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?

 

 

 

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…

 

 

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.

Every Day? No. Most Days? Yes.

I like to imagine that there are people out there scrutinizing my blog and preparing to call me to task for any untruths/evasions. This is probably not the case, but in order to satisfy my own paranoia I must provide an update on that whole “I’m going to run every day between now and forever because that’s what it takes to keep me motivated” plan.

I have taken 3 rest days in the past 2 weeks. 

There. I said it. I made it 19 days in a row. Around day 15, LilRunr was climbing on me and stepped on a sore spot in my calf I didn’t even know I had. It’s about the size of a quarter, and it lit up like a blinding neon sign.

OW!

In the days to follow, the calf became noticeable. I hit it with the foam roller. I stretched. The calf ignored me, and went from “noticeable” to “annoying.” I started to worry that I was courting an injury, and all for a silly, pointless goal. I finally took what I’m calling an “old lady” day off, sheepishly admitting to Scott my failure when he got home from work that night. He laughed and said, “good. The last thing I want is for you to get hurt.”

Oh. So it’s really not a big deal after all? Ok, then! I kept on going, and the calf kept on hurting. When it still hurt after a nice, easy run on nice, soft gravel roads, I decided to take a longer break. I rested two days early this week, and it seems to be back under control.

I’m not really surprised. I didn’t know what would give first — foot, calf, hamstring, hip? There are consequences to doubling the number of running days a week and eliminating any rest days. I am extremely proud of my nearly 80 miles (see the “Training” week) in 28 days, but I’m OK with listening to my body and taking a break when required.

I AM NOT A SQUIRREL!

Yesterday, I tweeted this:

Image

and everyone probably thought what you are ALREADY THINKING, and that is: of course it’s an exaggeration. Who gets attacked by one hawk, let alone FOUR? I mean, if you want us to believe it try to keep it within the realm of possibility, Megan.

I know. I KNOW, and the fact that I know should lend credibility to my story, because if I KNOW that saying four hawks attacked me is unbelievable, wouldn’t I only say that if it actually happened?

Although, perhaps “attacked” is an overstatement. If I had been attacked by four hawks, I would be totally scratched up. “Followed” is accurate. I’ll even vouch for “stalked” or “stalked with potentially malicious intent.”

Here’s what happened:

I was leaving the house for my daily run, and three steps down the driveway realized, “dang, it’s cold. It’s colder than I thought, and I’m totally going to blog about this because the fact that it is cold enough to force me to wear something on my ears in APRIL is certainly the only blog-worthy thing that will happen on this, my 15th day of running in a row.” I headed back to the house, found my favorite neon green headband, and then was out the door for real.

One mile into the run, I saw a large bird in the field across the road from me. It appeared to be hovering, and my first thought was, “sucks to be you, bird. It really is windy today.” Then, it made a slow, lazy circle high above, with me at the center like some kind of target.   “Probably a vulture,” I thought to myself, “there’s something to scavenge in the field.”

Then, it changed course again, and this time it was racing towards the ground in a trajectory that looked to end at my head. As it whizzed over me I was thinking, HOLY BLEEP and beginning to panic. It was probably not as close to me as I perceived, because when a giant bird flies at your head you tend to skip straight to the best posture to protect your eyes and face from talons, but it was definitely close enough for me to identify it as a hawk or falcon (do we have falcons here? Not sure…) or something similar. It was most decidedly NOT a vulture interested in something smelly in a field…it was a bird of prey, and it was interested in ME.

Then, it was gone. Whew. What in the world was that about? I wondered. Has the cold snap forced all of the little field mice and squirrels (or whatever hawks eat) back into hibernation? I AM NOT A SQUIRREL!

I took the usual turn for my 4-mile route into a neighborhood. As I’m fighting the wind and a hill, I notice movement to my right. I look, and it’s that dang hawk again. It’s flying over a line of houses, exactly parallel to me and matching my pace. Now, I get mad. Why doesn’t it leave me alone? I’m not cutting this run short due to a weird, stalker bird. I’m almost wanting it to swoop at me again so I can punch it in the face or otherwise convince it to leave me the heck alone (which is not a realistic plan, obviously, but I was MAD), when out of nowhere a companion joins it in its relentless pursuit. As I’m still registering this, two more hawks join their friends, creating a hawk posse that I can only assume is plotting against me.

What. In. The. World. I don’t know a lot about birds, but I’m fairly certain that hawks do not ordinarily gather in flocks. I don’t know what’s going on here, but I know that I’m no match for four hawks if they all suddenly decide to attack.

I take the only truly viable option at that point: I pick up my pace. It’s not that I think I can actually run faster than birds can fly, but perhaps if I am perceived as “quick” and “healthy” they will go off in search of an easier target. Also, I’ll get home faster and potentially before I wind up clawed and beaked.

