Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Broke Man's Half Marathon

The race I've been training hard for all summer long was this past weekend.  It was called the Broke Man's Half Marathon and it's only the second year for it.  It's an interesting concept.  It's a bare bones race.  No bells and whistles.  No technical shirt, no shirt at all for that matter.  No chip timing.  Depending on when you registered, the price ranged from $10 to $25.  Considering that the other local half marathons are way overpriced at $80-125, I was all about paying $12.50 including service charge!  I will say that I'm glad this wasn't once of my first races because I think this kind of race is better for a more experienced walker/runner.  That's just my opinion.  There weren't any clocks or mile markers.  I think the lack of mile markers would have made a huge difference to me several years ago.  But now, I have my Garmin to tell me about where I am on the course and I'm not as reliant on the markers.  There were only 3 water stops and they were cup free.  They had water, but you had to have your own container.  I always wear a Fuel Belt so that wasn't even a concern of mine.  Though, if I didn't wear one and was trying for a fast time, having to stop to fill my bottle as opposed to just grabbing a cup and keep moving, would have been a bummer.  It was also a narrow course, though for the most part, that wasn't a problem because the field was so small.  The course wasn't closed either, so there were cyclists and other pedestrians out there.  Pedestrians weren't a problem but the cyclists are something I don't normally have to be on the lookout for while doing a race.  I think I went into the race with very low expectations for the race itself (not my performance obviously).  I knew it was going to be bare bones and unlike any race I've done before.  It was probably the smallest race I've ever done too (I think it was somewhere in the 250 people range).  There were a few hiccups that I'll mention later but ultimately, it was a good experience and I would do it again.

Finally after such a roller coaster of coming back after pregnancy, then all the time off when Megatron was sick and recovering, the weight loss, gain and then loss again and then falling apart at the Cap City half in May, everything seemed to fall into place.  Saturday was a wet, cold, dreary day but Sunday's forecast was dry and cool.  I fully expected it to be overcast and dreary again but it turned out to be the most beautiful racing weather.  I couldn't have asked for better half marathon weather!  Though the forecast confused me in terms of what to wear.  It always does.  You would have thought I'd never done this before because I was texting with friends the night before asking about what to wear.  Will I be too hot?  Too cold?  Do I wear a trash bag at the start?  Do I need a throw away shirt or gloves?  So many options!  I opted for short sleeves and took old tube socks to keep my arms warm, along with a trash bag to keep my core warm while waiting for the start.  Capris were really my only option for my legs because capris are the only bottoms I have that fit currently (downside to losing weight is I keep finding that my clothes are too big and I don't have time or money to keep going to shopping) and have been "tested" for long distance runs.

I didn't even bother to cut the toes off the socks...but realized the flaw in that was that I couldn't give the thumbs up with my sock on my arm.  First world problems.

Since I was wearing my Recycle Yourself shirt, I also wanted to take my Elias along for the ride.  I wore a ribbon for him as well as a ribbon for Cillian, a little boy who recently earned his angel wings while waiting for a liver.  These strong little boys would be my inspiration for when the race got tough.

I met up with my friends around 7:30 am.  We all ended up parking in the exact same place so we wandered over to the starting area to find the bathrooms. Here was the first hiccup.  There are two public restrooms in the park where the race was held.  The women's restroom had 4 stalls.  Four stalls for who knows how many women, all of whom need to use the restroom at least once before the race started.  Yeah.  Not enough.  If I would have noticed the men's restroom before we got in line, I would have suggested we just use the men's because there was no line.  It wouldn't be the first time I've done that before a race.  I think the number of bathrooms would probably need to be quadrupled (if the same number of people are expected) in the future.  We were early enough that it wasn't a problem.  We waited in line and made it out with a couple minutes to spare.  I think all of us are used to much larger races so we kind of stood around, unsure of where to go.  There weren't any corrals or signs indicating paces so we weren't sure where to line up to start.  We opted for the back half of the crowd.    Someone sang the national anthem and the race started right at the advertised time (which I point out because there is another racing company in town that always seems to start late).  Since there wasn't chip timing, I made sure to start my Garmin right as we passed by the flag indicating the start line (no giant, fancy and probably expensive inflatable arch like most races).  I had no idea how they were going to time the race since it wasn't chip timed so I knew I was going to be relying on my Garmin in case their timing plan didn't work or was significantly off what I had.
Pre-race selfie

There was the usual fanfare at the start, a DJ playing music and lots of cheering as we crossed the start line.  The person next to me got really excited and threw her arms in the air.  As she brought her arms back down though, her elbow came right down onto the top of my shoulder.  It had to have hurt her because it left a heck of a bruise and a sore spot on my shoulder.  She apologized, I shook it off any we headed out of the park.

