I’d Rather Run with Scissors…Or, Running with ‘dese D’s

It always feels awkward returning to the blog after an extended (in this case, EXTREMELY EXTENDED) hiatus. Launching into a post without acknowledging the gap seems odd, but explanations sound more like excuses and, in the end, who really cares?

I don’t know. Hello? Hello!  I’m back. I have 2 kids now and I haven’t run for over a year. Oops. The “oops” pertains to the fact that I haven’t run for a year. I intended to have two kiddos, so……well done, me. Procreation goal complete!

I would love to feel like a runner again. I would love to be in decent shape and be able to go out for a 6 or a 7 miler without breaking a (figurative) sweat. “Oh, I ran an easy 7 today,” I’d like to be able to say.

There’s one thing standing in my way right now…well…erm…make that TWO.

I’m not talking about the kids, although scheduling a workout around the demands of mommyhood and miscellaneous adulting is not easy. The problem, you see, is that I’ve opted to breastfeed our second born, and I’ve gone from size 34A (pre-baby) to 36D.

At age 33, I’ve got boobs.

I have little to no idea how to cope with that.

The obvious first step was to BUY A SPORT BRA THAT FITS, so at about 3 months postpartum I did just that. I went to Target and bought the typical stretchy (and cheap) sports bra that I’ve worn before…just in a size LARGE rather than SMALL. Done and done, I think to myself.

Then I went on my first run after having a baby and learned a very valuable lesson: sports bras for the curvy need to actually DO something. As a flat-chested runner, the sports bra is mostly about covering what should be covered. If it looked cute, that was an added bonus. As a nursing mama runner, I learned that the added weight and bounce must be compensated for…or I will pay the price with every step.

So, I texted a friend who’s always been naturally gifted in the chestral department. “Tried to run…OW! What kind of sport bra do I need?” She texted back some recommended brands and I learned another lesson: pretty much every bra manufacturer makes a variety of “support” options. Huh. Seems like I should’ve noticed that before, but I’d always just bought the cheapest option, which of course is the one with “light support.”

Armed with this newfound knowledge, I bought a far sturdier sports bra and tried again. This time, everything stayed in place but the entire contraption felt so confining. It was hard to breathe. Dang boobs! Why is this so difficult?

After that experience, I let myself push running to the side. Maybe I’ll pick it back up in another 6-8 months, when the baby is (possibly) weaning. It just seemed like it wasn’t worth the effort. I’d as soon run with scissors as run with boobs.

The desire to “be a runner again” isn’t easy to squash, however. And because I’d rather not be attempting to get in shape in the middle of a Kansas summer (adding another degree of difficulty and discomfort to the already less-than-ideal equation of 1 year without running + 2 boobs), I tried again.

The third time may really BE the charm.

Or I’m just getting used to these things.

Or I’m a little farther out from giving birth and I’ve recovered even more.

Or…who cares? I went for a 2-mile run, and it felt surprisingly decent. That’s good enough for me!

Now, flush with a runner’s high (or delirious from prolonged sleep deprivation), I thought I’d take a few minutes to share some tips with any other nursing mama runners out there:

Tip #1: Get the Ugly One
I’m used to buying sports bras based on pretty color or cool pattern. DO NOT FALL INTO THIS TRAP. Seek out the ugly duckling of the sports bra world. You want something with thick shoulder straps and without too much elastic. If you can slingshot it across the store, it’s not for you. (Also, maybe don’t slingshot bras across a store. I think they frown on that.) It should feel sturdy and a little rigid. You need it to be strong enough to be up to the considerable task.

Tip #2: Try that puppy on.
It’s surprisingly tricky to get the right fit. Less elastic means more trouble finding just the right thing. You need something tight enough to provide that all-too-important support, but not so tight that it inhibits breathing.

Tip #3: Don’t forget the pads.
One of the only annoying things about breastfeeding is that you can’t turn the system off. It’s always there, ready to go. The bouncing, the movement, the warmth, or some combination thereof can unexpectedly activate letdown. I slip in some nursing pads as insurance against the wet t-shirt.

Tip #4: Pump (or Nurse) Before You Go
Make it easier on yourself by lightening your load before you go. It will make things more comfortable all the way around, decrease the risk of unexpected letdown, and if you’re like me and your baby refuses to take a bottle (augh!!!) it increases the chance that you can get a run in before a full on “I WANT MAMA/A SNACK” meltdown ensues. A win for everyone.

Tip #5: Splurge on a few workout tops.
I’ve been fighting this one because I hate to spend money on a temporary situation, but I’d recommend buying at least two comfy workout tops that accommodate your new bust size. If I had things that actually fit, I’d probably have a little more motivation to get out there and run. Since I’m being stubbornly cheap, every attempt to run involves fishing through a pile of shirts that just don’t fit and squeezing into a too-small something and then frowning at myself in the mirror at all the extra bulges. It’s an unnecessary blow to my self-confidence.

Those are my tips! What haven’t I thought of?

 

 

 

Throwback Thursday: State Track

I found an old newspaper clipping that represents one of my all-time favorite pictures of “runner Megan.” (In case it’s not obvious, I’m the runner in the middle of the photo. Dark hair in a ponytail, “36” visible on my bib number.)

01_State

I know this is from my senior year of high school. I know it’s at the state track meet, where I ran the 2-mile, 4×800, and mile. I remember that this meet was disappointing for me — I was 5th in the 2-mile (I had won the previous year) and did not medal in either of the other events. I did run my season best in the 2-mile, so I guess the field was extra deep that year.

