Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

I had a little fun with dinner last night.

For the main course, we had Jack o' Lantern brains and blood

And for dessert we had bats

The kids enjoyed the surprise -- and Austin showed us how bats are supposed to sit before promptly biting its head off.
Now, before you accuse me of going all Martha Stewart on you -- let me assure you that although I'm creative enough to craft these dinner items -- I'm not creative enough to come up with the ideas on my own. The main course idea came to me via a simple Google search for Halloween fun food and the cupcakes decor was in this month's Today's Parent.

It was fun -- I even created a Halloween dinner music soundtrack to go with it! Monster Mash anyone?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I did it! I ran a Half Marathon!

Those three simple words say it all. Nine months ago, I set my mind to running a half marathon and on Sunday, October 14, I ran a friggin’ Half Marathon in 2 hours and 31 minutes.

So, here's the good, the bad and the finish of my Half Marathon journey.

So, the day starts with a bad. As Ryan and I drove downtown at 7:30, it was pouring. As we walked from where we parked the car to the starting line, it was pouring. As I huddled under a garbage bag (because they're disposable, and perfect for keeping dry before a race) feeling nervous about what was about to start, it was pouring.

And then, miraculously, less than 5 minutes before starting time, the pouring turned to a drizzle and about 5 minutes after starting time, the drizzle stopped. And it never rained another drop again.

Now, on to the good. Well, as I just mentioned, it stopped raining right after the run began. The first 5 kilometres were hard. And I know it's because I was nervous. I still had my brain wrapped around the 'Holy crap, I'm actually doing this' thought and all that negative energy in my head was making my legs feel tight and tired. Ryan yelling at me that I could do this at the 1K marker didn't help me feel better. 

But as I got close to the 5K marker -- having already run around Queen's Park, across Wellesley to Church and across Bloor to Bathurst, I started to feel better. Ryan was there yelling words of encouragement at me again, I was feeling the running rhythm and feeling confident.
Out on Lakeshore (I think)

Before I go on past 5K, did I mention that Ryan – the most amazing husband in the world – stalked me by bike for the entire 21.1 kilometres. Sometimes he'd stay nearby for short spurts; other times I wouldn't see him for kilometres as he biked ahead to catch me at a later point. (And apparently, I ran by him once while he was on a Starbucks run).

So Ryan was there at 5K when I was starting to feel good. And he was there just before 10K when I was still feeling great. And I hit the 10K checkpoint at 1:09:27, which (if this had been a 10K race) was a personal best time for me. At the time, I didn’t realize that – I was just thrilled that I was still on pace while still feeling good.

It was just past this point, as I turned out onto the long, lonely stretch of the there and back on Lakeshore that a random spectator holding a sign caught my eye. This is the most amazing thing about doing a city race (vs the Zoo races I've done). Some people come out to support their friends or family and hold signs for those people, and other people just come out to cheer or make generic cheering signs. Sometimes they're witty (one person on Bathurst was holding a sign that said "You're still going faster than the King Streetcar), sometimes they're inspirational. And at the not quite halfway point of my half marathon, inspirational was wonderful. 

This person was holding a sign that said "One day you will not be able to do this. Today is not that day."

It may sound cheesy, but I held on to those words, and several kilometres down the road – as I was getting close enough to the finish to feel it, but not close enough – I found myself repeating those words over and over. Because at that point, it was taking everything I had to get there. 

But back to the 10K marker. Once you pass that, the run takes you down a long lonely stretch of Lakeshore – from Bathurst to Parkside and back to Bay Street. And Ryan was there all the way. Until about 16K or so, I'd smile or wave at him as he yelled at me. At one point, I even took my headphones out and talked to him for a few seconds as I ran. 

In case you can't find me, I'm the one with the blue shirt and pink hat in the middle.
At another point, two girls running near me commented that I appeared to have a stalker. He was always there, yelling encouragement at me and keeping me going. I can't thank him enough for motivating me like he did.

Because by 18K, I was struggling. I stopped to walk for a minute, choked down another gel pack and hoped that that would give me the strength to soldier on. But my body wanted to quit and I resorted to playing mind games with myself – willing my body to feel as relaxed as it does at the beginning of a 3K run.

