Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I Was in Shock

I always start my race prep by laying my stuff out a few days beforehand, so that I have a few days to figure out if I've forgotten anything! My Race Day Essentials are:

  • Hydration Belt
  • Sport Beans &Salt Tablets
  • Shoes/Socks
  • Sports Bra, Shirt, Pants
  • Garmin Watch
  • Timing Chip and Bib
  • Jacket (which I "check" before I run)

My husband ALWAYS wakes up with me on race days. He usually makes my breakfast and chats with me as I get everything ready. We sit together and eat breakfast and it's really the only time he ever gets up with me before runs (on normal days at 5am, I just sneak out of bed quietly and let him sleep!). I know not every husband would get up at this unGodly hour, but Mr. Howard is SO ridiculously supportive of my running and wants to show his support! I usually wake up at least an hour before I have to leave and I have a cut-off time in my head for water. I'm not sure what other people do, but for me - I want to spend my time running, not stopping at the bathrooms; so I have found that if I stop drinking water about two hours before I run, I'm good. I do, however, wake up early and drink LOTS of water before the cut-off time and then drink LOTS of water while I run. 
This was my first time doing the Folsom Blues Breakout and it was by far the smallest race I've done. I'm not sure how many people officially did it, but it had to have only been a couple thousand. It was also interesting because where you were dropped off, you actually walked past the starting line and then got in line behind. They probably made 50 announcements before the race for people to go on the OTHER SIDE of the starting line, because people were still hanging out in the way.
I run/walk, so my pace group is a little further back. But I sort of prefer it that way. I don't want a whole bunch of faster people blowing by me and feeling like I'm in the way. I like my back-of-the-group peeps. Yes, I just said "peeps." If it makes you feel any better, had you heard me say it outloud, you would have even been more embarrassed for me. I say it like a 90's rapper. It's nice because at my pace group, you see the same people, starting at about mile 8. People usually aren't passing you by then, so you've got a good group of people around you to run with. For a couple miles, we got stuck next to a man blaring Johnny Cash slow songs. I understood the point - it was a Johnny Cash themed run, but have you ever run to slow music? Not the most motivating of music! We couldn't wait until we outran him and could run with a group who wasn't blaring their music. 

The route for this run was really beautiful, but a couple of miles of it was in the direct sun. Yikes. So darn warm. I was thankful I had trained around Lake Natoma, so I knew that shade was coming; I just kept focusing on that during the warm, sweaty miles. Some people would rather not know their course for the run, because then they know how far they still have to go - but I sorta like it. I like knowing where shade is...where the hills are...and how far I've gone! Sure it makes the beginning hard because you know how far you've got to go - but I'll take that trade off any day. 

Because the run started early, we were able to see the sunrise over the lake. Few things are more breathtaking to me that sunrises over lakes. But, hopefully, you can also tell how warm that would be with the sun reflecting on the water. It was probably only in the 70's, but when you're running 13 miles with the sun directly beating down on you and no shade for miles, it is warm. 

My friends and I did most of our training runs together (either the three of us or some combination of two of us) and so it was fun to run with the girls I trained with the whole time! I'm a talker while I run and, to me, it just makes it go so much faster when you can chat with friends. I used to be a music runner, but with good company - I've given up music.

I run with a group called Moms Run This Town and there are chapters of us all over the United States. We met up with another local chapter before our run and got a picture and an opportunity to meet each other before we all ran!

My husband is pretty adorable at races. I always feel bad asking him to come, because it means that he has to take the kids by himself. Some of my runs, other family members have come too - which makes it easier on him, but I LOVE that he says he doesn't care if he has help or not and that he'd NEVER miss it. He tells the kids constantly how proud of me he is and encourages them to be in awe of my running. "Do you know Mommy ran THIRTEEN MILES!? Isn't that amazing!! Aren't you proud? She is such a fast runner!" The kids, of course, model this language that they hear their Daddy say and constantly tell me, "Mommy I'm so proud of you! You're so fast!" It's sweet that my husband encourages me SO much!
The kids' favorite part is getting to wear my medal around the house. They also like to tell random people in the grocery store that "Mommy has lots of medals at home because she wins her races!" Adorable!

My final time for this race was 2:47:50 (which is a 12:49 mile). My goal was to get it under 3 hours, so I was really SHOCKED with my growth. I was not expecting to get so far under!