I’m not sure which of the two individual events this is. My guess is that it is the 2-mile. First, because I have this look of determination on my face that I associate with running the longer distance. It was my stronger event, and I had more confidence in it. I read a little, “this is my race, and I’m going to track you down” in my face that I cannot fathom being there for any other event. Second, you can tell that the stands are only partway full. The 2-mile was the first event of the meet back then and typically drew a smaller crowd. Also, I believe the legs and torso you can see at the right edge of the photo belong to my college teammate Stephanie. She’s a long distance beast like me, and I don’t even know if she was in the mile.

Then again, that look on my face could be, “holy moly, I’ve never run 3 races at state track before. Keep it together, Megan! Don’t let ’em see how tired you are.” Determination and desperation are hard to distinguish in a grainy newspaper photo.

What I love about this photo is my long stride. Nice work, Megan. I didn’t even know you could stride out like that! My freakin’ muscular arm. Look at that arm! For a scrawny distance runner, I’ve got GUNS! High five to you, high school Megan. I predict that you will have a reasonably successful college running career.

Food, Zombies, and Choices

When I was in 7th grade, my dad approached me with an offer I couldn’t refuse. “Hey, Meg,” he says to me. “How would you like to earn $1 a day for eating?” A whole dollar, you say? For doing something I’m going to do already? Let me think about it…sure!

There was, of course, a catch. Dad laid out a “nutrition plan” that seemed mighty restrictive to my adolescent eyes. I can’t precisely recall the particulars, but its basic goals were the elimination of “junk” food, sugar, and excessive snacking. For example, I remember that tacos for dinner were fine and dandy, but nachos made from Velveeta “cheese” were off limits. Milk with school lunch was fine, but chocolate milk wasn’t. Things like that. And of course, it should go without saying that pop, candy, desserts, and pretty much any other food with “sugar” or “corn syrup” as the #1 ingredient was a no-no.

Dad asked me to keep track of the foods I was eating. For any day that I managed to stick to the plan, I’d earn myself a dollar. Any slip-up, be it in the form of Mom’s impossible-to-resist sugar cookies, nachos at a basketball game, or even a single jelly bean, would deprive me of the green. Now, there are probably many teenagers who would ignore the rules and see how long they cold trick dumb ol’ Dad out of a dollar, but I wasn’t one of those kids. Perhaps it’s the first-born’s overdeveloped sense of guilt, perhaps I’m just that honest, or perhaps I never labored under the delusion that Dad was dumb enough to fall for something like that, but I took the deal and never tried to trick him.

In a month, I think I’d earned a total of $8.

Now, the point of Dad’s little experiment wasn’t weight loss. I think he was trying to help me be more conscious about what I was eating. It’s something I find myself thinking a lot about now that my metabolism is turning and I can no longer eat massive quantities of anything with nary a negative consequence.

Why is making the “right” choices so dang hard? Is it just me? I hope it’s not just me. In case it’s not just me, I’d like to share a couple of problems I’ve encountered.

Problem #1: Focusing on What’s “Best”

When I still lived in South Carolina, I was trying to figure out a way to lose the final stubborn pounds of “grad school weight.” Marathon training had gotten me halfway there, but then I plateaued. “Ah-ha,” I said to myself. “Maybe if I start eating RIGHT.”

On a quest to discover the best possible foods to eat, I took to the Internet. And went a little crazy. There are seemingly endless possibilities for the “right” way to eat, and they all have impassioned followers who are more than happy to present their arguments for what you should be eating and what is probably killing you. Very frequently, the theories contradict one another.

Now, theoretically, dietary diversity makes sense. Different foods are going to work for different people, and we should all be able to live happily and eat healthily…even if our definitions of “healthy” vary. In practice, however, the process of discovering what’s “best” for you can be immensely frustrating.

There’s the diet that lauds protein and vilifies carbohydrates. There are the diets that tell us to go back to our eating roots — whether this means eating like a caveman or a biblical patriarch. There are the diets that say human beings weren’t meant to consume animal products for various medical or ethical or ecological reasons. There’s the low-fat diet and the diet that claims that the right kind of fat is critically important and over-processed foods are what’s causing most medical issues. And on and on.

And then there’s the statistics. Oh, the statistics. If you send me a link to stats claiming that a certain food is bad for you, I’ll trump it with stats showing that same food is good for you. Don’t tempt me. I can do it. Just the other day, I was trying to decide what to do with some rainbow chard. “Can I make a smoothie with it?” I wondered. Off I went to the Internet, and the very first result for “chard smoothie” was a recipe for “the best green smoothie ever.” The link right underneath it, however, was to an article called, “Green Smoothies Can Have a Devastating Effect on Your Health.” Yes indeed. “Devastating.” The explanation is that many leafy greens are high in oxalates and can cause kidney stones. Cheery.

Now, obviously the rule of Internet research is not to believe everything you read. At a certain point, however, the contradicting opinions and statistics and theories can be overwhelming. When I focus too much on the BEST way to eat, I wind up not caring at all. “Aw, screw it. Next stop, hamburger and fries! Bring on the ice cream! And where are my jelly beans?”

Solution #1: Better…It’s Better than Best!

So, forget finding the BEST way to eat. Forget looking for “super foods.” (That term really bugs me for some reason.) What’s more sustainable for me (especially given the “what’s the best?” black hole I fall into otherwise) is eating BETTER. Water is better than pop. Green smoothie is better than a donut. Grilled is better than fried.