Between that, and telling myself that today I could do this, somehow, my aching legs kept moving forward. 

Turning up Bay Street (from Lakeshore) towards the finish there’s a tunnel. It was dark in there – in fact it almost felt too dark. And then suddenly, you’re on the other side and people are lined up along both sides of the street cheering as you run your final 1K. People were yelling and music was blaring. One person was holding a sign that said "Holy crap, you just ran a friggin' Half Marathon!'. 

It was exciting and suddenly I found the strength I'd been having trouble finding for the last few kilometres. As I got closer to the finish line, the crowds increased, as did the noise. And yet I still heard Ryan's voice yelling at me from the crowd. Austin and Alex were yelling at me from somewhere along the last 400 metres. They saw me. I didn't see them. I will never tell them that.

I was so focused on getting there that I barely remember those last 400 metres. I just know that I finished it.
My cheering squad made signs for me (Alex's is a picture of me running with headphones on and Austin's is me crossing the finish line)
Back in January, I decided to target a 21/2 hour finish time. A month ago, after repeated slow long, runs; I acknowledged to myself that I wouldn't be able to finish in that time and decided I would be happy with a 2:45 finish.

Sunday’s finishing time: 2:31:45.

Holy crap. I really did it. I ran a friggin' Half Marathon. 

(As a side note: Sunday's great feat was to run a Half Marathon; Monday's great feat on the other hand was managing to climb a flight of stairs.)

Friday, October 12, 2012

I know I can, I know I can, I know I can...

Since racing day is practically here, I thought I’d share some wise words I recently came across after a particularly difficult training run. They come to me from a marathon runner’s blog that I follow.

It’s very hard to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the real competition is against the voice inside you that wants to quit.
 - George Sheehan 

Wish me luck! Once I recover, I’ll report back next week.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Pour your heart out: Feeling lonely all by myself

So, it's been a month now since the kids both started full day school and it's been an adjustment for me. To be perfectly honest, I was not one of those moms jumping for joy when summer vacation ended and I was left with a quiet house while the kids were at school.

Instead, I cried.

I've been home for four and a half years -- I've had children around almost non-stop for four and a half years. It used to be that I rejoiced in the two hours I'd get to myself when Austin was in half-day Kindergarten and Alex was in her preschool program. It used to be an incredible freedom when someone would babysit for an afternoon so that I could work in peace, or go to an appointment. 

Now, I can do whatever I want, whenever I want and yet, I don't always want to. Instead of rejoicing in the peace in quiet, it's just kind of lonely.

It doesn't help that work, which was incredibly (or insanely might be a better word) busy for much of the summer, suddenly slowed to what felt like a halt as soon as September started. Although I did the math – and I actually put in more or less the same number of hours into work in September that I did in August. It’s just in September, I had 6 hours a day, every day to do it in. And in August, I had 0 hours a day, every day to do it in (well that’s not entirely true – every morning the kids watched TV for an hour and a half so I could work and then I worked every single night). So I guess, I’m working just as much as I was, but I have so much more free time.

Some days are better than others. I’m trying to get into a routine of going out to a coffee shop several mornings a week with my laptop to work. I find, when I only have a small amount of things to do, I’m far more productive if I get out of the house and sit myself somewhere where I’m forced to do it. And the hustle and bustle around me is actually soothing.

I’m also trying to make lunch or coffee plans with friends several times a week to fill my hours. Other days, I've taken an hour and a half and gone for a run. But it’s hard to get over the guilt of allowing myself to have me time. Again, I guess I've spent so many years without having any that having some just doesn't ‘feel’ right.

As I said, some days are better than others. Some days are incredibly productive – whether it be with work or with getting stuff done around the house, or both. Or simply a lot of fun – having a kid-free lunch with a friend or shopping for new clothes for me (because seriously, how often do I get to do that!?). Other days, I feel a little lost and don’t quite know what to do with myself. And I end up puttering the day away and feeling worse for it afterwards.

I’m sure 9 months from now – when summer vacation starts – I’ll be scrambling, trying to figure out how to manage my work day with the kids around. But today, I just miss them.