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From the Bad Mommy Files: birthday party October 26, 2011

Posted by Merrilee in Family.
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We have a birthday coming up. In less than 2 weeks, our daughter will be 5. We are sharing a birthday party with another kid from our school which is great — sharing the planning also helps to lower the effort required to and and execute, and we avoid scheduling over one another.

Last year both kids had been in school for two years, so it seemed like they knew everyone. This year, it seems different — lots of their good friend have left and there are seemly tons of new kids in the “train room” (where the little kids are). I know it was probably the same last year, but this year I’m constantly thinking, “who ARE these kids?” In any case, rather than inviting the whole school (which is what we did last year) we are making a list.

About a month ago, I asked Karydis who would come to her party. She gave me a seemingly random list of names, leaving off kids I would have expected she’d include and naming kids I don’t think she even likes. So I’ve decided I’m making the list, choosing kids I think she has a connection with, kids I like, and kids whose parents I like. Bad mommy. To make things even worse, I’ve decided I’m not going to tell her about her party until the day before. More bad mommy. Both of these things simplify my life, but will probably result in a child who feels disenfranchised.

Going the distance? October 23, 2011

Posted by Merrilee in Uncategorized.
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So I did finish the Humboldt Half. I didn’t know what to expect and had kind of sort of been aiming for something “around 2 hours.” My time was 2:00:14. Of course I’m disappointed that I didn’t dip below the magical 2 hour mark. This is silly, but typical.

Realistically speaking I’m in the top percentile of people in the country in terms of speed and distance (my logic is that there are tons of people who don’t run at all and plenty who don’t run much). Instead of being content with this, I focus on what I’m not. For example, I’m not any of the three women I carpooled with to the race. One started running three years ago and has done “only” 4 marathons. Another has been running for 20 some years and has done 21 or 22 marathons (it’s not that she’s lost count, I can’t recall). The third woman had done 11 regular marathons — and a similar number that were part of triathlons.

So let’s get something straight — I do not consider myself marathon material (although I’m a tiny bit tempted by the New York Marathon). I think the half is a perfect distance for me. I have reached the point where I do not consider an 8-10 mile run to be particularly long or challenging — I only need to be sure I can carve the time out of my schedule to do it. I am a little intimidated by people who seems to know just what to do: training, tapering, dressing, pacing, what to eat the night before, what to eat the morning before, what to do after… I know I will get there. Unless I get eaten up by trying to be better every time. It’s just not realistic. But I do like having a goal on the horizon.

I think my main challenge is going to be to enjoy the process, and not to be fixed on the outcome, if that makes any sense.

And speaking of having a goal, I’m aiming to run in the Clarksburg Half on November 13th.

Cautiously optimistic October 13, 2011

Posted by Merrilee in LMJS.
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I haven’t been blogging about running because I’m afraid I’ll jinx myself. After all, every time I’ve blogged about my successes, I get injured. (Yes, it really is all about ME.) But it’s time for me to out myself.

I’m running a half marathon on Sunday, the Humboldt Half. If you’ve followed this blog, you know that I’ve not had a lot of success with my training in the past. So this time I’ve deviated from a more traditional training plan, so I’m not sure I’ll do well, but I am sure I will finish. I decided that my injuries were due to over training, so I cut back on my mid week running schedule, and have only been running two weekdays. On the weekends I’ve been doing a long run, and increasing the distance slowly. But I’ve been plagued by respiratory issues (I’m prone to summer colds for some reason) and I also went through a spell where I was unusally achey and just couldn’t run as far as I was planning to. For example, two weeks ago, I was going to run 11 miles, but could barely run 9 (and had to walk about a mile of that). But I have been consistent about training and (importantly) have kept up with yoga and have been good about stretching after long runs. On Saturday I ran 11 miles which included a LOT of hills (from my house to Lake Merritt and back through Piedmont). I’ve not only remained injury free, I’ve felt pretty good. So I guess I’m going to do it. Wish me luck.