My friend Kim was recruited to pace me for the race but ultimately, there 3 others who joined us just for fun.  Well, to totally call her out, my friend Meg came armed with a cow bell and the intent to just cheer/spectate but when we realized we had an extra bib, she put her cow bell in my car and just decided to run it with us.  I'll also add that she ran a full marathon last weekend.  Who does that?!  My friends.  Haha.  Anyways, Kim had instructions to keep me between 12:30 and 12:45 for the first two miles.  I didn't want to get swept up in the excitement and go out too fast.  Yeah... despite their best efforts, it didn't quite work.  I was the one setting the pace and I felt great.  They kept randomly yelling, "breaks!" and putting their hands up to get me to slow down.  Haha.  We finally settled into a comfortable (for me) pace though.  I knew I wanted to stay around the 12:30 pace in order to just beat my previous PR but knew I had it in me to go faster.  I was hoping to go slower in the beginning and gradually pick it up but that's mentally hard to do and I just haven't practiced that very much.
Lots of smiles less than a half mile in! :)
The first 5-7 miles were a blast!  The course went out and back so my friends were all clapping and cheering for the faster people who were coming back towards us.  I was just focused on running and not falling apart.  They all run faster (or in Kim's case, walk faster) than I do and were just along for the ride with me so they were able to yell and clap.  It was a lot of fun and worked out better than I expected.  I was nervous that it would be too narrow but since it was a small race, it worked out.  We did play leapfrog with two ladies doing a run/walk combo for several miles but we all had fun with it since we were all able to easily get around each other when needed.

We also saw some of my favorite spectators!  The Pilot and Megatron came out!  We saw them a couple times and it was so cute to see Megatron holding a tiny sign that said "go go go!"  Which when he says it, comes out like "doh doh doh." He says it a lot when he's running around the house or sitting in the run stroller, heckling me.  The second time we passed by, he ran right out onto the sidewalk but instead of going to me, he ran up to Meg.  I didn't have time to stop though so I kept running.  Then we realized he totally thought Meg was me.  Pale skin and dark hair, yup, must be my mama!  He didn't realize it wasn't me until Meg started to hug him.  Haha.  He hugged her anyways because he's sweet like that.  The pictures crack me up though because there's me, buzzing right past my own kid while Meg squats down to hug him.

There are a couple photos like this and everyone seems to be smiling at him.  :)  I have to say, he is pretty darn cute.
Who knows what I'm doing.  The lady in the white vest ran with us for the first half and I think she enjoyed the running commentary we had going on. 
See ya, kid. Mama's got a PR to chase down!
At least Auntie Meg loves you!
Mile seven was the first time I noticed my energy wane a bit.  I was also starting to feel some soreness creeping into my knees and ankles.  I knew at that point that I was going to feel this run on Monday.  I was torn between wanting to just gut it out and keep at that pace and being smart and doing what I knew I could run and still finish (a 12:30-12:45 pace).  I was nervous I would bonk at mile 10 if I stayed in the 11s.  I opted for smart and slowed down a little.  This is also when I started mumbling every time we had to go up and over or down and under highways/train tracks/etc.  It's no secret that Central Ohio is pretty darn flat.  But I swear to you we went up and down every single man made hill in Franklin County.  None were that long and only two that I recall were obnoxiously steep but it felt like it was one after another.  Running uphill sucks.  I've always hated hills.  Running downhill isn't much better.  Sure, you can get some momentum so you aren't necessarily working as hard but it's hard on the knees.  Which were already a little achy by that point.

I think if I had run this on my own, I wouldn't have run as fast.  Even though I was setting the pace, the girls kept my energy up and kept me from slowing down too much.  When I whined, they countered with singing, positive thoughts...or told me to shut up.  All of which I needed.  They even "threw me the rope" when I started cursing (loudly towards the end) when I would see a hill.  Taking advice from a dear friend Krista, our teammates frequently throw each other an imaginary rope that they can use to pull themselves forward so they keep moving.  Our entire team has a rope so you can grab on whenever you need it.  I was absolutely using Meg's rope to get up those last couple of hills.

Proof that Meg was trying to throw me a rope to pull me up that hill!