For those of you who are new to this journey, you may not know that this is my third half marathon. Here were my results from all three:
  • Oct. 13, 2013 - 1st Half Marathon - Walked 1 minute, ran 1 minute - 3:05:59
  • Mar. 16, 2014 - 2nd Half Marathon - Walked 1 minute, ran 2 minutes - 3:01:37
  • Oct. 17, 2014 - 3rd Half Marathon - Walked 1 minute, ran 3 minutes - 2:47:58
What is my point in telling you this?!? If I can do it, YOU can do it. Seriously. I started by running 1 minute and walking 1 minute. I promise you: there is some amount of running ANYONE can do. Whether it's run for 10 seconds, walk for 10 seconds...or running for 10 minutes...Start somewhere and JUST KEEP AT IT. Every time I tell people I ran a half marathon or "run" half marathons - I have someone who says, "Oh I could never," but I'm here to tell you that if you want to do a half, you can. 

I live my life by this motto: Whether you think you can or think you can't, you are right!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

I am a Runner. But am I Good Enough?

Do you ever have that feeling that something is bothering you, but can't pinpoint why? There's something that's been bugging me for some time now and I'm just getting around to figuring out why that is.

Hi. My name is Mrs. Howard and I am a runner. It's taken me a long time to get to the point where I feel confident in making that statement. I used to add qualifying statements. But now, now I just let that statement stand on its own. I am a runner. 

So, why then do I get so uncomfortable around other runners? Lately, this is the question that's been stuck on my mind. I've actually gone to bed with my stomach in knots over a few things that runners do. This morning, after reading a post in my running group, once again, I'm left with my stomach in knots. So what is it? Why am I so uncomfortable around other runners.
It seems in my running group, I see a post at least once a day (usually about 10 a day), with people posting about speed. They either qualify their events by stating, "I am slow" (which, by my definition, they are NOT slow), or they post about improving their times (e.g. "today, I put my mind to it and did a 10 minute mile! I can't believe I did it!"). And it's got me thinking, 

If the goal of running is to increase your time, and I'm not getting any faster 
(or maybe even I'm proud of my time) 
than why am I running? 

Don't get me wrong, I love a good PR. I work to constantly better myself. And I love to increase my intervals or test myself with new distances. But I am competing against myself, not anyone else. I don't feel the need to constantly post my interval ratios for the world to see or focus on that in my running posts in the group, because that isn't why I run. And, it is for that reason that I just don't feel like I fit in. 

I run because it makes me happy. I run because I want to set a good example for my children. I run because of the sense of accomplishment I feel after achieving a goal I didn't think possible for myself. I run because of how it has positively affected my marriage and our sex life. I run because of the friendships. I run because I want to be healthy. 

So why, then, does it make me uncomfortable when people post about speed? If I don't care and don't run for that purpose, why does it make me so uncomfortable? Because, it sends the message, at least to me, that I am not good enough. And I know that if I'm feeling that way, it is making others feel that way. It sends the message that the purpose of running is to achieve some ever-changing unattainable goal of speed and I refuse to accept that purpose of running. If we are only congratulating each other on going faster, or making a huge deal out of someone who decreased their mile per minute, or commenting on each others' posts with comments about what they can do so that they change their intervals (decreasing walks and increasing runs), we are sending the message to them that where they are at, just isn't good enough. Once again, I reject that. I reject the idea that to be valued and celebrated, we have to go faster. 

We should celebrate each other for getting out there. We should celebrate each other for achieving our goals. We should celebrate each other for modeling health to our friends and family. We should celebrate each other for working out on days when we wanted to sleep in...or eat horribly...or veg on the couch. We should celebrate each other for getting better, more confident, stronger, and healthier.

Because at the end of the day if our only goal is only to go faster, what will happen when we can no longer do that?!? At some point, time has to pass in order for you to run a mile; we will never be able to do a mile in 0:00. 

And I am a firm believer that whether you run a 13 minute mile or a 7 minute mile, it is still a mile

So, I am left with my stomach in knots before runs with my group and I am left wondering if I'm not good enough. Am I not enough because I'm not stressed about my 3:1 intervals (I run for three minutes and walk 1 minute)? Am I not enough because I would rather focus on all the amazing Mamas who are just getting out there and rocking it? Am I not enough because I may never run a half marathon without walking? And, further, am I not enough because I don't even care if I'm never able to run a half without walking? 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Midweek Randoms - Mommy, Wife, Teacher, Test Grader and Coffee Killer

Midweek Randoms On a Thursday. That's still considered midweek. Right?

