Tricks and treats

Today I stepped on the scale, the day after Halloween, and my results scared me worse than any haunted house or horror flick.

Numbers and form-fitting jeans don’t lie. That’s why I’ve never been a fan of sweatpants — it’s too easy to expand in them along with the drawstring waistband. It’s also why I am recommitting myself to Weight Watchers online fully and totally beginning this very moment.

I joined back up with Weight Watchers online several weeks ago with good intentions but my efforts stalled when I lapsed in logging my daily points.

Then I really fell off the band wagon this week when I bought bags of Snickers and Milky Ways to give out on Halloween night.

Sure, I was a good mom and kept my children, Tarzan and Jane, away from them by “sacrificing” myself one miniature bar at a time.

But let’s be honest, who only eats one? As I satisfied my daily cravings I might as well have eaten an entire candy bar each day. Before I knew it a whole bag was gone in the course of a week.

I always tell myself beforehand that I should just buy the stuff I don’t like — something like candy corn, which I despise, so I’m less tempted to eat it.

But what fun is giving out mediocre candy on Halloween?

By the time the big day arrived my children had been remarkable patient and I OD’d on sugar and felt sick to my stomach.

Now there are two huge bowls in the house filled with every kind of goodie imaginable. I know if I am to lose those extra pounds, plus a few more (What runner doesn’t aspire to be leaner?) it is going to take some serious bookkeeping skills on my part.

Despite the miles I run as I’ve aged I’ve learned that I must watch everything to shed a single pound. That means no candy, no dessert, no alcohol, no anything fried — basically no extra anything.  It is unfair and it sucks because I can remember the days when I was younger and it didn’t take this kind of work to lose weight.

Those days are gone and this is just what I have to do now.

It also makes me appreciate just how hard other people who have even more weight to lose than me, those on The Biggest Loser, for instance, have to work because their efforts are heroic compared to me.

The next few weeks will be a strict game of caloric Monopoly. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, and do not touch anything chocolate, lest you get sent to fitness jail, or worse, land on Board Walk with a hotel and dig yourself deeper in nutritional debt with more pounds to lose.

It’s going to take running, plus every trick in my book to avoid the treats, but I am determined to pull myself back from the scary edge of my scale.

Halloween is over. No more Snickers miniatures or haunted houses for me.

Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes, and let’s go.

Mileage today: 6; Denver to Boston miles logged: 767; Miles left to go: 1,003.

Boston profile #4: Faith and fortitude with Ruthanne Hamrick

Above: Ruthanne Hamrick is shown in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico where she ran the Copper Canyon Ultramarathon in March 2010 and placed second woman overall. In the picture at the end of the post she’s shown running the Valle Caldera Trail Marathon in northern New Mexico.

The long hair and trail shoes were a dead give-away. 

The moment Ruthanne Hamrick came down the escalator at the Sacramento airport I knew I found the right woman when I saw her lovely hair, almost down to her waist, and her slender, muscular limbs.  

She just looked like a trail runner, which she is. 

Ruthanne, 44, runs and trains in the Manzano Mountains of New Mexico where she lives. 

She flew in from Albuquerque and I came from Denver. We were both there to run the California International Marathon and to celebrate the 42nd birthday of our mutual friend, Pam, by running 42 kilometers — the distance of a marathon (42.2 to be exact).

What can I say? Most people celebrate with margaritas; we, runners, throw in a marathon before the margs.

Pam and I met when our daughters were babies in 2003. Pam and Ruthanne met at the New Mexico Marathon in 2008 where they qualified for Boston together. 

The two of them stumbled upon each other in the first few miles of that race and chatted. They ran a similar pace and stayed together the whole way.

“Before the New Mexico Marathon I prayed that I could qualify for Boston and I hoped to meet someone to run with,” Hamrick explained. “Then I met Pam at the race.”

They’ve been close friends ever since and ran Boston together in 2009 so I’d heard a lot about Ruthanne before we met.

The New Mexico Marathon became a launching point for many successes for Ruthanne who first dreamed of running Boston when she was 16 years old.

“I had read Ann Kiemel’s book, I’m Running to Win and that made me want to run a marathon,” she said.

In high school she was a competitive swimmer and only ran for fitness but eventually got her running up to 40 miles a week.