The last 3 miles were into the wind and while the breeze kept us cool now that the sun was getting high, it was definitely pushing into us.  I was starting to lose steam too.  My girls talked to me non-stop in that last mile.  I don't even know how far we had left but all of the sudden Kat told me I had 2 minutes to finish.  Two minutes?  What?!  Since I was pretty fried at that point, I thought she meant two minutes until my previous PR time (2:49:44....completely forgetting that before the race I finally admitted to them that I was aiming for 2:40).  All I could think was "oh hell no!  I didn't work this hard to miss my PR again!"  I found another gear.  But like a slap in the face, there were two more inclines.  One of which was right at the finish line and actually had two very sharp switchbacks to navigate.  I wheezed out a couple more obscenities as my girls all started screaming my name and telling me to go.  Right as I was cursing the last hill, I saw The Pilot and Megatron, along with my mom, my training buddy, Katy and several other of our amazing teammates who came to cheer me on.  Everyone was screaming.  All I remember is another runner saying, "I don't know who Amber is but she's got great friends."  If I didn't feel like I was about to pass out and vomit, I would have laughed and responded, "I have THE BEST friends."

Just my security detail and we came in toward the finish.
These lovely ladies were cheering at the finish.
The couple that cheers together stays together.  Haha...I think they were just happy to NOT be running considering they ran a half marathon last weekend. :)
I was absolutely zoned out and I felt like I was flying, but also wondered if I looked like Phoebe from Friends.  I actually told Meg that I thought I was going to be sick and she just responded, "no you aren't, keep running!"   So I did.  The next thing I knew I was at the top of the hill and the finish line was right there.  The Pilot jumped onto the road and was running alongside me, carrying Megatron, who was grinning from ear to ear because he was bouncing up and down.  I plowed ahead and grabbed my Garmin the second I was fully passed the small flag (the same one as the start) indicating the finish line.  How I didn't throw up right then and there was a miracle.  I walked a few more steps as the girls all came across the finish line, wheezing and out of breath just like me.  I don't think any of them expected me to find that gear at the finish!  I made them work!  Haha.  Sorry, ladies!  Love ya!  A gentleman at the finish asked me for my bib number and wrote it down on a piece of paper.  I assumed it was to record my time but I noticed he didn't seem to have a clock/watch/timer of any kind.  I quickly assumed that my Garmin time was going to be my official time.  I wasn't optimistic that I would have any kind of time published with the race.  Right behind him, a woman handed me my medal, which is actually a really cool wood cutout of the state of Ohio with the race logo printed on it. I took a few more steps and finally looked down at my watch.

Screaming me towards the finish line. :)
My finish time?  2:41:15.  It happened.  BIG TIME PR finally happened!  A more than 8 minute PR at that!  Just shy of that lofty 2:40 goal but I am damn proud of that one!  Honestly, I think I'm just as proud of this race as I am of my first half marathon.  It was such a stretch for me to do anything athletic when I finished my first half marathon 10.5 years ago and now, finishing my 12th half marathon nearly 45 minutes faster than that first, is huge for me.

Kim, thanks for pacing me.  Now I think I'm about to puke on your shoes.
But seriously, I have to give this girl a shout out.  She did a half marathon last weekend.  Offered to do this race with me as a training day, is attempting to place in the competitive race walk division of a half in 2 weeks and then will do a full marathon a week after that.  She's a machine. I'd like to say I taught her everything she knows but she's simply a natural.
It took a good 10 minutes after the finish before my tunnel vision went away.  There was lots of hugging, high fiving and picture taking and it was all a blur.  I wandered around, trying to keep my legs from cramping up and had a piece of corn bread.  That was a finish line first for me.  I didn't see any water anywhere but I still had some of my own in my Fuel Belt.  They also had chili but that was the last thing I wanted in that moment.  We took a few group photos and then went our own way, knowing we would all see each other that afternoon at a party with our running group that just happened to already be scheduled.  I lingered a little while longer to make sure my stomach was ok before walking to my car with The Pilot, Megatron and my mom.

Nothing like giving your mom a sweaty hug!  I was so happy to see her cheering me into the finish...and for holding me up after the finish! :)
Taking a load off while having a drink.  Spectating is hard work!
Seriously, some of the most supportive people I have ever met and I feel so lucky to call them my friends.

It was a perfect day!  I got to spend the morning running with friends, I ran a great race, BIG TIME PR happened and then I even got to enjoy the afternoon hanging out with even more running friends.  Needless to say, I was exhausted by that evening.  Surprisingly, I felt pretty good by the evening.  I had a head ache but the only things that hurt were my shoulder where I got elbowed and my face.  Yup, my face.  I think I was really gritting it out at the end and clenching my jaw for the last couple miles and it left my face sore.  Haha.  I don't think there is a way to train for that!  Even more surprising was the 2 days that followed the race.  I felt great!  Hardly any soreness in my legs, not even my knees which I was sure were going to hate me.  My abs were a little tight, I'm assuming from the fast last half mile (my Garmin data shows the pace at the end was 9:41.  Say what?!).  Everything else felt great though.  I really feel like I left everything out there so I take my lack of soreness as a sign that for once, I went into a race really really well trained.  I've never had a race where I wasn't sore afterwards.  I'm pretty proud of that feat also!

