Thursday, August 28, 2014

Heat and Humidity

I have been truly spoiled by a very unusual St. Louis summer.  In late July, we enjoyed nearly two weeks of faux fall during which I ran in 60-degree weather, unheard of here in the steamy Midwest.  However, it appears that we've used up all of our beautiful weather, and we are now suffering through an excessive heat warning.  Issued in the middle of last week, the heat warning is due to the combination of high heat index (105-110) and high humidity (over 80%).  With overnight lows barely dipping to the mid-70s, the air in this city is thick, soggy, and suffocating.

We had a 7-miler on deck this past weekend in training for the Rock 'n Roll half.  Though we usually like to sleep in on the weekends and head out around 7:00, we reconsidered due to the heat.  We started around sunrise and got the first four miles in before the sun really started bearing down.  The last three, however, were pretty brutal.  I scanned every stretch of sidewalk for sprinklers and slowed down each time I found one so I could enjoy a brief reprieve from the heat.  After our run, we cooled down with a walk, searching for one last sprinkler to bring our blood pressure back onto the charts.  When we finally found one, we stood in it for several minutes, which surely caused the homeowners (our new favorite neighbors!) to question our sanity.

To stay hydrated during this hot streak, I've been drinking sole each morning.  This saltwater solution helps balance out electrolytes, which I surely need after sweating out buckets during each run.  It could all be in my head, but I think the sole has helped me stay energized and healthy while exercising in the heat.

Have you ever tried sole?  Do you have any other hot weather survival tips?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Why I Run: To Refocus

It's easy for me to get caught up in the nitty gritty details of my life.  Organizing the family calendar.  Sorting dozens of loads of laundry.  Remembering to send the blue show and tell item to school.  Preparing meals that are both reasonably healthy and reasonably likely to be eaten by my children.  Such details are obviously important and necessary to the functioning of our household, but when my life feels consumed by nothing but minutiae, I need a chance to step back and see the larger picture.

Running provides me with the perfect opportunity to trade my microscope for a telescope.  A chance to look at the bigger picture, knowing that though this stage of life can be exhausting, it is also beautifully innocent and gone in a flash.  One day my son won't want to tell me every thought that occurs to him.  One day I will look at my moody teenager and long to see the curious preschool spirit that once occupied her body.  One day my baby won't light up with joy at the sight of me and want nothing more than a mama hug.

Today is not that day, and I need moments of clarity on the run to remember that life is fleeting.  Innocence lasts just a moment - this moment - and I need to be present to see it.  Surely the days are hard and long, as are the tantrums and the frustrations.  But such is life.  Messy, crabby, and chaotic, but also joyful, loving, and beautiful.


When I run, with fresh air in my lungs and sweat on my skin, I can change my focus.  I remember that the days are long but the years are short.  Running refreshes my spirit and recharges my body so that I can be present in the moment, whatever it has to offer.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Yoga with Kids

After today's long run, my two older kids wanted to do yoga with me. We stretched in the kitchen, working out all the kinks amidst giggles and silly faces. Our last pose was legs up the wall, which they adored. "You mean, we get to put our feet on the wall?! This is the coolest day ever!" Simple pleasures :)

I love those kid feet!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Lessons from the Cruise Ship

Our seven-day cruise to Alaska was nothing short of phenomenal.  Breathtaking views, incredible excursions, amazing food, and peaceful downtime made the trip a spectacular way to celebrate our tenth anniversary.  I had forgotten how easy it was to travel without kids: no scheduling around nap or rigid food schedules, no bag of tricks to provide entertainment during long waits.  We enjoyed the chance to reconnect and have uninterrupted adult conversations.  Pure bliss!

While we were away, I logged four runs and learned quite a bit about running while cruising:

1.  Stock up on bananas early in the week.  On a whim, I grabbed a couple extra bananas on Sunday and took them to our stateroom.  Boy, was that lucky: by Wednesday, I never saw another banana on the ship.  I was glad I had my stockpile to fuel my late week runs.

2.  Don't expect to do speedwork on the track.  To my surprise, the track was not a uniform oval.  Instead, it had several bizarre right angles and odd curves.  The surface was also quite damp from ocean spray and dew, and the path was rather narrow in several places.  Between the wet surface and the slight instability of running aboard a moving ship, a conservative pace was necessary.

Early morning over the Pacific.
3.  Avoid running on the track when out at open sea.  I attempted to run the outdoor track on Sunday, a full day at sea, but was quite literally almost blown away by the winds.  Out in the open water and travelling at fast-for-a-cruise-ship speeds, running on the 13th deck was not a wise choice.  I headed to the gym instead (see #4 below).  On Monday, we were scheduled to dock in our first port by 7:00, so I thought my chances for an outdoor track run would be much better.  Slower speeds and quieter water near the port kept the wind down a notch, and I laced up for a sunrise run at 4:30.  The track was slightly shorter than I expected - 5.5 laps equaled one mile - but the views were better than I could have imagined.  Watching the slowly brightening horizon as it unveiled the majestic Alaskan coast, the 16.5 laps of my 3-miler passed relatively quickly.  Even the 27.5 laps I logged for Friday's 5-miler seemed relatively easy thanks to the magnificent scenery.