She went off to college in upstate New York, where she was born and raised. Midway through her parents moved to New Mexico and she transferred schools to follow them. That’s also when she met her future husband and married. A few years later they had their first child and her running aspirations got put on hold. They had two more children and life got even busier. 
An accomplished painter and artist, Ruthanne is a devout Christian who took more than a dozen years off running to homeschool her three children before she came back into her own practically overnight. Dan, her husband, is also a great runner.

During the years they raised their children both Dan and Ruthanne put their athletic ambitions on hold. When her children were little Ruthanne only ran a few miles at a time.

Instead they focused on their children and loved hiking and camping in the mountains together. Mothering was a 24/7 job for Ruthanne. 

Once her children were a bit older she began running more and some friends got her back into racing. First it was a 10K, then a half marathon and finally the New Mexico Marathon where her Boston dreams came to fruition.

Take the faith of Ryan Hall, a well-known Christian athletic superstar, and blend it with the fortitude of Colleen Dereuck, a female running sensation and busy mom, and you’ve got who Ruthanne is today, minus the stardom and sponsorship.

She’s an amazing, inspiring everyday athlete and very humble.
“For me the running has been a vehicle for bringing so many wonderful people into my life and it’s been a gift,” she said.

In March 2010 she traveled to Mexico and ran the Copper Canyon Ultramarathon Marathon (47 miles) made famous by the Christopher McDougall’s best-seller, Born to Run. She raced with the Tarahumara Indians and world-class endurance athletes.

She placed second woman overall and won a voucher for a ton of corn, literally.

She donated the corn to a female Tarahumara runner and it fed the woman’s village for a year. Ruthanne also won $1,500 in prize money which she donated to Christian missionaries who were building a water-treatment plant for the Tarahumara.

She’s won the Pajarito 15 Mile Trail Fest in Los Alamos, New Mexico, two years in a row and won the Valle Caldera Trail Marathon in 2009.

She clocked a 3:23 at California International Marathon the day after we met.

She runs about 80 to 100 miles a week after years of dedicating herself to her faith and family, but what’s most impressive is how she’s done it with grace.

Last year she ran the San Diego Rock N Roll Marathon and dedicated it a friend who was diagnosed with brain cancer. 

Ruthanne’s friend didn’t have the money to travel to be be seen by an out-of-town specialist. Ruthanne raised the funds and wrote the names of the donors who helped on the back of her race shirt as well as a message for other to pray for her friend.

And with each mile of the San Diego Marathon Ruthanne prayed, too. Each prayer for her friend deepened as she progressed. “By the end of the race I was crying,” she said.

The result was a miracle. Her friend had the money to travel to the specialist and by the time the doctor saw her the cancerous tumor was gone. Her friend is still cancer-free today.

“I don’t know how long I’ll be given this gift of running but I will keep doing it while I can,” she said. “I am grateful for the things it’s brought into my life and the people it’s touched.”

Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes, and let’s go.

Mileage today: 6, plus 6 miles in the two days before; Denver to Boston miles logged: 761; Miles left to go: 1009.

Crepe expectations

Winter arrived practically overnight here in Colorado.

No, it hasn’t snowed yet but it’s chilly enough to do so and hard to believe I ran the Denver Rock N Roll Marathon just a week and a half ago in shorts and a technical T-shirt.

Cold weather and comfort food go hand and hand in my book and fortunately my children agree with me. 

One of our favorite treats is Baba’s palachinkas, my mother’s crepe recipe from the old country. They can be made sweet or savory depending on what you put in them for filling.

Yes, they are calorie-laden and just looking at them makes me have to run an extra mile or two.

And you might also ask why include recipes in a running/marathon/mothering blog?

The best answer I can give is, man cannot live on GU or PowerGels alone, nor should he.
Yuck, I know I sure can’t.

For those on a diet or lactose intolerant, I’ll warn you now. Look away.

For the rest of you hungry runners, curious readers or random foodies, here’s a recipe I hope will live up to crepe expectations.

Baba’s palachinkas (crepes)
1. 1 cup flour
2. Add 2/3 cup water and 2/3 cup milk and whisk flour, water and milk together.
3. Add three eggs and whisk each in, one at a time.
4. Add 1 tablespoon sugar (optional, but helps them brown nicely)
5. Melt 3 tablespoons butter and add to the batter.
Batter can be refrigerated for an hour or two or cooked immediately.
6. Butter a crepe pan on high temperature.
7. Pour batter evenly in pan and flip with spatula. Lightly brown both sides.
Makes about a dozen or so crepes.

Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes, and let’s go.

Mileage today: 4; Denver to Boston miles logged: 749.8; Miles left to go: 1020.2

Are my roots showing?