I'm really glad this guy came up with the "Big Time" PR goal and supported me until it happened.
 As for a official time through the race web site the next day?  I was correct in my assumption.  I don't have a finish time listed next to my name.  Oh well.  My Garmin's distance was spot on so it's official enough for me.  Again, it was $12.50.  Can't complain about that!

Naturally though I'm sort of wondering what kind of time I could pull off on a flat course.... ;)
Not exactly what I had in mind for my splits but I got it done so I'm not complaining!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

One Week Until Big Time

It's hard to believe that operation "Big Time" came about a year ago!  And entire year!  I've obviously been running that entire time but didn't start my official training for my intended "big time" PR race until January.  When I didn't pull off "big time" at the Cap City half in May, I knew I wanted another chance.  And I knew I needed to step up my game and train harder.  So now, here we are, a year after the "big time" goal was established and one week before race day.

I am feeling exponentially more confident about next weekend's race than I did before the race in May.  Obviously that was a bit extreme given that I was in the ED with breathing issues just 5 days before the race but even before that incident, I wasn't 100% confident I could pull it off.  This time around though is a whole different story.  I feel much better trained, I've been churning out PR pace nearly every single run.  I'm the lightest I've been in years.  I'm more acclimated for heat in case the weather is warm.  And if it's cooler out, watch out.  I'll be on fire.  I almost always do better in cooler weather.  I feel like now the only things that would prevent me from getting that big time PR are things that are out of my control.  It could be pouring rain, or snowing, or 90 degrees, the course is over crowded (a big concern of mine actually, given the location), illness or other unforeseen circumstances.

Speaking of illness.  A cold bug has officially entered our house as of this morning.  In the middle of a 6 mile run pushing the stroller.  Megatron was sneezing a lot in the stroller.  By the time I finished and looked at him, he had snot all over the place and his eyes were watery.  And as the day has gone on, the snot just keeps coming.  Damn.  But, like I said, that's out of my control so I'm trying not to freak out about that.  I'll take some extra precautions so hopefully I can avoid it (remember, Megatron is immunosuppressed so I have a slightly higher chance of avoiding a cold than he does.).  I also have a back up plan in place that's helping to ease my mind.  There is another half marathon 2 weeks after my first race and a friend offered me her bib in case something goes awry.  I'm hoping I won't need it!

This morning was my last "long" run before I back way off and rest up.  It was pretty comical to be honest.  On the way out, I felt like I was flying.  It was comfortable and even pushing the stroller it felt good, despite the pace being in the 11's.  I even joked with the ladies I was running with that I was shocked I was able to keep up at that pace and that my wheels might fall of fon the way back. There was even a frickin' rainbow out in the distance.  And then we turned around.  And suddenly it wasn't rainbows and fun anymore.  Why?  Why do I always forget that on that particular trail, the wind (if there is any), is always at your back on the way out?  Yup, we turned around and were running right into the wind.  We are all either tapering or post-race so all of our legs suddenly felt like lead and that stroller turned into a giant sail, pushing back on me.  We opted for a half mile walk break since none of us was really looking to push the pace.  We picked it back up though and managed a decent pace on the way back but dang was it work.  I was huffing and puffing with that stroller.  My friend Cathy even took a turn pushing.  We still pulled off a 12:32 average pace, which if I can keep that up next weekend, I'll be golden. 

Fingers and toes are crossed.  I've done the training and there isn't anything else I can do this week that will make any difference other than trying my best to keep myself rested and healthy.  I say this like I'm 100% calm and collected.  That just depends on the moment.  I had a momentary freak out a couple days ago about my training and emailed a friend asking about my tapering plan.  I was pretty spot on with my plan, which she confirmed and her response was enough to calm me down and realize it was just the "taper crazies" setting in.   Hopefully when I write my race report, it will be all rainbows and fun.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Keeping a Baby/Toddler Entertained (Without buying more toys)

Since I have so many friends with toddlers, and it seems we are always looking for activities to keep them entertained, I thought I'd share some of our homemade toys and activities.  Some ideas I took straight from Pinterest, some I just whipped together out of desperation and some were designed for one purpose: keep Megatron entertained during the 4 hour road trips to Pittsburgh to see his transplant team and during doctor appointments.  For that reason, many of the activities are quiet and all are battery free (ie: Not made by the evil, yet genius LeapFrog).  Also, with cold and flu season coming up and the gross weather just around the corner, I knew I needed to step up my game when it comes to keeping him occupied at home.  These are all "sometimes toys."  I don't leave these out (though #1 stayed out for months and is currently off our toy rotation and is in the basement.  I'll probably bring it back out soon) all the time so the novelty doesn't wear off as quickly.