A few laps later, the sun peeks over the edge of the water.
4.  Skip the gym, unless the ship is in open water (see #3).  The gym had a reasonable number of treadmills, and they all seemed to work, more or less.  The machines faced a wall of windows with lovely views of the ocean, which is a definite improvement over the view from my basement treadmill.  After 30 minutes, however, I was surprised to find my groove interrupted by the machine's automatic shutdown.  Ugh.  Though the view was interesting, the cruise ship gym reminded me why I dislike coed gyms.  Too many people there to flaunt rather than workout.  Too many (mostly men) running one crazy fast mile then calling it a day.  Too much oogling, competition, and comparing.  I never returned to the gym after that one run.  I appreciated the chance to run when the track conditions were hazardous, but the environment was not one I wanted to revisit.

5.  Lose the headphones.  The track was narrow and though generally unpopulated during my runs, I definitely needed to be unplugged so I could be aware of who was around me.

6.  Take the time to revel in post-run endorphins.  So often after my runs at home, I race inside to shower, fix breakfast, and whisk the kids off to school.  In the hustle and bustle of the mother runner life, I rarely have a moment to enjoy the aftermath of my runs.  Cruise ship life was completely different and provided plenty of time to bask in the post-run joy.  I ended each run by finding a peaceful spot on the deck to do some yoga.  Post-run endorphins + outdoor yoga + breathtaking Alaska scenery = one happy mama.  Fully stretched and blissfully exhausted, I enjoyed a quiet cup of coffee or two while watching the sun continue to brighten the horizon.  Does life get any better?

I've tried to hit the highlights, but I'm sure I've missed something.  What other burning questions do you have about running on a ship?  Lay it on me :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Radio Silence...

Wow, I am sorry for the unexpected radio silence over the last 10 days.  Re-entry after vacation is always tough, but our post-cruise return was rockier than usual.  The last two weeks have seen a job change, a broken bone, and countless e-mails/phone calls/calendar maneuvering for back-to-school events.  I've wanted to post numerous times, but other obligations have taken priority.  The mother side of my mother runner identity is demanding attention, so sadly, the blogging must wait.  But I promise to post my cruise-running recap very soon.

In the meantime, how about a couple teaser pictures of the spectacular Alaskan scenery:

My photography skills don't do justice to the beauty of the Tracy Arm Fjord.

Lush green mountainside peeking through the clouds in Skagway, Alaska.

More soon, I promise...

Thursday, August 7, 2014

An Ode to Dan

Today my incredible husband, Dan, and I celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary.  I am infinitely lucky to have found a partner who supports me in all things: parenthood, running, life.  As this is a running blog, let's celebrate his crucial role in my running life:

  • The non-morning person who fields requests for second breakfasts and milk refills on Saturdays when I'm out on a long run.  
  • The patient man who listens to the very minutiae of my runs.  
  • The caring partner who never fails to ask, "How was your run?"  
  • The supportive husband who dragged all three kids to the precise spot I requested at my debut half marathon so I could see sweet faces just when I knew I'd need it the most.
  • The endless cheerleader who believes I can do anything I set my mind to.  Because of his confidence in me, I have the courage to aim high and dream big.

He may never understand my love of running, but he knows it is part of who I am, and he supports me every step of the way.  And because of that, I am the luckiest.  Here's to my soulmate, Dan, and to many, many more years of love, laughter, and happily ever after.

It feels like only yesterday; how have 10 years elapsed?!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Cruise Ship Running

My husband and I set sail today for an Alaskan cruise to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary.  Thanks to the generosity of my sisters and parents, we are traveling sans kids for the first time ever, a thought both terrifying and exciting at the same time.  I could spend an entire blog post sorting through the various emotions accompanying this trip, but I'll spare you the drama.  Instead, let's focus on the challenges and excitement of running while cruising.

As any good Type A person would do, I've spent embarrassingly large swaths of time contemplating running options for our trip.  [Lest you think I'm single-minded, I've also spent countless hours poring over the details of my kids' schedules while we're away and planning our onshore excursions (snorkeling in Alaska, anyone?).  So I'm obsessing equally over the kids, our activities, and running ;) ]  The ship is equipped with a "jogging" track (goodness, I hate that word), which according to my research is about .2 mile around.  A mere 15 laps should get me a good 3 miles.  Sounds tolerable.  However, I have a 5-mile run scheduled this weekend, and 25 laps sounds torturous.  Perhaps I'll be soothed by the beauty of my surroundings and therefore distracted from the round and round monotony of passing the same deck chair 25 times.

A view like this could make the endless laps feel less miserable.

Since 15 laps sounds manageable and 25 sounds like the seventh circle of hell, I hope to squeeze in my long run today before we leave town.  Then I can do my next long run when we return next weekend, and I'll just enjoy some simple 3-milers while aboard the ship.  The boat also has an exercise room equipped with treadmills, so I can seek out the hamster wheel should the laps prove unpleasant.  From the pictures I've seen, I believe the treadmills face a wall of windows, providing runners with panoramic views of the ocean.  Sure beats the view from my basement treadmill...

I am most excited about the long days we'll be experiencing while traveling so far north.  Sunrise should begin around 4:45am with sunset around 9:30pm.  Given that I'm coming from the central time zone, that 4:45 sunrise will feel like 6:45 to me, which counts as major sleeping in for this mother runner.  Score!  I hope to enjoy sunrise or early dawn runs at least three times while aboard the ship.

Have you ever run on a cruise ship before?  I'm guessing that the large ship will negate most wobbling, but I'm curious to see if it will feel unsteady while running.  I'll check it out and report back next week!