This is probably a compilation of two weeks' worth of stuff - because I haven't done just a normal catch up post in a while!

Some early mornings just call for warm donuts:

 This photo, below, makes my heart happy. Isabella has always been our child filled with fears. Fear of walking. Fear of going down the slide. Fear of taking risks. And it's been a journey to encourage her to break down her walls, while acknowledging her need to warm up to things. I joke all the time that I prayed to God to give me a cuddler. "Just ONE!" I prayed. And then God laughed and gave me the clingy-est, tender-hearted child I've ever seen. And boy, do I absolutely LOVE my cuddler - but there is so much I had to pray for her. I walk the line of wanting to push her, but not push so hard that she shuts down.

Parks were always hard for us as a family, because she would stand on the sidelines crying because she wanted to do it, but was so afraid. So, when I saw her climbing this wall (ON HER OWN) and then saw her stand on top of her mountain with a huge smile on her face, I wanted to jump up and down...and scream...and throw a parade in her honor. It's a big deal, folks. HUGE.
 It was a super windy day, but we all climbed and played together!
 My students have spent the first few months of school reading The Outsiders. I make a whole unit out of it and hit a million standards with the one book - so it takes us a while. Well, we finished a few weeks ago and they got their Characterization posters done. I love getting to see their creativity on these!
 Hubby and I haven't done the best with our Date Nights, because I run so early and he works nights so often. But last week, the stars aligned, and we were able to get a hot chocolate - snuggle on the couch - Fault in our Stars - couch date. I was prepared for sad. But holy moly zoly. I was NOT prepared for that movie. If you're in need of a good cry - what? You don't get in the mood for that? - watch this movie. I am pretty sure I sobbed through 3/4ths of it. I just kept thinking about Hazel's parents.
 A couple nights ago, we were all sitting on the couch after dinner, watching cartoons, when Aiden crawled onto my hubby. Adorable.
 Every year when we finish all our Outsiders projects in my 7th grade English classes, I show the movie and always serve popcorn on the first day! This year I got popcornopolis kettle corn to serve to all my English classes. I know it's hard to tell, but those bags of popcorn were as big as the width of my tables! You should have seen me trying to carry them inside my classroom (along with my purse, lunch, and coffee); my custodian actually saw me struggling across campus and came to carry them for me.
 While they watch the movie, I spend the 2.5 hours grading their Outsiders tests. This year I created a 75 question test that had about 50 short answer or essay questions on it. Have I mentioned I have 75 students?!? What was I thinking? The good news? They did REALLY, REALLY well. My class average was a very high C, which is the average I normally get on a short five-question open-note history quiz. So I'm going to consider that a win!
 This was how I started my Wednesday morning. It basically happened in slow motion. I dropped it and, like in the movies when they slowww down the frames and speech, yelled "Nooooooooooooooooooo," as I tried to catch it. There's no amount of coffee I could have consumed that would have made this moment any less tragic. No joke: had there not been some left in the container, I may have resorted to scooping some off the top of the pile to use. I won't even try to deny it. I need coffee to function. Thankfully, for me and my health, there was still coffee left in the container I could use.
Needless to say, I think the spilled coffee kind of sums up my Wednesday and Thursday. Not great.

You know it's been a good day when the kids nap for 4 hours!

In the beginning of October, my siblings and their spouses/significant others all came to the pumpkin patch with us. My parents always go with us too, but this year they were traveling in Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire to see the changing of the leaves. So, we had to go without them.

The kids always have so much fun and this year, because they completely understood what the pumpkin patch was, it was even more fun.

Photos by Awe Captures Photography in Sacramento, CA

 Connor actually told me before taking this photo, below, that he couldn't smile for the photo because he was driving. Oh. Sorry. Duh.
 My sister and Andy!
 The boys and my photographer sister.
At this pumpkin patch, they have all sorts of fun stuff for the kids to do: a train to ride, fun slides for big kids, a corn maze, wooden trains to climb in, food, a petting zoo, and so much more. We usually spend a few hours there and the kids come home and take amazing naps afterwards, as anyone (who has small kids) knows, is the measure of a fantastic day. 
My brother, his wife, and the kids:
 My sister, her boyfriend, and the kids.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Third Half Marathon Journey: The Ending Before the Beginning

Tomorrow, I will be running my third half marathon! Holy Moly! If you want to follow along on my first half marathon journey or my second, you can find those linked below:

First Half Marathon. Second Half Marathon. Third Half Marathon.

