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....