These are the types of choices that you don’t need a degree in nutrition to confidently make. Unless, of course, you are suffering from the second problem…

Problem #2: Food Zombie

I am a food zombie. This is only way I can think to explain my apparently natural inclination to consume massive amounts of sugar without realizing it. It goes like this: I’m sitting at my desk, editing a document. I get hungry and realize I haven’t eaten anything for breakfast. There happens to be a jar of candy nearby, so I chow down on a handful of sugar until the feeling of hunger subsides. Never mind that I know better. Never mind that all I have to do is walk upstairs to the kitchen and find some of that “better” food I was just lecturing about. Nope. I’m a zombie, and zombies don’t think.

Solution #2: Use Your Brain

Zombies eat brains. Food zombies just need to use the brain they already have. When I make conscious choices about what I eat, I’m more likely to eat oatmeal for breakfast. I’m more likely to drink water. I’m more likely to snack on fresh fruit or veggies. I’m more likely to make better choices in general when I wake up and pay attention to what I’m eating.

This isn’t to say that I’ve got it all figured out, or even that I consistently put “make better choices…don’t be a zombie” into practice. But I try, and knowing that I have LilRunr to be an example for is going to motivate me to keep trying in the future.

Slump

When friends and family come to me with their fitness goals and hopes and woes, I always seem to have advice to give.

“Just stick with it,” I tell them. “You’re not going to see or feel any changes for awhile, and that’s OK. Things happen almost imperceptibly, the important thing is not to give up. Each day builds upon the last. Trust that you’re making a good choice. Don’t give up!”

It’s good advice. I stand by it. What haunts me is that I’m apparently unable to follow it myself.

I am, you see, in the midst of a major slump. I have lots of excellent excuses for the slump. Very excellent excuses indeed…and yet, they are the same tired excuses that over-busy adults all over the country trot out to explain their lack of fitness. If a friend explained to me that she couldn’t find time to work out because she was busy with work, and housekeeping, and cooking, and childcare, I know what I would say. I would tell her that she needs to find time for herself, and that the time spent focusing on her own health and wellbeing will wind up being a gift to her entire family as well as herself.

More good advice. More good advice that I am not heeding.

What I’m doing instead is complaining to Scott. I seem to have lots of time to spend complaining about how out of shape I am. I manage to run about once a week, and then I have even more time to spend complaining about the futility of running only once a week and my continued lack of fitness.

It’s annoying. What I want is instant gratification — to snap my fingers and be back in the shape I was in in 2012. This is silly, of course. Distance running is not about instant gratification. It’s about building a foundation, run by run, mile by mile, day by day. Since I haven’t been putting in the time, I really have no right to complain. But I do. And then I’m annoyed with myself for being a whiny baby.

Something needs to change. Here in the slump, all I’ve been able to focus on was the result I wanted — that magical year of 2012, when I was running with ease and racing and getting age group awards.

What I conveniently forgot, in my nostalgic remembrances of days of running past, was 2011. Ah, 2011. In March, I birthed our amazing baby boy. By May, I was back to running…if you can call that painful, awkward, jiggly, barely-faster-than-a-walk shuffle “running.” I still remember how alien my body felt. I didn’t feel like myself, and I was embarrassed to think of anyone seeing me “running.” I debated giving up. Why go through the motions? I didn’t look like a runner. I didn’t feel like a runner. I wasn’t really a runner…anymore.

In the end, however, I couldn’t give it up. I remember sternly telling myself that it DIDN’T MATTER. It didn’t matter if I was self-conscious. It didn’t matter if I needed to buy bigger running shorts to accommodate my jiggly, post-baby thighs. It didn’t matter what the pace was. I’d always been a runner, and I was going to keep “running.” No whining, Megan. No back-talk. No excuses. No giving up. You are going to get out there, and you are going to RUN. Just run.

Part of the “just run” dictate meant stubbornly refusing to look for results. I couldn’t look. It would hurt too much to consider how much slower I was running, how much harder it was to keep moving. If I focused on that, I worried I would lose the motivation to keep moving at all. No. Far better to just keep running, and not worry too much over how far or how fast or how it felt.

Mile built upon mile until I felt comfortable enough to take on a half marathon training plan. It wasn’t until I started using Runmeter in late 2011 that I realized just how far I had come. I knew I could run 9 or 10 miles without struggling, and I had assumed my pace was back to 9:15/mile or so…about what it was when I was marathon training in 2010. I still remember the first long run with Runmeter. My training pace was actually closer to 8:20 per mile, and that felt easy to me. It was mind-boggling.

“Just run” worked! It worked, and it can work again. I’ve lost a lot of fitness since then, but this is what I need to remember: just keep running. Just keep running…

 

 

Balance

I started this blog in 2008. When it began, I had two goals: to post at least once a week, and to avoid focusing too much on myself. I hoped to strike a balance between personal posts and more generally informative/entertaining ones. I didn’t want to be repetitive, and I couldn’t imagine my own training would be of much interest to anyone else.

In that first year, I wrote some of my favorite posts: the t-shirt post, the list of things to do for runners, and the intro to running mind games, just to name a few. Later on, I wrote several incredibly detailed posts (with maps and pictures) about the development of Greenville, SC’s first rail trail. I receive traffic and positive comments about those to this day, and I’m proud to have contributed something helpful to fellow runners.

