from home.  Well, actually, on Sunday, I am running…away from home…participating in the Army Ten Miler in Washington, D.C., which is quite a way from home.  But this afternoon, I am leaving to get there.

Like a good wife and mother, I am trying to ensure a stress-free weekend for my husband.  I have made sure that there is plenty of milk, bread, eggs, bacon, frozen pizza and ketchup.  I am quite confident that he knows how to find the McDonald’s across the street if necessary.  This morning, I will make sure that my girls have all of the required components of their dance clothes ready to go and that their hair is brushed and pulled back.  I will make sure that my boys have game uniforms and equipment assembled (no hunting for shin guards at the 11th hour on Saturday).  If they can’t remember their water bottles, that’s too bad.  I will also make sure that everybody knows what they are wearing to Mass, so that my husband does not have to listen to the female histrionic wailing of “I have nothing to wear.”

I’m hoping to get caught up on laundry, but I really doubt I’ll get the house cleaned (that’s my usual Friday afternoon activity).  I’ll assign chores to the children, but it will be up to Bill to see that they are completed.  If they aren’t, oh well.

I do hope to finish this week’s schoolwork this morning.  The children are motivated for two reasons: this week is the end of the 1st quarter, and Monday is the Feast of St. Crispin.  I have promised them dinner out on Monday (we have gift cards to the Olive Garden) to celebrate IF they have done all their work.  What’s the big deal about St. Crispin?  Fritz had to memorize the St. Crispin speech from Henry V.  Any excuse to party will do.

I suppose I ought to pack at some point, too.  I bought grapes and candy corn to sustain me on the car ride.  Today I head to North Carolina to friend Rachel’s house.  Saturday, Rachel and I will go to friend Christie’s house.  Sunday, we shall run together (we band of sisters). 

Some women might choose a spa weekend or a shopping trip to an outlet center.  My girlfriends and I, we go for a ten mile run.

Local 5K

I’m very disappointed that this race will be the weekend we have booked out of town. If you are in the Savannah area, like to run 5Ks, and want to support a good cause, check it out. Proceeds are earmarked for the Warriors in Transition Unit at Ft. Stewart (my husband’s unit).

setting goals

Crazy Friend #1 called me the other day. “Do you want to run in the Army Ten Miler?”

Boy, do I. There is nothing better than a big race to prep for that keeps you motivated to run. One tiny problem: my foot hurts when I run. The injury goes back four years (and when you blog about things like this, you can look it up and tell a doctor the exact day it happened). I had another x-ray on the foot two weeks ago, and the doctor put me in for an MRI, so perhaps it’s something fixable. We’ll see.

I would have to register in a few weeks for the Army Ten Miler or the tickets will be all gone, so I can’t wait to see how the foot problem resolves itself. As I waffled on what to do, Crazy Friend #1 told me that Crazy Friend #2 was going to do it. Oh, the peer pressure. Of course, I agreed, and then called Crazy Friend #3 and convinced her to do it too. We’ll have to make team t-shirts. Maybe somebody can come up with a cute name: CHARM (Catholic Homeschooling Army wives who Run like Molasses)?

I counted the number of weeks to the race (more than 30), and decided to do Hal Higdon’s 8 week 5K training program, followed by his 8 week 10K training program, followed by his 10 week 15K training program. Today’s 1.5 mile run wasn’t too bad. I actually went about 1.75 miles because my foot didn’t start throbbing until then. I haven’t been able to run more than 2 miles since before Mary was born. Perhaps it will be a ten mile limp.

Running in place

My number one thought while up from 230 to 330 AM with a gassy baby was, “Yippee! Now I have an excuse to not get on the treadmill in the morning!”

I hate the treadmill.

Recently I read an article that said one should always set the elevation to at least 1.0 on a treadmill, because they tend to have a reverse slope, so running on a treadmill is actually easier than running on the street. Well, my treadmill is kicking my rear end more than street running ever did. I can’t believe it’s easier.

Currently, I can run 2 miles at a 12 minute per mile pace. That’s pretty pathetic. 18 months ago, I was doing 3 miles at a 9.5 – 10 mpm pace, which is not exactly speedy, but at least I didn’t feel like a total slug. I was ready to convict myself of delusional timing and wishful thinking, but my official time on the Army Ten Miler in 2006 put me at a 10.5 mpm pace, so I know I was doing better than I am today. I have to keep reminding myself that I do weigh 20 pounds more than I did then, and surely it is harder to propel that extra weight around, right?