Humidity as thick as the mosquitos.

Lake water so chilly it gives you goose bumps. 

Pabst Blue Ribbon beer in the back seat of my best friend’s 1984 Buick Skyhawk. 

Smoke puffing out of the stacks from the steel mills like a giant dragon. 

A few months ago I went back for my 25th high school reunion and it brought back these memories of living in northwest Indiana, about an hour outside of Chicago, where I grew up. 

Yes, it’s been that long. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to grasp.

My husband and I were among the few out-of-towners. Most of my former classmate still live in the area.

Even in high school the travel bug bit me and I knew I’d leave my steel-town roots to live elsewhere.

After college I took a corporate job in California, then I followed my ex to New Mexico. Finally my current husband and I moved our family to Colorado to be closer to my sister and her family, who also live in state.

In my formative years life was about adventure on a path that occasionally collided with too much booze and boys. Luckily I am not Lindsay Lohan and no cameras chronicle my every misstep.

After some tough lessons I went on to a mostly happy, productive, sober and successful adulthood.

I was nervous about this reunion because I hadn’t seen many of my classmates in two decades. I didn’t go to the 10-year reunion because of a work conflict and I hoped this wouldn’t turn into a brag-fest or something unpleasant.

Also, since I left my job at the newspaper a few years ago when I had Tarzan I’ve struggled with this turn in life I didn’t expect. 
I never intended to be a full-time mom this long and my freelance writing gigs have been more sporadic than I hoped. I always thought this would be temporary and I’d return to journalism full time.

Then the internet turned journalism upside down. The newspaper I worked for folded.

This is not where I thought I would be 25 years after high school.

The story I tell myself is if I’d made some better choices earlier on I would be an author by now and see my name high on some impressive masthead in New York or L.A.

But who knows? Things happen for a reason and there’s hope yet.

As I prepared to go back to my steel-town roots, running grounded me.

And Christiey, my hair dresser, covered up my other steel-grey roots with shades of brown and auburn highlights before I left.

I went to the reunion and saw many old friends and a group of genuine, wonderful people.

After 25 years God’s grace touches us all and misfortune also sucker-punches when it gets an opening. 

Some of us had lost parents and others had lost spouses or siblings; cancer had stolen people we loved while others were fighting the battle.

There were divorces and marriages to talk about, and we passed around each other’s children’s and grandchildren’s pictures.

It was lovely and real and unpretentious, and I am glad I attended. 

I now understand the allure of  Facebook, too. It’s comforting to see where people’s lives are going and that we are so much more alike than dissimilar.

Christiey can continue covering up the grey roots along my hair line.

My steel-town roots and friends, however, are a special part of me forever and I don’t want them to ever go away. 

Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes, and let’s go.

Mileage yesterday: 6; Denver to Boston miles logged: 745.8; Miles left to go: 1,024.2

No longer dying, now flying

Last night and today I ran my first two recovery runs without pain or my right knee ailing me anymore — hallelujah!

It’s clear to me now that perhaps running a marathon a few days after being sick to my stomach wasn’t the keenest move on my part but I survived it.

Now I’m on to the balancing act of my everyday life such as helping Jane with a school project. (She’s been on fall break for two weeks and goes back to school on Monday. Woo-hoo!) 

We’ve been taking pictures around town, writing headlines and copy, and designing “The Second-Grade News & Times” — a reflection of my old life before Tarzan came along. I explained to Jane how newspapers are put together and she thought that was cool. Then we began making our own for her second-grade community project.

Hey, maybe my journalism degree wasn’t a waste after all?

And here I was thinking my next career stop would be as the greeter at Walmart.  

As I’ve recovered from the marathon I’ve realized that I need to go with the flow more often and set boundaries with my family. I know that sounds like an oxymoron but it’s not and the two are compatible.

Rather than acting like the poor put-upon Donkey from Shrek — a sidekick who bears all the work load — it’s OK for my children to start taking some responsibilities for themselves. Yes, they are young, but they can begin to learn with small, manageable things. It’s better for me and them if they do this now, not later.

And it seems to be working with “the Dude” (aka, my husband), too. Last night he had a genuine MacGyver moment and installed the wi-fi on my new laptop, which I’m using now to write this post.

Note to any guys who read these posts: MacGyver moments go a long way in scoring Romeo points with the ladies in your life,

Last but not least, my new training mantra for Boston popped into my head today: “I’m not dying; I’m flying.”