Then, marathon training happened. The balance shifted, and the majority of the posts became about what I was up to week-by-week. This was in part due to the fact that readers had requested more posts about my own training, but to be honest it was also partly due to laziness. It’s easier to recap that weekend’s long run than it is to come up with an interesting, running-related topic, research it if necessary, and write a corresponding article. And since many of my readers were either training for, planning to train for, or already addicted to marathons, so it was a topic that was well-received.

Without the Adventure of Marathonning to spice it up, however, I’ve grown bored of the “training log” type posts. They’re repetitive. They’re dull. When I’m on the undisciplined, slacker side of my usual “training-racing-resting-oops slacking-remotivating” cycle, they’re even annoying. The Internet doesn’t need any more whining.

I feel like I’ve lost the balance. In 2014, I’ll be trying to get it back. If you’re still reading this blog (all 5 of you), you will see some changes…hopefully for the better.

 

Sometimes… or, a Hypothetical Story of How an Entire Month Can Be Run-Free

Sometimes, you get a full head of steam going and spout off on Twitter about how: THAT’S IT! I’M SICK OF BEING OUT OF SHAPE! ACTIVATING EXTREME MOTIVATION AND RUNNING SUCCESS!

And then, you get to run a day or two before the universe tests you by slamming you with what was really only a chest cold but at the time felt like some kind of as-yet-undiscovered lung plague. And you try to run anyway, because the rule is that only a fever or stomach stuff is reason to skip a run, but if feels like you’re breathing through one of those tiny coffee straw things, and then your lungs feel on fire for the rest of the day and after that you think, “forget it, who cares if I run?”

And then, you get better (saying that always reminds of me of Monty Python and the Holy Grail: “She turned me into a newt! …I got better.”) and you think yes, this is when I get back to running seriously, so instead of dilly-dallying around and easing back into training, you throw on your shoes and go out for a 4-miler at your normal pace. And everything is going pretty well, until you hit mile 3 and suddenly your IT band tightens and your knee feels like it’s going to be ripped off the side of your leg. But you keep running, because darn it the rule is THAT YOU KEEP RUNNING AND DON’T GIVE UP, and the run turns into a slower run and the slower run turns into a jog and by the time you finish that last mile you’re limping enough to feel sorry for yourself.

But you figure, “meh, random fluke” and “it’ll be fine after a good night’s sleep,” and the next morning you get back up and head out the door for your next run. And of course it’s not better, because you’re not some young kid anymore who can ignore things like irritated IT bands and bounce right back, and after a few blocks of limping you realize that denial is getting you nowhere and you’re still limping. 

So then you spend a week stretching and foam rolling (oh my gosh foam roller I hate you you’re evil) and doing some strength exercises for good measure, and then, THEN, you’re finally ready to get back to running. One month after the 6-miler in the rain and the declaration of dedication on Twitter. 

Sometimes, that can happen.

 

Not It

Well, this is it. The last Wheel of Fortune blog post. I went to the second audition on Friday, and I was one of the 50 who didn’t make the cut. It’s disappointing, because I now realize that I was really hoping to be one of the 20(ish) chosen for the final portion of the audition, but you know what? Not everyone gets picked. Some of us have to be the people who DON’T get called back. Who get to do the walk of shame out of the Hilton ballroom. And my parents didn’t raise a poor loser, so here are a few thoughts I’ve had since that sad moment on Friday when the Wheel of Fortune dream ended:

  • 2 years ago, I thought the closest I’d ever get to WOF was submitting an online Contestant Application.
  • 3 months ago, I thought being one of thousands in the crowd at the Wheelmobile event was the best I could do.
  • 2 weeks ago, I was pretty well convinced that I had failed to impress at the Wheelmobile event, and that was that.

So, even though, “the story of Megan and Wheel of Fortune” doesn’t have a spectacular, fairy tale ending, it’s still pretty impressive how far I was able to get over the course of my two-year quest.

If you’re curious, here’s how the final audition went:

Around 70 people were seated in rows of 5 in a ballroom. We filled out applications: basic info, what makes you unique, are you willing to be on any of the special “themed” shows, have you ever been on TV before, have you ever committed a crime…blah blah blah. One of the WOF crew went around the room making a seating chart of everyone there. There was someone behind me named “Meg D.,” and I remember thinking that it would be a bummer if she was selected and I wasn’t, because hearing a name so similar to my own was bound to give me a heart attack.

Then, they spent 5 minutes seeing if anyone in the room were friends, spouses, or relatives. This is apparently how they get contestants for the “Best Friends” and “Family” shows, which seemed a little odd to me. I mean, if I had had Scott or a friend with me at the Wheelmobile event, what are the odds that both of us would have been called up on stage then, and then selected to come to this audition as well?

After that, the fun began. They put a puzzle up on the projector and started calling names. When your name was called, you had a chance to play a round of the game. One of the WOF people would spin a wheel for you, and then you got to guess a letter. If your letter was on the board, you could spin again, buy a vowel, whatever. They warned us at the beginning that, occasionally, the spinner might deliberately give a person a “Lose a Turn” or “Bankrupt,” and not to take this personally. If someone got on a roll and was calling letter after letter, they might do that to keep the game moving. There were 70ish people to get through, after all.