Besides the extra weight and the limited running due to pregnancy and newborn care, the treadmill, I think, contributes to a more laborious run. There are no birds chirping or other animal wildlife scampering about and teasing my dog, no smell of honeysuckles or cherry blossoms, no cars to evade or other runners to impress with my sleek, regular strides and excellent form (ha!), no sun barely peeking out over the horizon or late moon lingering in the lightening sky.

Instead, it’s the whirr of the machine and the nagging beeps that remind me I’ve done another lap of the 1/8 mile loop in the computer’s mind, it’s the bleak walls of an unfinished basement and the sight of toys jumbled on the floor or in mixed up bins, it’s the sound of the washing machine and the buzz of the dryer reminding me that I have stuff to do.

Today’s morning temperature was barely above freezing. In fact, they’re calling for snow today and tomorrow. But as next week progresses, the temperatures are expected to go up and the morning air might not be as frigid. I am going to try to go outside for a change. Even if I still plod along slowly, at least I’ll enjoy the run.

And since we’re moving back to the area, I’ve already registered for this fall’s Army Ten Miler. It’s not as ambitious as Laura doing a half-marathon four months after having a baby, but it’s motivation nonetheless. Perhaps this summer, I will do some 5k races just so I have experience racing a more manageable distance.

Running on the Redneck Rivieria

subtitled: Greta, I don’t think we’re in Virginia anymore.

I guess it’s not fair to say that the hazards of running in my parents’ neighborhood are not found in any other part of the country. In fact, I’m sure even northern, urban Virginia has similar problems. But I’ve been spoiled by running on a military post where just about every household boasts one or more avid runners including many marathoners and triathletes, and hence the courtesies extended to those using the roads on foot or on bike are magnanimous and generally go beyond the generous rules mandated by post regulations.

My parents live on the panhandle of Florida. This is not my childhood home; my trip here last summer was my first time ever in this part of the country. I have no fierce loyalty to this area as I might if I had been raised here, and in fact I really don’t quite see the charm of this built up rural town where every country block has it’s own junkyard and half the “houses” look as though they ought to be abandoned but show evidence that they are not. And the “in-law suite” is the trailer parked on the side of the lot.

Please don’t think I’m a snob. My roots are pretty humble, but I think my extended family’s red necks are covered up by blue collars. I can’t think of a single family member, even in the farm country of Ohio, who is growing their own landfill in the front yard. One, maybe even two, rusting cars on the property is understandable, sort of, but after that it becomes a collection, and you just have to ask yourself why? Is oxidized metal really something that makes you happy?

But this is where my parents bought a nice home on a nice street in a small town on the Emerald Coast. They are close to Eglin Air Force Base, but not close enough that people exercising on the roadways are a common sight. No, around here, if someone is traveling by bike or foot, it is because they are too poor to own a car, or their last car just got added to the pile of defunct autos littering their property.

But the dog and I need to run, and so we head out on roads with no shoulder and no sidewalks. Fortunately, the traffic is light enough that cars can usually move over to give me some room. Many do. Amazingly, many do not. I guess they figure that the soft, sandy ground covered with twigs, weeds and underbrush is good enough for me. And I am so accustomed to the polite drivers who wait to see if I’m turning or going straight, that I couldn’t help but glare at the second pickup truck who almost ran me off the road right after his buddy almost took me down – how nice for the guy in the third truck to wait for me to cross the intersection, especially since I had the right of way.

But honestly, I’ll take the human hazards over the canine ones. When we had Greta in dog obedience class, the trainer recommended and sold a dog-repellent spray – kind of like pepper spray for dogs. We bought some and keep it in the doggie backpack we got for her to load her down and help her burn more calories (she’s pretty high-energy). But a week ago, Greta had a hurt leg that needed rest, and I guess I just wasn’t thinking much when I was packing last week. I didn’t bring it, and I’m kicking myself.

I think every house around here has a dog, half of those have more than one. Quite a number of dogs are unfenced and unchained. And they think their territory extends across the road and halfway across the neighbor’s lot too. It’s a crap shoot every time I go out: which dogs will be out, how soon will they detect me, how far down the road will they follow me. In my mind, I’m reminding myself that it is my responsibility as the pack leader to protect my dog, but also reminding myself that if I were to get in the middle of a dog fight, the biggest loser would be ME.

Tonight, again, I don’t know what I was thinking, I wanted to avoid the three dogs that guarded one road, so I thought I’d go a different way, a way I’d never gone before. This was after almost being run over by the three pickup trucks, so you might think I’d not want to push my guardian angel any harder, right? Ha! As I approached one property, I could hear the dogs – three of them – begin their charge. The yard was fenced, and the gates seemed to be secure, thank goodness: each dog was at least 60 to 80 pounds and mean and snarling. Of course, a minute later I understood why the gate here was actually closed. Two houses down were three bigger, meaner, and more snarly dogs. And there, the owner just stood on the porch and watched them scare the pants off that nice lady running by with her trembling pooch. But I guess I couldn’t expect him to call the dogs off. Even if he had thought that their behavior was deplorable (and I’m pretty sure he didn’t), those dogs lacked any amount of discipline that would have enabled him to bring them to heel.