Treatment plan April 2, 2011

Posted by Merrilee in LMJS.
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I promised that I would go see a doctor about my injury and thanks to a recommendation from a fellow runner, I found a doctor who seems like a good fit (let’s hope he knows his stuff!). At this point, I’m pretty much asymptomatic. My knee hurts a little, but I’m not limping or having problems putting weight on it. The doctor’s analysis is that it’s either a medial ligament (good) or a damage to the meniscus (bad). The treatment is for me to run a little on a treadmill — if it hurts, then I’m supposed to mark where with a sharpie and make an appointment to see him. If it doesn’t hurt, I can gradually return to running. He was  not happy that I didn’t bring my running shoes, which would have helped him see how well my current shoes support my feet.

The moral of the story: if you are injured, go see the doctor when things still hurt (in my case, with 10 days of work travel this didn’t seem like an option but I could have made the time). And bring your shoes to your appointment.

On not running March 28, 2011

Posted by Merrilee in LMJS.
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Today, I got up early, had my usual pre-running breakfast (coffee and toast with avacado!), got dressed in running clothes and a few extra layers then drove to the start of the race and didn’t run. It was a weird feeling.

I was a little ambivalent about going to the race. Maybe seeing everyone would be too painful? In the end, my strong volunteer spirit overruled everything and I decided to hang out in the LMJS tent. As I saw first the marathoners and then the half marathoners prepare themselves for the race, I realized I didn’t have even a bit of regret. I’d made the right decision for me and I was genuinely excited for all of them and so proud of all that they had accomplished in their weeks of training.

When I knew “my” group (those who had been in my pace group) would be getting close to the finish, I left the tent and joined the crowd lining the route. For me, this was almost as good as being in the race myself (maybe better because there were no regrets and no sore muscles!). As each person approached the finish, I was so proud of each of them.

I wasn’t sure how long I would stay, but at around noon, with my face hurting from smiling so much, I decided to take off. I had been thinking that as long as I was registered for the race, I might want to cash in on one of my two free beers, but then I found out that it was MGD. I admit it, I’m a beer snob. Not having actually run, a beer didn’t sound as good as it might have otherwise.

On a more serious note, in the last week, I found out that a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer and a former coworker died of cancer. I’m keenly aware of the impact that cancer has on all of our lives, so I’m glad I put myself forward to raise money for the United Cancer Society. Even if I wasn’t able to follow through with all of my intentions, I’m glad I was able to contribute to the cause and to raising awareness. Focusing on cancer makes me realize how much I have, in terms of my own health and my tremendous personal support network. Thanks to you all for taking care of me, in all kinds of ways.

This will be the last posting on my experiences with the 2011 Oakland Running Festival. For those of you who have been following along the way and for those of you who donated to the cause, thanks for your support. I’ll continue to blog about running (and the road to recovery), but also probably horseback riding (I’ve just started taking lessons), yoga, and my amazing daughter Karydis.

Waiting for the other shoe to drop March 26, 2011

Posted by Merrilee in LMJS.
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This is a difficult blog posting to write, but it’s been about two weeks coming.

Three weeks ago, following our run over the ORF course, I was really hobbling around. That week, I didn’t run, took lots of ibuprofen, iced my knee, and visited my acupuncturist. Two weeks ago, I showed up for our group run in Lafayette, not sure if I would run or not. Part of the reason I headed out was that Olympic marathoner Magdalena Lewy-Boulet was speaking to our group (not only does she live in Oakland but I think she lives in my nieghborhood because sometimes I see her at our tiny neighborhood gym).

I left with the group not sure what I would do, and wound up running the whole 11 miles. I felt great until the next day when I could no longer walk normally. Since then I’ve been in denial — maybe my knee would recover and I could run the half. I’ve been traveling for work almost that whole time, so I didn’t have a lot of time to run but have been doing a ton of walking. And my knee has been surprisingly cooperative. But last night I had an epiphany.