So, they started calling names. I tried to pay close attention to each puzzle so that I’d already have a good letter to guess when they called my name. I also listened for feedback from the casting people to apply to myself. To the person who said, “Well gosh, I’ll try a T,” they said, “Try not to say too many words. Just go for the letter.” To the person who said, “I’d like to solve. Is it <insert puzzle solution here>,” they said, “we’re not that picky, but just so you know: don’t say ANY WORDS between “I’d like to solve” and the puzzle solution.” Others were asked to speak up, move their hands, smile, or annunciate.

Finally, my turn came. “Megan N.!” I was lucky in that the puzzle was already partway complete.

Thing: __ __ __ __ __    __ O __ __ O N   __ __ __ __ __ O __ __

I was pretty sure the middle word was “cotton,” so I guess T.

Thing: __ __ __ T __    __ O T T O N   __ __ T __ __ O __ __

At this point, I probably should have been bouncing up and down more that I had gotten 4 T’s, but the lady at the front was gesturing for me to speak louder and it flustered me. Ah, well. I’m already forgetting the order, but at various turns I asked for a C, an E, and a W.

Thing: W __ __ T E    C O T T O N   __ __ T __ __ O __ E

I wish now that I would have asked for the H in “white” instead of the W, because I’m fairly certain that would have given me enough to solve “white cotton bathrobe,” and I would have gotten a WOF bag, shirt, or other small prize. Instead, I asked for the W and then another spin, and the designated spinner decided I had had enough turns and gave me a Bankrupt.

Wah-wah.

Even though they told us not to get upset if we were given a Bankrupt or Lose a Turn, it still felt like the door had been closed. The next person guess H and B, and then solved the puzzle. They had time to play a few more puzzles, and some people were called to take a second turn. I was not, and that seemed ominous as well.

Then, they gave everyone a written test. We had 5 minutes to solve as many puzzles as we could. I had expected to rock this bad boy and have no troubles whatsoever, but I was only able to solve about half the puzzles. It was tough! They give you relatively few letters, so there weren’t too many solutions that just jumped out at me.

Following the test, they took 15-20 minutes to evaluate everyone, and came back in to deliver the news. Meg D. was asked to go on to the next round, and this Megan was not. And that’s that.

There was one day over the weekend that my perfectionist side spent tormenting me with all the ways I could have improved my chances. “They wanted outgoing, bubbly people, dummy! Couldn’t you have faked that?” “Chicago Cubs! The last Proper Name puzzle on the test was Chicago Cubs! How could you have forgotten that?” “Well of course you didn’t get picked. What did you put on the application under what makes you unique? RUNNING? Oh, geez. Congratulations. You have the same hobby as millions of people. The chick behind you does ROLLER DERBY. The guy 3 rows up is a volunteer fire fighter. You think your boring self can compete with that?”

Now, I’m OK with it. The casting folks know who they were looking for. I did what I could: I played a good round of the game, I clapped and cheered for everyone, I did at least passable on the test, and I looked super cute in my sparkly shirt. It just wasn’t meant to be…but the next time the Wheelmobile comes to town, you’d better believe I’ll try again.🙂

Wow Wow Wow Wow…or, THE EMAIL

You guys remember back in June, when I spent two days roasting at Power and Light for the chance to be on Wheel of Fortune? To recap: the Wheelmobile came to Kansas City, I was one of the lucky folks drawn randomly to appear on stage, and due to this stroke of luck had placed myself in the running to be selected for a second WOF audition later in the year.

Yeah. That.

Marty, the Wheelmobile host, told the crowd that potential contestants could expect to be contacted about the next round of auditions by September. As June turned to July, July melted into August, and September appeared seemingly out of nowhere, I was left wondering: did that mean the BEGINNING or the END of September? Because, if the beginning, then I was out of luck. No real surprise there. I can’t say I did anything particularly noteworthy during my few minutes on stage at the Wheelmobile, and hundreds of people got called up on stage that weekend. 

Still. Even though September was halfway gone, even though I’d had more than two months of obsessively checking my email (and Spam folder, just in case!) and snail mail box with no success, even though I’d given myself a stern lecture on the dangers of getting one’s hopes up and the ever-decreasing probability of getting selected…I couldn’t quite give up hope. Tiny Optimist Megan was in the back of my brain, singing: “you never know! It could happen! Just wait and see!”

Tuesday night, I was watching Luis kick butt on Wheel (and feeling really, really sorry for the guy who mispronounced “curio”) when my phone dinged. New email. Meh, I thought to myself, probably another sale at Kohl’s (there’s ALWAYS a sale at Kohl’s, right?), and picked up my phone. Opening up the Mail client, I caught the subject line, “WOF Contestant Auditions,” and my heart stopped. Tiny Optimist Megan was firing up the marching band, but I was still a little dubious as I selected the email. I have been faked out before. A month or so ago, I got an email from the WOF mailing list that had something in the subject about “Exciting Opportunity!” that turned out to be an advertisement to buy tickets to watch one of the live tapings in Las Vegas. Major letdown. Lol.

There was no need to hold Tiny Optimist Megan back any more, though — my eye caught the words “invited,” “second audition,” and the date and time…and that was all I needed to see. I eventually went back and read the rest of the email carefully, following the instructions to RSVP and whatnot, but the first several minutes following the receipt of that email were devoted to celebration, not logic. 

I can’t believe I get to go back! This is going to be so much fun. And while this is the last round of the audition process, and some people will go on to be contestants on the show, to be honest it’s not something that’s much on my mind.  THAT (being selected, going to L.A., meeting Vanna and Pat, spinning the big wheel, trying not to scream my letters in that annoying way some contestants have…) feels so far into the realm of fantasy that I can’t possibly focus on it. It’s not real. This audition–where I’ll be taking a written test, being interviewed, and playing longer versions of the demo game–is totally and completely real. Not only that, it’s an opportunity that relatively few people get, and I am surprised and thrilled that I’ve been invited back. 