By the time I make the next turn, they’re gone. The remaining mile and a half of my run was uneventful, giving me time to imagine the scenario from a bird’s point of view.

Bird #1 – I’m hungry. Hey…is that? SQUIRREL!

Bird #1 zooms towards my head, because my long brunette ponytail isn’t entirely UN-squirrel-like. 

Bird #1 – Wait a second…maybe that’s NOT a squirrel. Squirrels don’t normally have bright green on them…or are that big. But WOW I’m hungry. If that is a squirrel, it’s finally dinnertime. Hey, Joe!

Bird #2 – Hey, Frank! How’s it going?

Bird #1 – Come over here…is that a squirrel?

Bird #2 – Ooh, squirrel sounds delicious, let me see. Hmm…no?

Bird #1 – You’re crazy. That’s totally a squirrel.

Bird #2 – Wanna bet? Hey Marvin, Al! Settle a bet! Is that a squirrel down there?

Bird #3, 4 – WHAT? No way that’s a squirrel. Too big, and wearing that funny-looking, bright green thing. Squirrels don’t wear clothes.

Bird #1 – DUH, of course! I feel silly now.

Bird #2 – Let’s get out of here.

End Scene

Moral of the story: headbands can save you from confused, hungry hawks. Also? I’d rather see a dog than a bird these days, what with territorial geese and aggressive hawks filling the sidewalks and skies. And one more thing? I’m apparently really un-creative in my naming of birds.

Crazy Running Plan for the Purposes of Motivation, 2013 Version

I’ve got to hand it to Scott. Every time I get a little “meh” about running, every time my motivation takes a serious hit and I find myself “resting” more days than running…Scott comes up with a plan that gets me back out there. 

It all began back in 2008, after my 3-year hiatus for graduate school (and subsequent 25-pound weight gain, ouch). Since then, it’s been one crazy plan after another: 

2008 – Greenville Track Club racing series 
2009 – Marathon Attempt #1
2010 – Marathon Attempt #2, Marathon Success
2011 – no crazy running plan, just trying to get back into shape after LilRunr’s birth
2012 – 12×12 (12 races in 12 months in 2012)

I’ve been a bit of a slug since the Caladesi Island race. It was reaching the point where I’d only run 2 miles at a time, and those 2 miles were starting to require enough effort to scream at me, “YOU’RE GETTING OUT OF SHAPE, DUMMY.” Then, I started to think, “meh, it’s hard to find time to run, it’s about to get all hot and humid outside anyway, is there any point in running?  Anymore? Ever?” 

Scott knows me pretty well, and he was picking up on the aura of sluggishness surrounding me. At the height of the motivational crisis, he says, “just act like you’re at Pitt State again.” 

I stare at him. “What? Run two-a-days and 70 miles a week?” How could that possibly help? I’ll be hurt in a week, and I definitely don’t have the time to make running my job again. 

“You should run every day until our trip to Oregon. That way, you’ll feel good about being in Eugene.” Ok, that’s actually intriguing. We’re going to the Prefontaine Classic in June (I haven’t blogged about it yet, but I’m really, really, really excited), and I obviously want to be able to run while we’re in Eugene. The better shape I’m in, the better it will be. I haven’t run 7 days a week since college, and it’s an interesting and easily measured challenge. 

Hmm…let me think…CHALLENGE ACCEPTED! Crazy running plan, commence!

I’ve run 4 days in a row so far, and I’m already enjoying the change. 2 + 4 + 3 + 4 = 11 miles, which is more in 4 days than I’ve run in any one week (or possibly even 2…how depressing) since January. My legs are a little tired, but I can already feel my conditioning improving. Whenever this happens, and I can once again feel that “running strength,” I wonder why I ever let myself forget it. 

If I ever do again, I’m confident that my wonderful husband will find a way to remind me how much I love it. 

 

New Shoes: Karhu

Twitter is bad for my blogging. I’ve gotten into the habit of posting little things to Twitter as they happen — in 140 characters or less, of course — instead of telling the tale in paragraph form. This is perhaps a good thing. I tend to ramble and my life isn’t necessarily thrilling…how much does everyone really need to hear about my kid? My training (or lack thereof)? Did I mention the kid? I have a really cute kid. He’s sort of the focus of everything…

…EXCEPT, about two months ago, when I was focusing entirely too much energy and time on finding running shoes. In case you weren’t following on Twitter, I left the old, crusty, smelly pair behind in Florida, which had the benefit of keeping me from running too soon on a sprained ankle but unfortunately meant that I would need to buy a new pair before I could start running again.