Feel free to steal the ideas or, if you aren't crafty, don't have the time or just don't feel like it, I can be hired to recreate these.  Haha.

1.  This first one was really the only expensive and time consuming project but I knew he would love it.  I made this busy board at the beginning of the year so he was about 18 months old at the time.  I would have loved to have had it done in the fall or early winter last year when he was just a little younger but we had 2 hospital admissions so yeah....  But once we got through that, we picked up nearly all of the supplies at our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore retail store.  We bought the wood square (already cut) at Home Depot along with the spray paint.  The painting took the most time since I had to do 2 coats of yellow, then mask it off and paint the black.

At the time, Megatron loved light switches and of all things, thermostats.  So those items were a must.  The numbers are actually house numbers and are bumpy so I knew he would like to scratch his fingers on them like babies do.  The door stopper is also a hit because we don't have the springy door stoppers in our house.  This one is very springy and makes that wonderful "boing!" sound (the plastic tip doesn't come off so it isn't a choking hazard).

These pictures were taken when I first showed it to him back in January....oh my gosh he was so tiny! He's not a baby anymore!
Errmagawd, my own thermostat?!

So serious!
Baby squats.

2.  I made this felt board recently after getting the idea off a local moms group on Facebook.  I took a square cork board (on clearance at Target!), then stapled a felt background to the board.  I then cut out a bunch of random items out of felt. Trees with individual leaves, flowers with separate stems, a butterfly, clouds, sun, etc. All things he can use to "build" his own scene. I bought 8.5 x 11 sheets of felt at a local teacher supply store but Joann Fabric also carries it.  Once I had everything cut out, I put the shapes in a zippered binder pouch (I found mine at both the dollar store and Walmart for under $1 each).  I use these binder pouches for a lot of these activities because they hold up better than a Ziploc bag, and they stand up when I stick them in one of my 31 Gifts tote bags (perfect for filling with toys and taking to the car for a road trip!).  It also keeps the activities separate and Megatron now knows how to open them without help.
I knocked this out during Megatron's afternoon nap recently.  It was a win win because I got to use the crafty part of my brain and Megatron now has a rainy day activity.

3.  This too was a recent creation.  Megatron has seen this one and I already know I have a design flaw.  Haha.  We have always used Target wipes.  Recently, the lids keep pulling off the bags (making me crazy but that's another story) which is how I got the idea.  Megatron loves to open and close the wipes packages so whenever we used a bag up or the lid fell off, I would toss the lid on my hoarders' delight pile of craft crap craft table, thinking I would try to make something for him.  During his nap time recently, I took a piece of foam board and glued the lids down to the board.  Under each lid I placed something I already had hoarded saved in my craft supplies.  Googly eyes became a smile, a scrap of ribbon became a fuzzy texture to feel, the cat is a foam sticker, and the flowers are felt stickers with a brad in the middle - more textures!  And because we are Disney people, Mickey Mouse is saying "Howdy!"  I also made labels for under each lid with a label maker.  It's never too early to introduce words even though the kid is still learning to speak. I also took some random stickers and numbered the lids and then put the corresponding number of squares below each lid.  Megatron does know some numbers so we've been trying to give lots of opportunities to use them.  My design flaw became obvious two days after I showed this to Megatron.  He pulled one of the lids off the board already.   I only used Tacky Glue so I think I'll use something like Gorilla Glue when I glue it back down.  Hopefully that will hold better.  But considering that I already owned all of these supplies and it was "free," I really wasn't expecting this to be a long-term toy.

Love those new-to-him Fall jammies!

4. This Popsicle matching game idea came from Pinterest.  I used felt and cut out the Popsicle shapes, then sewed them together, leaving the bottom open.  I then took Popsicle sticks and glued a piece of the matching color felt on the stick.  And even though he doesn't read, I went ahead and wrote the colors on the opposite side of the stick.  For now, he just likes to take the sticks in and out of the zippered pouch and he knows the color blue so he will point to it when asked (if he wants to) but the goal would be to practice matching the right stick with the right Popsicle and putting the stick in the bottom.  This took me about 15 minutes even with cutting and sewing.