Like I said — this is going to be fun. Yay!

 

Oregon Trip, Part 2: Day of Travel

After four days in Eugene, living it up track town style, a lot of people would probably be content to call it a vacation and head home. Instead, we headed for the coast.

It’s about a 4.5 hour drive from Oregon to Brookings, our eventual destination. Before we could end up there, however, we had a couple of stops to make. Leaving town on I-5, we eventually made our way to 38-W, a mostly two-lane state highway that follows the path of the Umpqua River with painstaking exactness. I’m not sure if the state of Oregon just doesn’t like to build bridges, or if they prefer to have roads on the north bank of a river. Whatever the reason, our drive included some wonderfully scenic areas, as well as the very hairpinnest of hairpin turns.

Do you see what's happening here? Crazy Oregon roads.

Do you see what’s happening here? Crazy Oregon roads.

LilRunr would like me to inform all of you that we also went through a TUNNEL, and it was awesome. (The little guy is a Thomas the Train fan, so tunnels are just about the BEST THING EVER! In Kansas, he has to pretend that bridge overpasses are tunnels. Poor child.)

Eventually, Hwy 38 led to the Oregon Coast Highway, and we followed that south. I was assuming that, with a name like “Oregon Coast Highway,” I would soon get a glimpse of the ocean (something anyone from a landlocked state keenly anticipates). I was incorrect. A state park of many trees formed a buffer between me and the “big blue,” as they call it in LilRunr’s third favorite movie. (“Finding Nemo” is third at the moment. “Cars” and “Ice Age” make up the first two spots.)

Our first stop was to see some sand dunes. Did you know there are sand dunes in Oregon? I was clueless, but my relentlessly investigative husband had discovered this piece of trivia at some point in the vacation planning process. At an access point that was off limit to 4-wheelers, we all got out of the car and stretched our legs via a half-mile hike through the woods.

On our walk.

On our walk.

When little legs get tired.

When little legs get tired.

We let LilRunr walk, which sorely tested my patience. Little legs move so slow, and the half mile seemed to stretch on forever. About the time I decided that the sand dunes were a myth, we came to a clearing and…there they were. Mountains of sand stretching as far as I could see, pushing up against some of the tallest pine trees I’ve ever come across as though they intended to swallow the forest. It was an amazing sight.

The photo's not blurry -- that's the sand blowing this way and that.

The photo’s not blurry — that’s the sand blowing this way and that.

The only problem was that it was an incredibly windy day. LilRunr and I stayed close to the trees to make the most of the windbreak (and avoid having our faces scoured by flying sand.) Scott, in a spirt of adventure, decided to run to the top of the nearest dune. “It’s farther than you think,” I warned him. He took this as a challenge, and off he went to “prove me wrong.” He was champion of the dunes in no time (and it was very amusing to watch him race back down at breakneck speed).

Scott at the top of the hill.

Scott at the top of the hill.

Farther south, our next stop was an obvious one — Coos Bay, hometown of Steve Prefontaine. Before we ate lunch, we wanted to stop and see the Pre statue that was supposedly near downtown. After driving around aimlessly for 10 minutes, bickering in that time-honored “on vacation and stressed out” manner I hope happens to everyone, and with an increasingly hungry LilRunr in the backseat, we finally admitted defeat and stopped at the Visitor’s Center.

Inside, Scott found out that the “statue” wasn’t what we imagined, and instead was an abstract concrete monument with a memorial plaque embedded inside of it…and that said monument was on the other side of the Visitor’s Center, which we had driven past at least three times. Oops…and LOL.

Pre Memorial in Coos Bay

Found it! Pre Memorial in Coos Bay.

Leaving the memorial, we decided to eat lunch at a restaurant called “Coney Station” primarily because it had a train inside and we thought that would amuse LilRunr. Heading over, we learned a difference between Kansas and Oregon eating establishments. In Oregon, they are EXTREMELY serious about keeping minors away from places that serve alcohol.  The restaurant was broken up into two areas — a “banquet hall” portion that had been designated as family-friendly, and a “lounge” that apparently was not. It was confusing to me, because the “lounge” was more than just a bar. It had tables as well, and was non-smoking. Anyway, the banquet hall was booked for the American Legion (or some other similar group…I can never keep those secret clubs straight), and the waitress turned us away because they couldn’t let anyone under 21 into the lounge.

Huh.

We ended up at McDonald’s, which suited LilRunr just as well. Then, we cruised through Coos Bay to see Pre’s childhood home (probably?) and schools.

Driving around Coos Bay.

Driving around Coos Bay.

 

Lastly, we both spent a solemn moment or two at Pre’s gravesite. Standing there, thinking about what could have been if that car crash hadn’t happened, thinking — now at 31 myself — about how young 24 really is (something you can’t feel while watching a movie at 17), I felt sadder than I thought I would.