The past couple weeks' trainings haven't gone as planned. I've been really tired and that has taken a toll on my body. This past week, I was supposed to do three runs: 4 miles, then 3 miles, then 2 and I literally only did one four mile run. But, I'm not discouraged because I know that my health has to come first - after all, that was why I started this journey to begin with. I also have recently had some sort of calf injury. I haven't quite figured out what it is - but I'm just trying to make it through Saturday and then figure out what to do - if I need to go to the doctor...if I just need a bit of rest...if I need to roll my calves every night. Of course, anytime you push your body to new limits, you're going to have aches and pains and that's something I've come to recognize after working out. But this feels different. This feels like an injury. So we'll see.
We also switched up our training and differed from the Cal Higdon method a bit. We skipped our 8 mile run and did nine miles during week 9 and then ten miles during week 10 instead; then the week before our half, we did 8 miles. I was concerned about doing ten miles the week before the half and wanted to have a bit of a taper. I'm sure it's not a big deal for a lot of people to not have any taper, but for me - especially with, what I think is, a calf injury - it was important to have a bit of a rest. 
 I can't believe I'm about to type what I'm about to type, but here goes. I have been feeling like maybe I'm ready to take on a new challenge. I definitely don't feel like I can devote the time I need to running a full marathon; but I might be able to do 18 miles or 20. I just really want to have a balance between working out and being a mom/wife. It's so important for me to reach my goals and have "me" time, but my three kids are still little and I am still working a full-time job outside of the home and holy moly, it's hard to manage it all. I am just not sure I'm ready to take on the challenge of a full marathon YET (haha. Yet. Eeek. That's why you never say never. Because if you would have asked me two years ago if I'd ever do a HALF marathon, let alone a FULL, I would have said NEVER. No Way. Not me. And now I'm using words like "yet.").

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Midweek Randoms

*I am taking my title post, "random" quite literally today. This is a very random post.* I am planning on doing an update on my running soon - as I'll be doing my half marathon this weekend!! Yikes! I've actually been really good and have hardly had any cheat days, which isn't easy when my days are already filled being a good Mommy and wife to my husband; 5am wakeup calls have been the hardest pills to swallow in this whole training and I'm exhausted. Exhausted.

But, exhaustion or not, I've been trying to make time to fit in all the things I want to fit in. One day last week, my sweet sister and her brave boyfriend took the kids for us for a few hours while my husband and I went to see Gone Girl. I read the book, upon the recommendation of my best friend Jen and have been dying to see the movie ever since. I was not disappointed. I really liked it.
 Now that the weather has started to change, I've been going through my closet and trying to figure out what to keep, what I need to buy, etc. And you know the realization I've come to? I really haven't bought clothes since before I had kids. Seriously. FOUR kids later, and nothing fits well; absolutely nothing looks great. It's funny how when you become a mommy, some things just take a backseat, and for me, it's been clothes. It's so much more fun to buy clothes for the kids - because those ALWAYS fit! This pink shirt I'm wearing in this photo, I have had since my freshman year of college. Ridiculous. I am in desperate need of clothes and NEED to make it a priority.
I should clarify, actually. Because there is one type of clothes I HAVE bought since children - and that's workout clothes. Ha! I'm pretty sure I now have a running shirt and sports bra in every color! It's unfortunate I can't just wear workout clothes to work everyday, because I probably would have more to choose from.

I have so many posts I've been wanting to write and catch up on, but every time I get a few hours or minutes to myself to write, I am just too exhausted to actually form coherent sentences. Does that happen to anyone else?!?

Hubby worked four of the last five nights until 1am and so last night we spent two hours just talking and catching up. Then, armed with hot chocolate in warm mugs, a blanket, and a desire to snuggle - we watched The Fault in our Stars on the couch. I expected it to be sad and was completely prepared for that, but sobbed through more than half the movie. Holy moly. I do have to say, though, that some aspects were also quite beautiful and hopeful. But be prepared to cry. A lot.

I had high hopes that tonight would be filled with more snuggling and catching up on Once Upon a Time, but I feel like I could crawl into bed and fall asleep until next week.