I had to catch my very last plane of the trip and the connection was very tight (10 minutes, but in the same terminal). If I missed the flight I would spend the night in Washington DC and not get home until Saturday. After 10 days away, I’ve been missing my family like crazy so of course I ran to make the connection. My leg throbbed very painfully for about an hour, just after that little jog. Okay, I was wearing the wrong shoes and a heavy backpack but this was a sign. I’m not up to it. I’m not going to run in the ORF. Again.

The worse part is that I feel like I’m letting people down. I’ve been running to raise money for the United Cancer Society and even thought this is the only thing to do, I feel like I’m not keeping my part of the bargain. But I do need to take care of myself. I need to lay off running until I’m really healed, actually make an appointment with a doctor, and find other ways to keep active.

Today I need to go down to the ORF headquarters to see what I can do — maybe someone else can take my slot. I will also see if the LMJS folks need help on race day. It doesn’t seem like enough, somehow, but it’s something.

Going the distance March 10, 2011

Posted by Merrilee in LMJS.
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On Sunday, a rainy day, I headed out the door at 7:40 to run 13.1 miles. My knee, which had been hurting off and on since the previous weeks’ run, was bugging me, so I promised myself I would go easy on myself and turn back if I needed to. But I really didn’t want to turn back because I had signed up to lead a pace group, and this was an opportunity to preview the entire half marathon course.

As I drove to the starting point, the Marriott in downtown Oakland, I looked west hoping for a break in the clouds. “All I need is two hours of clear weather,” I told myself. No luck, more rain was clearly on the way, so instead I focussed on finding parking and getting to the starting point ontime. This was a course preview not just for LMJS but for anyone who had signed up for the Oakland Running Festival (ORF) and who was interested in running in the rain early on a Sunday. Amazingly, there were at least 200 people and it took me a while to find some friendly faces in the crowd. First the marathoners (running 20 miles) set off, pace group by pace group, then it was us, the half marathoners. Shortly after we left I realized I had overdressed (again!) but fortunately it was raining(!!!). As soon as the rain soaked through my top layer, my body temperature was about perfect. I was wet but warm. And as soon as I warmed up, my knee stopped bothering me.

One thing I will say about this course: it’s flat. Another thing: there are a lot of turns. The race organizers had passed out these super cool laminated route sheets with the half on one side and the full on the other. The sheets were slim, maybe 3 inches wide and 8 inches long, and simple (“turn left at 12th Street”). This was much easier than clutching the double-sided cue sheets and maps I had printed out and stuffed into an oversized ziplock.

We had previewed part of the course previously, but kind of out of order. By the time we got to Jack London Square, I knew I was home free (even though we were only about 5 miles in). And the last little loop around the lake felt great. But the last mile was difficult and my legs felt leaden and I was feeling distinctly non triumphant, even though hey, I just ran 13.1 miles! I don’t know what the issue was, but by the time I got home I had completely stiffened up and was tired and headachey.

I was pretty happy with my time, with was 2:10. This included time spent at stoplights and even a bathroom stop where I failed to pause my watch. So yay me.

Snow Job February 28, 2011

Posted by Merrilee in LMJS.
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Yesterday, I ran 12 miles in the snow.

I’ve been waiting to write that for almost a week, because for several days, the forecast for Friday and Saturday called for snow. Not just in the hills (we routinely have shortlived snow flurries at our house at around 800 feet) but at sea level. Accumulation would have been unlikely, I think, but it sounds extreme, doesn’t it? Like I’m really a very dedicated runner, to be out in such conditions?