After paying our respects, we were on the road once more. LilRunr was cuddled up with a blanket in the backseat, fast asleep. I was amusing myself by wondering out loud just how much farther we’d need to travel on this “coastal highway” before we had a glimpse of the ocean. We even went through one town where streets exiting the highway had “OCEAN VIEW” painted on them with gigantic block letters, a helpful arrow pointing to where this ocean and that view supposedly were. I was trying to keep my giggles quiet when Scott rounded a corner…and my first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean took my breath away. Wow. Just…wow to infinity. The brilliant blue of the water against the crisp brown of the rocks, the drama of the scattered, giant rocks themselves, and the waves crashing off of them.

LilRunr's first glimpse of the ocean.

LilRunr’s first glimpse of the ocean. Oh yeah, he’s excited. 

We were stopping to get a picture of the ocean, but Scott got distracted watching me attempt to fight the wind. The wind won.

We were stopping to get a picture of the ocean, but Scott got distracted watching me attempt to fight the wind. The wind won.

I wasn’t prepared for it then, and I never tired of taking in the view from the windows of the ocean front condo we rented. But that’s a story for another day.

Oregon Trip, Part 1: Prefontaine Classic

At the end of May, we took the trip of a lifetime. It’s been in the works for awhile — almost every summer, we’d talk about finally taking a trip to Oregon. The thing is, Oregon is an awfully long way from Kansas…and an even longer way from South Carolina, when we lived there. With distance comes expense, with distance comes greater travel considerations, and so there were always reasons not to go.

This year, we decided, was the year. Traveling with a toddler may not seem ideal, sure, but LilRunr is an easygoing and easy-to-please dude who has proven to be an excellent traveler. Planning for this trip actually began in 2012, as we began scouting housing options and ticket prices. We were trying to basically take two vacations in one — spending 4 days in Eugene and then spending 4 more somewhere on the Oregon coast. There were weeks when it seemed like it wasn’t going to come together — when plane ticket prices increased dramatically for no apparent reason, or when our first, second, and third choices for vacation rentals fell through.

Then, it all came together. Plane tickets to Portland — check. Rental car to take us through the rest of the state — check. Hotels in Portland and Eugene — check. Tickets to the Prefontaine Classic — check. Super awesome beachfront condo rental — CHECK. (That one gets special treatment via all caps because it is RIDICULOUSLY difficult to find a vacation rental that will accept a toddler.)

Wow. Just wow. Take ANY ONE ASPECT of that trip, and it was an incredible vacation. Combine them all together, and it’s something that I’m having trouble summarizing in blog form…which explains why this post is just being published NOW, months after our trip.

So, let’s just take things one at a time. First up — our trip to Eugene.

We flew into Portland on a Wednesday, then drove to Eugene on a Thursday. The drive was easy and quick, at just under two hours. The only snafu we encountered was that the kid’s bike trailer Scott had intended to rent (and that we had called to make reservations for weeks in advance, only to be told that reservations weren’t necessary) had already been rented. This was more than a little aggravating, because we had intended to go for some family bike rides/runs and had left our jogging stroller at home because we thought that we had access to a trailer. Argh! By the end of the day, however, everything had been worked out and the trailer was ours.

Scott and I quickly decided that there was a rule in Eugene: when you’re in Tracktown USA, you’d better be running. He badgered me (in a loving way, of course) until I finally put on some running clothes for an evening run on Pre’s Trail.

Me, running the trails.

Me, running the trails.

 

Eugene is a fabulous place to run. The weather was in the 60s, there are paved and unpaved trails everywhere, there’s beautiful scenery. I spent so much time running around and gawking that I realized I couldn’t remember which turns I had taken to end up at the football stadium.

Wait…football stadium? WHERE AM I? Scott had told me which streets to take back to the hotel after I crossed the river, but I could no longer remember their names. Oh, drat. This is when a sense of direction would come in handy and NOW THE SUN IS SETTING oh gosh I might get eaten by a bear. After staring at the trail map conveniently placed for dummies like me, I eventually realized that (1) all I needed to do was run across the bridge, take a left, and follow the road back to our hotel and (2) the iPhone attached to my arm could also provide turn-by-turn directions. Crisis averted.

The next morning, Scott woke early and went for a bike ride, spotting several famous runners out doing their pre-race workouts.

The great Mo Farrah, out for a run.

The great Mo Farah, out for a run.

 

When he got back, we loaded up LilRunr in the bike trailer (along with his water, crackers, stuffed animal, two toy trains, and a blanket…the kid travels light, ha!) and headed out for my 2nd run of the vacation. We learned that the pros don’t sleep in as late as I do (we had the trail mostly to ourselves) and that LilRunr will fall asleep in the bike trailer every. single. time he’s in it.

LilRunr riding in style (he's probably already asleep by this point).

LilRunr riding in style (he’s probably already asleep by this point).

Scott likes this photo...it's ME passing an OREGON DUCK. Only time that's going to happen, I can tell you!

Scott likes this photo…it’s ME passing an OREGON DUCK. Only time that’s going to happen, I can tell you!

Tracktown USA sign we saw on our run.

Tracktown USA sign we saw on our run.

 

We returned to the hotel, and Scott decided to take the whole “when in Eugene, exercise” thing to extremes by immediately heading out for a run. That makes 3 workouts in one morning for anyone who’s counting. LilRunr and I decided to spend some time in the indoor pool. It was FREEZING cold, but the little guy had fun splashing me in the face. Awesome.

Brr. The things I do to make that kid happy. So cold!

Brr. The things I do to make that kid happy. So cold!

 

When Scott returned from his third workout of the morning, it was time to get cleaned up and find some fuel. We opted for the Original Pancake House, where Scott saw Allison Felix. (I caught a glimpse of her back as she was leaving…Scott is way better at celebrity runner spotting than I am.) 