That’s easy, right? There are 3 stores that sell running shoes within 20 minutes of my house. In true Megan fashion, however, I got sidetracked. All of the shoes were pink. PINK! Not that there’s anything wrong with that, unless you’re me and have a slightly ridiculous aversion to the color. Over several weeks, I visited my go-to running store THREE TIMES. Each time, I’d try on the shoes they had available in one of my two usual brands (Mizuno or Brooks). I even talked with the sales guy to see if there were alternate colors available in my size in one of their other stores. No dice. I finally almost, almost broke my “no pink” rule because I was desperate to run.

Through it all, there was an alternate possibility running through my mind. For quite some time, I’d been following a running shoe brand from Finland on Twitter. It’s called “Karhu,” and they’d appeared on my radar because one of their sponsored athletes is my brother’s high school rival,  Joe Moore. I thought their “runners traveling across the country in an airstream” marketing campaign was fun, their blog posts about ant invasions during the trip hilarious, and their shoes kind of cool. When I failed to win a pair of Karhus from an online giveaway, they were nice enough to send me a coupon code should I ever want to place an order.

I did…but I wasn’t sure. Buy shoes off the Internet? RUNNING shoes? From a brand that I only knew about because of SOCIAL MEDIA? That I couldn’t even try on beforehand because the only place in Kansas City that sells them didn’t have my size? It all seemed a bit crazy.

After battling with myself for weeks (and getting teased on Twitter for my shopping efficiency), I finally texted Scott at work. He’s the official gauge of when I’m being too crazy, so I figured he’d tell me to go buy some pink shoes and get back to running.

Me: I kinda wanna buy running shoes from Finland. Too weird?

Scott: Sounds Fin-omenal!

Man, I love him. Not only did I pass the “is this crazy?” test, but he made me giggle. I finally placed my order at Karhu, and then realized — crud! — that I was going to have to wait. (This should have been something that occurred to me PRIOR to placing an order on the Internet, but I suppose I was expecting a magical shoe fairy to materialize on my doorstep with a pair of size 6’s.) I’m not good at waiting. I was excited to see the tracking number land in my inbox, then dismayed to see that the estimated delivery date was the day I was scheduled to leave for South Carolina on a business trip. Maybe they’ll show up a day early, I thought. (Of course they didn’t.) Maybe they’ll get here before I have to leave for the airport, I hoped. (They didn’t…no matter where I live, UPS makes deliveries at 4:00pm or later. What’s up with that?) Well, at least it’s just a 2-day trip to SC, I reasoned. You’ll be back to the shoes in no time. (I wasn’t…because Blizzard #1 of the year struck Kansas City while I was away, delaying my return.)

Never has the simple act of buying shoes been more (needlessly) (overly) dramatic.

At long last, I returned home…to 12 inches of snow, my loving husband and son, and the brand new Flow3 Trainers from Karhu. (insert girlish squeal here) Scott hadn’t opened them, so it was a Christmas morning moment, as I hoped that (1) they fit, because it would just be the saddest thing ever to get SO CLOSE to running shoes and have to send them back and (2) that the color would be closer to the “light blue” I was picturing in my head, and not the “light purple” I had seen on the website. “Light purple” being a bit too close to pink for comfort, obviously.

I opened the box and may or may not have grabbed a shoe and hugged it close. They’re adorable! Light blue and fluorescent green, I loved them instantly.

I tried them on, and they fit. WHEW! Not only that, but because of two little cushions on either side of the heel (you can see one of them inside the shoe in the picture above), they fit more snuggly around my narrow heels than any other shoe I’ve ever worn. This was promising. I ran around the house for a bit, marveling to Scott at how light and pretty they were, then moved on to the more grown-up responsibilities of unpacking from my trip.

Ten minutes later, I was back in the living room…this time in running clothes. “I know this is silly,” I told Scott, “and I know it’s only 18 degrees outside and the roads are a mess, but I’ve got to go try them out.” He and the LilRunr waved “bye-bye” to me, and I was out the door.

The first run...captured via Twitter, of course.

The first run…captured via Twitter, of course.

Guys: I love these shoes. They’re like this perfect happy medium between the lightness of a racing flat and the cushioning of a heavier trainer. I normally wear the sturdier, traditional “running” shoe (Mizuno Wave Rider, Brooks Ghost, and Adidas Boston Classic have all been previous picks), so I was a little worried that the lighter Flow3 would wind up being too minimalist for me. Obviously, I can’t say how they’ll hold up over the long term, but so far they have been nothing but kind to my feet. There have been no blisters, no callouses, no weird pains while getting used to them, no wish for more cushioning…these are very, very comfortable shoes that I forget I’m wearing during a run.

I feel a little unfair saying this, because since they’re completely different than anything I’ve trained in before it’s like comparing apples to oranges, but I’m gonna say it anyway — these are my favorite running shoes. Ever. They were definitely worth the wait.