As it turns out, our run along the Canal Trail in Walnut Creek was about as pleasant as it gets. Temperatures were cool, in the 30s when we left the Sports Basement parking lot, but it was sunny enough that I ditched my extra outer layer in the car right before we left. The run was almost completely flat, with few traffic lights. The route was out and back with an extension, and although I was pacing, I failed to take note of the exact mileage at our first major turn, so we wound up running almost 12.5 miles instead of just 12. That’s 3.5 miles further than last week’s run, and almost the full distance I’ll be running just 4 weeks from today. I’m tired and I definitely feel it in my knees, but over all I feel good. We’re almost there, and I’m almost ready. My goal is 2 hours (a 9:09 pace). On the one hand, given the information distributed during the training program, this seems attainable. On the other hand, it seems nutty. Then again, my pace for the Tilden Tough Ten (which is, um, tough) was 9:18. We’ll see.

Warrior, too February 23, 2011

Posted by Merrilee in LMJS.
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For a while I’ve been wanting to write about yoga and running. I’m not really knowledgeable about either to speak authoritatively but I can give my general impressions.

As part of the LMJS training program, we were invited to attend a talk on injury prevention at SOL in Oakland. Having sat out the OFR last year due to injury, I was an eager student. What I found surprised me, but maybe shouldn’t have. Balance on one foot at a time with no shoes. Stretch out your hamstrings. Your hips need to be flexible. Work on flexibility in your back and shoulders. It sounded a lot like the yoga I’d been practicing off and on for years. For a long time, I’ve been drawn to yoga, but have never had the discipline to maintain a home practice or been able to afford a membership at a studio. The lecture on injury prevention made me more determined to establish a regular yoga practice, so I attached myself to Barefoot Movement in downtown Oakland.

I found Barefoot Movement via Living Social, but what has kept me with them is their rock bottom pricing and great instructors. More than doing yoga for yoga’s sake, I feel like yoga really complements my running. I’ve always had tight hips, and as a runner, my hamstrings always need work. I have persistent neck and shoulder issues that respond well to stretching and strengthening. With all of this, is it any wonder that yoga is great for me?

But there’s more. I benefit from the reminders that are implicit in yoga. Be strong, but soft. Ground yourself. Balance. My two favorite poses are Warrior II and Downward Dog, because in each of these I can feel power running through my body. Each limb feels powerful and adds to the whole. The more I press and balance effort through my arms and legs, the stronger I feel. “Keep your face soft, your eyes gazing gently” are words I carry with me in and after class, into my running practice, into my life practice. I may not always be successful, but I often think about keeping my face soft and my eyes gazing gently while keeping lines of energy running through my body.

I’m also loving inversions. There’s something just … fun about going upside down, in handstand or headstand. I’m probably missing the yogic point of these poses — okay, they are about creating more lines of energy, which feels strong and powerful. But more than that they feel like a summer day, when I could tumble down a hill head over heels and didn’t worry where my limbs landed. This is a long way from last year when I felt broken and old. I feel young and strong, and like I’ve finally found the right combination for me.

Training in the rain February 19, 2011

Posted by Merrilee in LMJS.
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I managed to dodge the rain by running at the gym and just plain getting lucky (as I mentioned previously) my luck didn’t hold out and there was nowhere to hide on our 9 mile run from the Emeryville Marina to the Berkeley Marina and back (the marathoners continued on the Bay Trail towards Richmond for a 20 mile run). It actually wasn’t so bad — the rain was fairly light for the first 5.5 miles, and it only really started pelting us once we turned back.

It’s not considered sporting to complain about the weather in California at any point, but it was in the high 30s this morning, and around 42 when we ran. Usually, overcast conditions mean that it’s a little warmer, but we must have an Arctic influenced front moving through. Even with fingerless gloves, my hands took some time to warm up, but the rest of me was fine and I quickly shed my next-to-useless rain layer (it was only making me sweat) and just rain in a thin long sleeved shirt and full length tights. A good reminder that I need to continue to resist the notion that I’ll be too cold when running. Once I stopped, I cooled off quickly. I did have a full set of dry clothes in the car, but even after changing and cranking the heat, I wasn’t fully warm until a long hot shower and bath, followed by a bowl of hot noodles.

Last week I ran 11 miles, and I was surprised to see that this week called for slightly less mileage. Not sure why that is, but I’ll take it.