The rest of the day was a bit lazy. We spent some time at the hotel where — miracle of miracles — LilRunr actually took a lengthy nap. This was great for us, as we intended to keep the child up past his bedtime and watch “Distance Night” at Hayward Field.

Hours before the meet was scheduled to start, we got antsy and made the 1/2 mile walk to the track. Wow. There’s something about a track — any track — that instantly transports me back to my days of competing. The fact that the track we were ogling was the famous Oregon track only made things that much more exciting. We made an entire circuit of the stadium, watching athletes warm up and doing the tourist thing of buying up multiple “Prefontaine Classic” t-shirts.

Outside Hayward Field.

Outside Hayward Field.

A cute little boy enjoying a track meet. What's not to like?

A cute little boy enjoying a track meet. What’s not to like?

Little boy, his mama, and a nearly empty stadium. (This is still an hour or so before the meet started.)

Little boy, his mama, and a nearly empty stadium. (This is still an hour or so before the meet started.) And his shirt says “Gold Medalist in Training,” if anyone is wondering.🙂

Pre Classic sign.

Pre Classic sign.

The great thing about Distance Night is that there was no assigned seating and a half-empty stadium. This is maybe bad for the sport of distance running, but it’s handy for parents of a toddler. LilRunr enjoyed exploring our nearly empty row of seats and could be as wiggly and restless as his little heart desired without annoying anyone.

We went to the track that first night unsure how long we’d be able to stay before LilRunr got tired, cranky, and ready for bed. “Well,” we said to ourselves, “at least it’s the free night! We’ll just stay as long as we can.” The toddler lived up to his easygoing reputation by doing just fine. We were able to stay through the 10k, and Scott and LilRunr were even trackside for a victory lap high five. (Which, of course, I did not record in any kind of decent manner because I am a terrible photographer.)

You can JUST BARELY see the 10k winner about to give Scott a high five. I have mad photography skills.

You can JUST BARELY see the 10k winner about to give Scott a high five. I have mad photography skills.

 

The next day passed in about the same manner — bike ride, run, track meet. The main difference was that on Saturday, the meet was sold out and started at 12:00pm. LilRunr’s naptime. The child, bless his sweet heart, went so far in accommodating us as to TAKE AN EARLY NAP. This is unprecedented.

LilRunr and I taking a running break.

LilRunr and I taking a running break.

Off we went to the track once more. We had tickets on the home stretch, at roughly the 40m mark of the 100m dash. To my complete and utter surprise, LilRunr was happy to sit (mostly) still in a crowded stadium for over two hours, sometimes watching the action (he particularly enjoyed the triple jump and pole vault),  sometimes playing games on my phone, and sometimes eating Red Vines, the candy currency with which we bought his silence and continued good behavior.

It looks like he wants to punch something, but I promise the child is just eating candy. Wait. Is that worse?

It looks like he wants to punch something, but I promise the child is just eating candy. Wait. Is that worse?

Nom nom nom...

Nom nom nom…

Our little family at one of the most famous tracks there is.

Our little family at one of the most famous tracks there is.

I had the impression that we were surrounded by friends — crazy nuts who happily paid money to come watch a track meet and loved the sport. The boys behind us were distance junkies. They knew the stats and season bests for just about every distance runner.  The crowd in general was enthusiastic about every performance. The announcers were knowledgeable and WAY less annoying than their TV counterparts.

My favorite performance of the day would have to be the high schooler Mary Cain running the 800m. It is completely unreal that a 16-year-old can hang with some of the best middle distance runners in the world. I am simply in awe of her talent, and her sweet enthusiasm in the post-race interview was endearing. The rest of the distance races were awesome, too, and it was incredibly refreshing to be able to watch an ENTIRE 5000m without commercial interruption.

Women's 100m dash.

Women’s 100m dash.

Dibaba on a victory lap. She's amazing.

Dibaba on a victory lap. She’s amazing.

Men's 100m dash.

Men’s 100m dash.

Mary Cain in lane 2 in the 800m. Simply amazing talent.

Mary Cain in lane 2 in the 800m. So darn talented.

Ashton Eaton and fiancee (whose name I should remember, but always forget. Sorry, chica.)

Ashton Eaton and fiancee (whose name I should remember, but always forget. Sorry, chica.)

Lots of big names in the men's 5k.

Lots of big names in the men’s 5k.

Nick Symmonds getting ready to race. He retweeted a photo of mine once, so I feel like I'm a super fan. Scott always has to remind me that everyone knows who is and likes him.

Nick Symmonds getting ready to race. He retweeted a photo of mine once, so I feel like I’m a super fan. Scott always has to remind me that everyone knows who is and likes him. FINE. Lol.

Scott was in charge of taking pictures, while I alternated between watching the meet and keeping LilRunr occupied. After the meet, we took a seriously tired little boy to Tracktown Pizza. He slept through most of the meal, then woke up grumpy. Before long, it was back to the hotel for our last night in Eugene.

Oh, little buddy. It was a long day for you, wasn't it?

Oh, little buddy. It was a long day for you, wasn’t it?

Boy, do I love Eugene. It helps that the weather was gorgeous all four days we were there, but I think I’d love it even when it rains. Maybe someday we’ll be able to make a return trip. It’s a special place, but after 4 days of track fan fun, the time had come for us to move on to the second half of our vacation.

Next up, the Oregon Coast!