I’m getting back to my old running self and it feels really good.

Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes and let’s go.

Milesage today: 3.1; mileage yesterday: 2.5; Denver to Boston miles logged: 739.8; Miles left to go: 1030.2.

Chocolate therapy

Baking cupcakes at 10 p.m. — isn’t this how everyone recovers a few days after a marathon?

If I had not been so darn tired last night perhaps I might have eaten one of them.

That’s how I know this last marathon took a lot out of me. Even sweets aren’t appealing.

I began baking cupcakes after dinner last night and I thought I was well enough to enjoy them. 

I promised myself some kind of treat after Sunday and during those last few miles Katie talked to me about chocolate to keep me going.

Normally I’m a chocolate-based life form, but since Sunday my appetite has been as flat as my spirits.

The few times I’ve been hungry I’ve craved fruits and vegetables, which is fine and healthier. 

Also the cupcakes didn’t turn out as planned.

Tarzan spun himself into a tizzy while playing last night, hit his head on the hardwood floors and got a goose egg. We spent 2 1/2 hours in the emergency room. That’s why the baking didn’t commence until 10 p.m.

Finally I got to bed around 11 p.m. Then I woke up Tarzan every few hours (per hospital instructions) to make sure his head was OK. 

Thankfully Tarzan is fine and he went to preschool this morning.

So there you have it — even as I attempt my recovery motherhood duty calls.

It always does, and that’s the other reason I am feeling the post-race blues.

In an email after the race Katie shared with me a recent essay from Runner’s World that talks about hitting the wall. I have not read it myself yet, but I plan to. From the gist of it, the author said what shows up in our lives, also shows up those last few miles of the marathon.

For me I know what that is. As a mom I am always “on” and doing and doing and doing for others, so it’s not a wonder I am depleted by the time I do something for myself. My whole life feels like a marathon before I cross the starting line.

I couldn’t tell you the last time I slept past 7 a.m. or more than 7 hours at a stretch uninterrupted, even when I’ve been sick. I hardly ever get to read a book or watch a TV show that I picked alone or in peace.

The other day both my children were at play dates at friends’ houses and it was the first quiet time I’ve had to myself (beside the running) in months. It was heaven and it made me realize how exhausted I am. I just vegged and I never veg.

I love my family; I just don’t love how their demands drain me, and they do drain me.

So my mission this week is not to be bitter but find a better path to balance. I chose my life and I don’t have any regrets. 

I’m making a promise to treat myself with kindness before I train for Boston and to let my muscles and my heart heal as much as they need it.

And maybe, just maybe, in a few days or so, I’ll be ready for a chocolate cupcake again. 

Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes, and let’s go.

Mileage today: 1 (Yes, I did a test run for ny right knee and it said to stop so I did.); Denver to Boston miles logged: 734.2; Miles left to go: 1,035.8

Boston stampede

Today registration for The Boston Marathon opened and filled up in just eight hours, setting an unprecedented record. (Last year it was open for several weeks before it closed and even then, it filled early compared to past races.)
I was fortunate to be one of those who got my entry in this morning. Now I have to wait for an email confirmation as BAA administrators verify all qualifying times before they let you in officially.

I don’t know how long that process will take but I am astounded by the race filling up in one day! That is just PLAIN CRAZY!!

Looks like I’m not the only one with Boston aspirations nor the only one running down my midlife demons!

I’m tired and sore and fighting a cold today. I’m awfully glad to have the Denver R&R Marathon behind me and now looking ahead to the journey from Hopkinton to Boston, April 2011.

Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes and let’s go.

Today’s a much needed recovery day; Denver to Boston miles logged: 733.2; Miles left to go: 1,036.8 (Plus one BAA email confirmation!)

“Wall” is a four-letter word

I survived it … barely.

Today I ate 26.2 miles for breakfast and finished the Denver Rock N Roll Marathon. 

The result wasn’t what I was hoping for nor my finest hour. But as my friend Pam pointed out when I gave her the debriefing, marathons rarely include a finest hour unless you count just the first one you are on the course.

Today’s course started out pretty flat and easy, and I thought I kept my speed in check. A classic mistake is going out too fast and I’ve been there, done that. There is no banking time on a marathon course. It bites you in the butt.

And I never expected a PR from this race. After living in Colorado for seven years I know that the hills and altitude take no prisoners. Plus I know that I’m not part mountain billy goat.

But I honestly didn’t expect this race to be as punishing as it turned out.