And so, although I am sad to be saying goodbye to my parents tomorrow as I head to my sister’s place, I am very glad that my next run will be at Fort Rucker where dogs must be leashed or fenced at all times and most every household has at least one avid runner. The adrenaline rush has been great, but I’m ready for a more relaxing jog around the block.

My morning run

Going for a run without the dog is similar to leaving a clingy toddler at home while running errands.

There is the false cheerfulness, the plastered smile and the happy “see you soon” as the rejected family member sorrowfully begs to accompany you…

…and there’s the amazing ability to accomplish the task in noticeably less time.

On the other hand, I’ve gotten quite used to my personal body guard. We run early in the morning, in the dark, on dimly-lit streets. Frequently we encounter non-military pedestrians on their way to or from their low-wage jobs stocking shelves at the retail stores near my home. It’s comforting to have a 70 pound German Shepherd trotting obediently to my left.

Today, with no dog by my side, I was acutely aware of the absence of any patrol cars (I usually see at least two or three Military Police on routine cruises through the area); I didn’t notice any of the usual government vans that ferry workers up to the nearby gate that opens at 5 am who must look for me every morning; and not one of my early-bird neighbors was out running or walking their dogs at the same time and along the same path as I usually espy them. My only security was the decades of Hail Marys being counted on my fingers as I scooted along.

Perhaps that’s why my run was so fast.

PT goals

Back in October, I wrote about two out of three PT goals for this year: one was to run the Army Ten Miler, the other was to run 250 miles in total. I never did write about the other one, and I really wasn’t sure I would actually accomplish it.

My third PT goal was to pass the Army PT test (also known as the APFT). There are three categories for the test: push-ups (for 2 minutes), sit-ups (for 2 minutes) and a two mile run. For each event you earn a score based on how many you do or how fast you are. You must get at least 60 points in each event for a minimum of 180 points to pass. Your gender and your age influence your score; I, a 35 year old female, am not expected to do as many push-ups as my husband, a 38 year old male, who is not expected to do as many push-ups as a 30 year old male.

I needed to do 15 push-ups and 42 sit-ups to pass. My run time had to be faster than 21 minutes and 42 seconds. Back in June was the first time I tested myself, and I had the run time down, no problem. But I could only do 2 (yes, TWO) push-ups and 18 sit-ups. By September, I was up to 8 push-ups and 31 sit-ups.

By the way, sit-ups are really hard, especially if you’ve had 5 babies. I’ve done crunches over the years, but hadn’t done full sit-ups since high school. When I first started working on this goal, I could not do a single one. Not a single one.

And push-ups? I have never been able to do those. My husband looks so beautiful doing them. Really. He can knock out the fifteen that I have to do without breaking a sweat. I think he does some ridiculous number like 60 when he takes the test. Sixty!

Sorry, I just got distracted there for a bit daydreaming about my husband’s rippling muscles.

Anyway…oh, yes, my push-ups are not nearly as pretty, and if my husband were counting them, I probably would only have earned 3 or 4 (there are strict rules about what actually counts as a push-up), but I did manage to wobble through 15 of them to get the minimum 60 points. I also did 42 sit-ups – disappointing since I’ve done more, but I’ll take the 60 points. And my run time was 18 minutes 48 seconds which earns the average score of 80 points for a grand total of 200. And so, I passed.

For this coming year, I think I’ll stick with the same goals: 250 total miles; some race, perhaps a 10k instead of 10 miles; and passing the APFT – maybe with 15 good push-ups. This seems like a downgrade – after all, shouldn’t I run more miles (currently, I’ve run 379 for the year), run a longer race, or improve my test score? I’m just being realistic. I’m not pregnant right now, but maybe soon, and if so, I don’t see me running a marathon.

My cough

I’ve had a cough for three weeks now. It’s been more annoying than anything else, but last week, I also started to feel short of breath and very lethargic. Sick? Me? The cough was bad enough to actually get mentioned in conversation with my sister (who suggested bronchitis) and with my mother (a RN and my personal health line who suggested a trip to the doctor). So I went to the doctor.

I hate going to the doctor. Especially when the diagnosis is basically we-don’t-know-why-you’re-coughing-here’s-a-drug-to-make-you-stop. I hate taking drugs. I’ve been pregnant or nursing for 9 years now, and basically anything and everything is not recommended to take while your body provides nutrition for another body.