5.  Using the larger sized Popsicle sticks, I placed Velcro dots on the ends.  He can stick them together to make shapes.  He doesn't understand these yet but putting them in and out of the bag keeps him quiet for a little while.  Eventually, when he's a little older, I may make cards that have shapes on them and see if he can "build" the shape.  I have about 1 minute of my time invested in this one. :)
6. I saw these foam shapes in the Dollar bin at Target (what an evil thing to place at the entrance to the store!!).  Again, he likes to put them in and out of the back (notice a trend yet?!) but I've taken these into doctor's offices with me and helped him stack them up while he sits on the exam tables waiting for the doctor.  We also count them together, talk about the colors and I try to help him match.  Things he's not doing on his own yet really, but it keeps him quiet for a few minutes and hopefully, if the novelty doesn't wear off, I can continue to use these as a teaching toy.
7. This is another that was a little more time consuming.  I made this over the summer before we made a trip to Pittsburgh for doctor appointments.  Megatron loves buckles.  He doesn't have the finger strength to open or close them but he likes to try and then will ask for help.  I took a plain canvas bag that I already had and sewed ribbons onto the side seams.  I bought the buckles, including the metal clasp, at Joann's and sewed those onto the ribbons.  I already had the wooden beads so I added those on one ribbon also.  I reinforced all my stitches so they are pretty durable.  I used the bag for a couple reasons, the first was that I already owned it.  "Free!" Also, it was sturdy and a little stiff so it would flop around so much with the weight of the buckles and I knew I could hang it from the back of a chair or the stroller and he could stand up and play with it, especially when we were at the hospital in Pittsburgh visiting with his team.  And of course there's the obvious, it's a bag.  We threw a couple other toys into the bag so we could carry it easily into the hospital.  I also added a Velcro strap so it could be rolled up and stuffed into the diaper bag if needed.

8.  Here's another "free," it took me one minute and I made it out of stay-at-home mom desperation type of toys.  I made this one quite awhile back. He seemed bored and I had no idea what to do with him. I took an empty "puffs" container (if you have a baby eating solids, you know what I'm talking about), pulled the label off and stuff a bunch of Popsicle sticks and straws (both from a dollar store, which I hoarded with my craft supplies) inside.  At the time, Megatron was content to just shake the bottle to make noise.  Then he figured out how to open it and likes to...can you guess??  Put them in and out of the container. Yay for fine motor skills!  :)  He stills likes to shake it too. 

9.  And another "free" toy.  This one goes way back to last summer.  This one is great for babies.  I took a formula container, cleaned it, stripped the label off (and because I'm a nerd, decorated it with a Sharpie) and stuffed it full of scrap ribbons (I'm not selective when it comes to my craft hoarding).  Endless baby fun.  Lots of textures and back then, he would just pull them out of the box.  We would put them back in, and he'd pull them back out.  We also have another formula box that has dollar store dominoes in it.  It makes horrible noise when you shake it, which he loves.   Once we determined he wouldn't eat the dominoes, he would take them out and put them back in the box.  Lately, he just likes to stand up and dump them out. I've also been showing him how to stack them like blocks.
10.  This was an idea from another mom before we were about to make our road trip to Pittsburgh.  A dollar store cookie sheet (which is the smallest, flimsiest cookie sheets I've ever seen and would never actually use in an oven) makes a great "desk" to hold stuff while he's strapped into his car seat.  Once he's older, he can use it on his lap to color and draw.  For now though, we use magnets!  I bought these cute, pre-painted animal cut outs at Walmart along with a roll of magnetic tape.  Two minutes later he had these cute, easy to hold (less likely to lose in the car) magnets he can use on the cookie sheet.  I also bought a set of alphabet magnets from the dollar store.  I only have A-B-C in the zippered pouch though because they are small enough to get lost in the car seats.  I didn't want to be hunting for the entire alphabet after a road trip.
11.  Also using the cookie sheet, I printed some road graphics which I found online, along with some traffic signs, onto card stock, cut them out and took them to a local office supply store to have them laminate them.  I used the magnetic tape on the backs of the pieces.  I put the pieces in a zippered pouch and he can create roadways and drive cars around on it.  He's a little young to understand right now but he really liked playing with the traffic signs and putting those on the sheet. This toy worked great when we arrived in our hotel in Pittsburgh.  It was quiet so it didn't disrupt the other guests and he was content.