As I write this I’ve got ice packs on my quads and I feel like an 80-year-old.

What I was hoping for was a reasonable effort and fair showing — nothing fancy. Even with the rolling hills in the middle of this course I was on track to do this — until Mile 20.

That’s when the “wall” came a-knocking.

I hate that four-letter word.

All I can say is thank God for Katie, my friend who was meeting me at Mile 20 to pace me. Without her I don’t know how I would have survived. She was an angel during the two classic stages of “the wall.”

The first is you think you’re going to die.

The second is you think you are not going to die and those hellish last few miles WILL NEVER END!!

It was incredibly disheartening because I thought I did all the right things.

Yes, I did get sick a few days ago and I worshipped the toilet so perhaps that was the wall’s calling card. Who knows?

But I did pump fluids and eat well once I felt better. I bumped up the fluids even more closer to race day.

At the race, I took fluids at every station and ate a PowerGel every 6 miles because this is what worked for me at my last marathon where I set my PR and got my Boston qualifier. I also did this in my training.

Still, for whatever reason the stars (and the hills and twists and turns on this course) were not aligned for me today.

That said, I must move on. Tomorrow registration for Boston opens.

Come January, when I start training for Boston, you can be darn sure I am going to do all I can to kick that nasty wall in once and for all.

Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes, and let’s go.

Mileage today: 26.2!!! Denver to Boston miles logged: 733.2; Miles left to go: 1,036.8

Make-or-break time

Today’s post will be short and sweet.

I’m feeling anxious. Tomorrow is the Denver Rock N Roll Marathon and the following day (Oct. 18) the Boston Athletic Association officially opens online registration for the Boston Marathon, April 2011.

Last year BAA entries closed fast and set a record.  (They opened in mid-September and closed in November.) 

An article a few days ago in The Wall Street Journal predicted a similar outcome this year. (I know I will be on my computer early Monday hoping to secure my spot.)

What was more interesting was the article’s other focus: Women’s BQ times being too “slow,” according to some and supposedly contributing to last year’s registration crunch. 

Right now the difference between men’s and women’s BQ times is 30 minutes. Some say women should have to run 10 minutes faster for their BQs to be more comparable, narrowing the gap to 20 minutes.

I doubt it would be a problem if they changed it.

Women go through pregnancy and childbirth; carry more body fat to help bring babies into the world; usually have primary parenting duty even when mom works full time and dad is in the picture; pay more for dry cleaning, clothes, hair cuts, health care cost, you name it.; and sometimes earn less for the same kind of work.

And a few people out there want to complain because women might get a slight advantage qualifying for a race? Seriously?

I say, bring it on. The women I know would simply run faster and rise to the challenge. I don’t think it would make-or-break Boston registration or change much. People will always pursue Boston because it is what it is. What do you think?
Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes, and let’s go.

Today’s a rest day; Marathon tomorrow!! Denver to Boston miles logged: 707; Miles left to go: 1,063.

Pushing buttons

Our microwave oven is on it last legs. Whenever you push a button it does something entirely random like turning on the vent instead of warming up your coffee. 

Last night my body began to mimic my microwave, just four days before my next marathon. It left me panicked.

I planned to do a six-miler last night as part of my taper for this weekend’s race. When I pressed my “go” button I ended up sick in the bathroom. My run never happened.

While I was sick my mind raced. What if I was getting the Flu? What if I couldn’t do the race this weekend? Maybe this was a bad omen and I was destined to crash and burn?

It took lots of deep breathing to work through the sickness, first in my body and then in my head. I finally calmed down. I put a washcloth on my forehead and went to sleep early. My husband thankfully picked up the pieces and bathed both children and put them to bed.

I woke up with a much clearer mind and my body felt better. I even managed a five-mile makeup run at the gym. I’ve been downing fluids and able to eat well again.

I figure if disaster really strikes I can always pull out. There will be other races. I know what it’s like to race when you shouldn’t and I don’t plan on going there.

For now I will keep doing what I should and I will see how I feel in the coming days. I am willing to be reasonable with my own body and even not race if I am still ill.

As for the microwave I plan on pushing it until it dies. I figure if I have to shell out a couple of hundred dollars I didn’t plan on, I’d rather it be for a golf club for my husband or something by Donald Pliner for myself.

I’m driven, but I have my priorities: There are some buttons you can push and others where it’s wise to stop.

Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes, and let’s go.

Mileage today: 5; Denver to Boston miles logged: 707; Miles left to go: 1063.