And yes, I’m still nursing that 17 month old who is at that obnoxious, demanding and possessive stage that signals to me it’s time to start seriously weaning him.

“What is your plan to wean him?” asks my skeptical husband as we debate the prescription drugs sitting on the table near me.

“I’m already working on it,” I claim. He cocks his eyebrows in doubt. “It’s a gradual process.”

I asked the doctor if the cough would go away untreated. “It’s been three weeks,” she said. I agree that three weeks can seem like an eternity, but it’s really not.

We talked about possible causes – something triggered the cough. A cold? Maybe, I can’t remember that long ago (it seems like an eternity). An allergen? Maybe, we did start closing all the windows and turning on the heat, and I have a bad habit of starting fires in the kitchen which generate smoke.

Bill and I decided that changing the air filters in the house was a good idea. It had been about a month since he replaced the 30 day filters with other 30 day filters. We went to Home Depot and bought “up to three months” filters with extra allergen filtering capability. They are a bit more expensive than the standard 30 day filters. We also bought an air freshener that goes right on the filter. Right now my house smells delightfully like cinnamon. Cool. But probably releasing an irritant into the air with every cycle of the heater!

And for the cough? I’m taking the one medication at night after Pete goes to sleep and skipping the morning dose. I’m a really bad patient. But I am noticing an improvement – not only am I coughing less, but my minute per mile pace is getting better – not good, just better. Yeah, I’m sick, but I’m still going for my morning run when I’m motivated to do so. Not only am I a bad patient, I’m an annoying sick person too. See, look at me! I’m sick but I’m running two miles anyway. And making dinner, and doing the dishes and tending to the needs of the whole family. And you think you can spend the day in bed because you have a witty bitty cold?

Ah, time to go to work now. I’ll consider being sick some other time. Perhaps when I hire a nanny and a governess and a cook.

Football, running and coffee creamer

Although it is painfully clear who won the Bengals – Browns game yesterday, I’m not certain who won the Bengals – Packers game played in my backyard around the same time. Both my boys seemed to have sustained minor abrasions. Billy, for once, was excited to see his own blood pouring from his lip. My suggestion that they tone down their tackle “football” to something a bit less aggressive fell on deaf ears.

At one point, I poked my head into the backyard and Fritz said, “Mom, look how muddy I am!” And then Billy said, “Mom, look how muddy I am!” I asked if the point of the game was to get muddy, and Billy answered in the affirmative with a look that seemed both shocked and bewildered that I didn’t already know the answer to that question.

Later, Bill played with the boys and is now nursing an injured knee.

Of course, who I am to point out their foolishness? At least they had fun obtaining their wounds. The palm of my hand and my knee are still stinging from a fall I took this morning barely a tenth of a mile into my run. It would have been much better had I just stayed in bed that extra half hour. Instead of exercising myself and my dog, I hurt myself and put three holes in the only well-fitting pair of running pants I own. And my left ankle doesn’t feel great either, having been rolled off the edge of the pavement causing my fall.


On a good note (always must end on a good note), I have to chuckle at a man I overheard at the grocery store yesterday. He and his wife were contemplating various flavored coffee creamers as I reached for International Delight’s Pumpkin Pie Spice. Having had too many of Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice lattes (and if you’ve had one, you’ve had too many: my SIL accurately compared them to crack – have one, get addicted), I eagerly jumped at the opportunity to inexpensively recreate the flavor in the comfort of my own kitchen. The man was rejecting the Pumpkin Pie Spice because he felt it was a Thanksgiving leftover. “There must be a reason nobody else wanted it,” he said, implying the reason was that it wasn’t good tasting. I actually paused for a nanosecond, contemplated the under $2 purchase and considered returning it.

But now, as I sit here enjoying this little luxury, I’m happy I didn’t listen to the man. There are many reasons these creamers might be there – not just the possibility that the hoards tried the flavor and found it lacking. The risk of trying it was pretty insignificant; the pleasure of success is immeasurable. It’s a shame the man was more willing to follow what he perceived, possibly erroneously, to be the crowd’s opinion than to take a minor risk and find out for himself the truth.

And I suppose this is the lesson I need to learn today as I whimper over my injuries and wish I’d stayed in bed instead of wasting my morning. I could have gotten a half hour more sleep. But I could get a half hour more sleep every day. Instead, most days, I get up and I run two or three miles with success. Today, I was not successful. There is no guarantee that I will or will not have a good run when I head out at 430 am. But had I stayed in bed, there is 100% certainty that I would not have had a good run by the simple fact that I would not have attempted it.

To paraphrase Moses, we can choose life or death. I say, we can choose a premature death by not living life. God, help me to live.