So those are some of the things I've made so far.  With the exception of the busy board, everything was less than $5 to make and required minimal time to put together.  And none of it involves listening to obnoxious electronic toys or really makes me want to cringe at all. :)  Happy mom = happy baby and happy baby = happy mom.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

New Albany Walking Classic 2014 and 2015

You know it's bad when you are a year behind on your blog posts.  Ha!  I never wrote about last year's New Albany Walking Classic.  Its old news now but I wanted to document my time, which I recently went hunting down so I would know what my current PR was in case I was close to it again.  Yup, I got a PR last year and didn't even blog about it.  Most likely because right after the race, we were gearing up for Megatron's 3rd surgery so my blog was the last thing on my mind.  So last year's time was 1:37:35. And since the race was just this past weekend, I can still write a timely post about this year's race!

We lucked out and The Pilot was off so he could stay home with Megatron.  I met up with my usual crew of running friends at 7 am.  Yes, this event is so fun and popular that even the runners show up to walk.  And most of them are often humbled by the athleticism of some race walkers.  Nothing like getting schooled by a race walker walking an 8 minute mile!

I wasn't sure what I wanted to do for this race.  I decided it might be a "game day decision."  Ha.  I didn't want to go all out for fear I'd irritate my already cranky hip flexors.  I only have 3 weeks left until my big race so I'm getting a little protective of myself.  I also wanted to get back home to my boys so I didn't want to "just" have fun and go at a casual pace.  I did know that I wanted to line up at the start line much earlier than I did last year so that I wouldn't get stuck behind people who walk slower than my easy pace.  I ended up going quite a bit further than a 10k last year because I was zig zagging around people.

So a group of us lined up right behind the competitive group and it was all fun and games for a mile.  Then part of the group picked up the pace.  I wasn't ready yet so I didn't follow them.  No matter if I'm running or walking, it takes me a good 3 miles to get warmed up.  Unfortunate as that may be!  So a few of us hung back.  Slowly though, I started to pick up the pace.  Then I got to mile 4 and decided to kick it into another gear.  Poor Katy and Ralph who were with me at that point.  I was watching my Garmin and realized I could get a new PR.  So I decided to go for it.

And I went.  Each 1/2 mile was faster than the previous.  With less than a half mile to go, I was a woman on a mission.  I sort of zoned out and just went all out.  So much for taking it easy on the hips! I must say, it was kind of fun to start passing people at the end.  Normally at the end of a race I feel like I'm dying and am about to crawl over the finish.  But I felt great!  Ralph turned back to go find more friends to finish with and poor Katy was behind me, cursing me.  And just like that, I beat last year's time by 5 minutes!  I have a new PR of 1:32:37.  Not bad considering the last time I race walked any distance last year's 10K.  Oops.  I've focused so much on running this year that I've only been taking short walk breaks here and there.  Of course I couldn't help but wonder what I could have done had I actually trained....

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Two months in

I'm now about two months into Weight Watchers.  I slowed down some in my weight loss, especially because the WW app keeps "yelling" at me that I was loosing too quickly.  Part of it was that in the beginning (once I got the hang of the point system), it was somewhat easy to eat within the daily points allotted and I rarely needed to us many of the weekly points and never tapped into the points I earned through activity.  That is until my running mileage started to ramp up for my half marathon training.  When mileage ramps up, so does my appetite.  So I've been using those weekly points and occasionally the activity points.

Now that my mileage has creeped up, I'm craving carbs a lot more.  I'm trying to make sure I prep in advance of a workout so I don't get out of control hungry after a workout.  So the day before a long run, I've been trying to make sure I've fueled really well.  It's been working for the most part but I ran 10 miles on Wednesday and I was hungry

I'm down just over 18 pounds so despite the long run munchies, I'm still losing weight.  I have another month on my WW membership and as of now, I plan to extend because it does seem to be working for me.  Tracking my food has been huge in helping me eat smaller portions, slowing down when I eat and really listening to my body in terms of, am I really hungry or am I ignoring the signs that I'm full? Or am I just bored, sad, anxious, not paying attention to what I'm eating, etc?  Those have all been my biggest triggers for over eating .  Knowing I have to record everything I eat means I think twice before I eat anything.