Too bad I'm running tomorrow at 5:30am.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Field Trip Fun Friday

On Friday we took the twins to the Pumpkin Patch for their preschool Field Trip. It's rare these days to just have two kids on an outing, so we took advantage of it! I had already pre-arranged a sub for the field trip so that I could chaperon, when I found out that my husband had the morning off too. I just went ahead and went on the field trip anyway, instead of canceling my sub and letting hubby go by himself! And I'm glad I went. As a teacher, I hate taking sub days. I go into work sick; I go in when my kids are sick; I go in with fevers and a million things to do...but I'm trying to learn that I'm a mom first. These days won't last forever and I need to take care of my family.

The twins had never been on a carousel before and they were ridiculously excited about it! Aiden kept gasping and saying, "I'm RACING!"
 Isabella loved it too!
 I don't know how we got so many photos on the carousel, but we did!
 Okay, last carousel photo! Our preschool teacher walked by and asked if we wanted a family photo!
 Everyone (including Mr. Howard and me) got to pick out a pumpkin to take home! Aiden chose a white one, Isabella a similar sized orange one, and then we picked out a bigger one for Connor. He was thrilled.
 So much fun!
 There were seven kids who came on the field trip and that was a lot of fun! We've actually recruited two families who go to our preschool - our neighbors and a coworker of mine - so that was fun to hang out with my friends too! It's crazy to me that my twins are now the older kids at school (they're not the OLDEST - there's one boy who's older), but they were the babies when they started. Crazy how quickly that happened!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Definitely not Baloney Sandwiches

In addition to the new rules, routines, and events to learn with a kindergartner at a new school, we also have had to figure out lunches. This is the first time we've ever had to pack a lunch for Connor and it's been a lot of trial and error. I know I always get ideas for lunches from other people, so I thought I'd post some of our successful meals. We decided to go with a sort of bento box idea, but used the rubbermaid LunchBlox containers for his lunch.

I've mentioned before, but we pretty much always do Greek yogurt as one of his sides. It's so good for his digestive system and we've found that yogurt combined with daily vitamins are the perfect thing for his little body to keep him healthy! Since implementing those two changes in all our kids' diets, we have seriously decreased the number of times they've gotten colds or tummy bugs. I think they've only been sick once in the last eight months! Anyone with little kids in preschool and school, knows how hard it is to keep them healthy!

One day we did an everything bagel with cream cheese. He loves bagels, but I wasn't sure what he'd think of it in his lunch! He LOVED it. We also did mandarin oranges, yogurt, and juice!

 Connor loves ritz crackers, so I made pepperoni and cheese ritz crackers one day for him. For his side, he chose peaches and greek yogurt.
 Connor had been begging me for those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and since his school is not nut free, I obliged! He also chose black olives, yogurt, and cheese.
 For dinner, I made chicken pasta - so I used it in Connor's lunch. He also chose strawberries, grapes, and greek yogurt!
 One night we ordered pizza. The next day I chopped it up for his lunch, along with string cheese, strawberries, grapes, and yogurt!
 Connor requested "Daddy's peanut butter and jelly quesadillas" one day, so that's what we made him. I served it with mandarin oranges, yogurt, and juice.
Here's what the peanut butter and jelly quesadillas look like (there's no cheese, in case you are frightened. Ha!):
Some tips we found that work!

We only grocery shop once a week or once every other week - so we do fresh fruit at the beginning of the week and then canned fruit after that. We take Connor to the store with us and we ask him to pick out 6 sides (and then I mix and match his six choices over the course of the 10 days). I ask him to pick out a couple canned fruits, fresh fruits, veggies, etc. That was life changing for us. If he chooses a side, he has buy-in to eat it! I put in at least one whole fruit/veggie every single day. I don't mind giving him grains and I am not anti-processed foods, but I want him to have at least one real food at each lunch. It's all about balance.

Here are our go-to's. All of these are taste tested by Connor and every single one of these sides have made it into his lunch!:
  • olives
  • peaches
  • orange slices and mandarin oranges
  • pinapple
  • pears
  • cheese
  • strawberries
  • carrots
  • blueberries
  • raspberries
  • apples
  • bananas
  • edamame
  • cherry tomatoes
  • cucumbers
  • grapes
  • kiwi
  • apple sauce
  • cherries
  • mini pickles
  • raisins
  • watermelon
Another thing we've learned is to keep putting different things in his lunch. Just because he doesn't eat it one day, doesn't mean he won't eat it another day. For instance, the first time I put pears in his lunch, he didn't eat it. It wasn't until I put it into his lunch on the third day, that he finally tried them. And guess what? He liked them!

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