One thing I still have trouble deciphering is how I feel at night.  Before bed I get very tempted to have a snack.  Especially if I have points left to use for the day.  The thing is, if I've eaten a balanced dinner, I'm not usually hungry before bed.  It's just a habit that I'm having a hard time breaking.  I'm trying really hard to force myself to drink a glass of water and just go to bed.  Because usually I'm just tired and bored by that time.  So why eat when I should just go to bed?!  It seems so simple but it's much much much easier said than done!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Big Time Training

Since I fell short of my "Big Time PR" at the half marathon in the spring, I've been training hard for my second attempt which is in about 6 weeks.  I think losing some weight, incorporating more regular strength/cross training, as well as running longer/more frequently has made all the difference.  I am regularly churning out mileage at faster the PR pace.  I even pulled off PR pace while pushing Megatron in the stroller for a portion of my long miles recently (a friend was taking turns with me pushing).
Letting Megatron stretch his legs post-run.  No playground nearby?  That's ok, he's content to climb on anything available including the stroller and park benches.
Just trying on mama/s sweaty running shoes.  Never mind the fact that I'm not wearing pants...I was really hot after our run!
Getting these runs in has been interesting lately.  The Pilot's schedule has been pretty rough on all of us so Megatron is usually in tow for my runs.  Luckily I have some amazing friends who have been pushing him in the stroller so I can lighten the load and focus on my pace.  Luckily Megatron is still really good about going along for the ride.  Early morning runs he just sits there and eats his breakfast.  I've done a couple evening workouts and those I usually bring a book or toy for him.  But honestly, I think he just enjoys the scenery.  He now announces when he sees another "babeee" in a stroller or someone on a "baaa" (bike), among other things that I don't understand what he's saying.

Why does mama keep dragging me out of bed to meet up with these crazy people?!

Now that my long runs are over 8 miles though, I feel bad making him sit that long.  So I've had to do my last 2 long runs on a weekday because that's when The Pilot was home.  And even more insane for me is that I'm knocking the miles out EARLY so I can get home, cleaned up and spend time with my boys.  The Pilot is hardly getting any days off so when he's home, I don't want to run out the door and be gone for hours at a time.  I want the three of us to be together.  So this week I did my 10 miler at 5 am.  I was done before Megatron even woke up.  I did 4 miles with another mama and then when she needed to head home to get ready for work, I set out to finish the last 6 on my own.  I will say, the only other times I've watched the sun come up while running was during the Disney races.  Granted the sunrise in Central Ohio isn't quite as magical as the sunrise over Cinderella's Castle, it was kind of fun to watch my little town wake up and start its day.

That 10 miler gave me a huge confidence boost as I head into the home stretch of training for this second attempt at a "big time" PR.  While my splits were all over the place (like usual), I held it together and never really hit a wall.  I do think my perspective on long runs has changed.  Now rather than it being something I have to do, I look at it as a great time to get some me time. Normally I start slow and then pick up the pace around mile 3 or 4.  For my 10 miler though, I did the first 4 miles with someone faster than me.  Obviously we went out too fast for me and I kept slowing down.  Then I had a recovery mile once I struck out on my own, and then I found my groove again. 
Since I had already done my long miles for the week, when my usual crew met to run yesterday, I still showed up with Megatron just so we could socialize while getting some miles in.  I was planning on 6 miles but like with many runs with them recently, I get to all that socializing and forget to watch how far out I've gone and ended up doing 7. :) Never thought that would happen!  I used to stare at my watch just waiting to turn around.  Now, I just run.  Even with the stroller.  Now obviously I have to take some cues from Megatron to make sure he will be patient to get all the way back.  My wonderful friend Kim pushed Megatron for the first 3.5 miles (when I realized I needed to turn around!) and then I pushed him back.  I was really proud of those last 3.5 miles because I was still managing PR pace while pushing the stroller.  And that 11:33 at mile 5?  Hot damn!  I kept thinking it was a fluke but I know exactly where I was when that was happening.  My training group starts 30 minutes earlier than another group and by the time I hit mile 5, the other training group was coming towards me but their faster runners were coming towards me, then turning around and heading back so then I was getting passed by runners.  Any one who has done a race knows that running near people who are faster can make you run faster.  I felt a surge of energy and without realizing it, I was hauling.  I didn't notice it until I had to stop to take a very tight turn with the stroller.  At the corner, there was a runner who was lost so I stopped to help....and realized how heavy I was breathing.  Haha.  Once I got going again, the pack was long gone and I was pooped.  I was also starting to get some heckling from the front seat and had to open a fruit pouch for my passenger.  It was also time for his immunosuppressant (my little Pavlov dog starts grunting when the alarm on my phone goes off signaling its time for his medicine) so that also gave me a chance to catch my breath and back off to a much more comfortable pace.

Why yes, I always look this happy when pushing 50 pounds of toddler and stroller while I run. ;)

Hopefully I can keep this up as I head into another 10 miler and hopefully at least one 12 miler.  Then it will be time to taper...which means I will lose my mind and think I'm losing all my speed and I will cry when it hurts to do 4 miles. ;)

Post run selfie!