Friday, October 31, 2014

Why I Run: For my Kids

I run for these sweet faces.
Trust me, under the skeleton mask is a sweet little guy ;)

I run for these little people.  For their sweet, smiling faces.  For the joy they find in life.  For the simple pleasures that bring them such great joy.  For the ways they can drive me to the brink of insanity one minute and absolutely melt my heart the next.

I run to show them what it means to be strong, fit, and healthy.  To care for oneself so that you can care for others.  To push your boundaries and discover new limits.  To accept disappointment in stride and celebrate victory in the small moments.

I run so that I can be here with them for many years to come.  Watching them grow into charming young people.  Cheering for them as they work towards their goals.  Delighting in discovering who they are in this world.

I run for them.

Why do you run?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Post-Race Mania

With training for my fall half marathon completed, I feel like I'm bursting with extra mental and physical energy.  I'm still running four days per week, but the runs are relatively aimless.  I'm lacing up for fun - and a chance to chat with my BRF - which completely relaxes the mental aspect of running.

So what's a mother runner to do with all of her newly available mental energy?  Completely reorganize her house, of course!  While in training, I find that household tasks move into a holding pattern.  I keep up with all of the mandatory aspects of running a five-member household, but major organization doesn't happen.  Closets slowly become cluttered, bookshelves grow disheveled, and dog hair mounds behind the couch (Don't judge!).  I see that these things need attention, but I just don't have the mental space to really tackle them.

We have this closet in our house, which we affectionately call the closet of doom.
While training, I close my eyes and pretend it doesn't exist...

A few days post-race, however, I go on a cleaning and decluttering frenzy!  If you peeked into my house last week, you would have seen me scrubbing kitchen counters with a toothbrush, rearranging the furniture in several rooms, and purging, purging, purging.  When I resume training for a spring race, I know I will not have interest in such projects, so I'm taking advantage of this boundless energy - and the extra hours in the week that I previously spent running - to cross some things off the to-do list.

Does anyone else exhibit unique post-race behaviors?  And if you need a closet overhaul, hit me up!  I'm available for hire, for another few weeks anyway ;)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Yoga in the Woods

At the last minute, we decided to pack up the kids and head to my parents' cabin at Innsbrook to enjoy this fabulous fall day in the woods. What an excellent decision! We've spent a lovely day of carefree playing, the highlight of which was the dinosaur dig carefully organized by Mr. D.

While the paleontologists-in-training worked at their dig site, I enjoyed a peaceful yoga break on the back deck. Outdoor barefoot yoga in October?! Yes, please!

Life is good :)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Prehab: Yoga and the Chiropractor

I've always been a big believer in post-run stretching, but over the last 8 months, I've done more non-running activities to support my runs. I'm going to call these things pre-hab: I do them in hopes of preventing injuries from happening. So far so good, so I thought I'd share a few of my typical pre-hab options:

Squats and planks. I've fallen off the squat bandwagon a bit since completing my squat challenge at the beginning of the summer, but I know squats are a terrific addition to my running regime. Stronger glutes, low abs, and quads make me a stronger runner. In an ideal world, I like to do 50 squats on non-running days.

Yoga for runners. I aim to do yoga 1 or 2 times per week, and I look for options geared towards runners or towards stretching my overused quads/glutes/calves/low back.  Always the cheapskate, I find all of my yoga classes via YouTube.  Some have been duds, but I've been impressed at the bounty of free, high-quality yoga available online.  I've posted some reviews of the ones I enjoy, and I have more reviews to come.

Regular visits to the chiropractor. My chiropractor has been invaluable in keeping me logging pain-free miles.  I first visited her last spring, when I finally admitted injury following my April half marathon.  She got me back on the road quickly, and I've maintained regular visits with her to keep my bones where they belong.  When not training, I check in every 3 months, but during this training cycle, I've gone monthly.  She keeps me tuned up, which keeps me running strong, which is definitely worth the co-pay.

Do you have any non-running activities that allow you to keep up your mileage?  Anyone else as indebted to their chiropractor as me?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Race Recap: Rock 'n Roll St. Louis

Sunrise in downtown St. Louis as we wait to start the race.
I couldn't have asked for anything more at Rock 'n Roll St. Louis on Sunday.  Delightful weather, upbeat crowds, good bands, terrific volunteers.  Oh yeah, and a smoking new PR :)

Emily and I arrived downtown just before 6:00am and found rock star parking near the starting line.  We took our time stretching, visiting the porta-potties (so many available!  Kudos to the race organizers), and eating one last bit of banana.  Nerves mounted as we waited around in our corral, but overall we were just excited about our day.

Nervous smiles as we hang around in our corral.

We wanted to beat Emily's half marathon PR of 2:08.  To do so, we planned to run the early miles at a 9:45 pace, kicking it up to 9:15-9:30 around mile 8, and drawing closer to 9:00 for miles 11 to the finish.  A thick crowd and an early restroom stop threatened our plan at the outset, but we weren't rattled.  We hit the 5k checkpoint at 30:29, which was certainly slower than we anticipated.  At that point, however, the crowd had thinned a bit, and we could make our way through the field with less weaving.  The slow early pace didn't bother me, as I hoped we were conserving energy and would have more left in the tank for the later miles.

Feeling strong at mile 8.

We faced an unexpectedly long climb at mile 4.5 (with the early morning sun in our eyes), but we cranked that mile in 9:30.  Entering mile 6, our energy flagged a bit, and we embarked on the part of the course that did not have live entertainment.  (Citing respect for the neighborhoods, race organizers informed us that there would be no bands from miles 6-9, an unfortunate point in the course to be lacking distraction.)  We kept a good pace, however, and hit the 10k checkpoint at 58:58.  Mile 8 brought us to a familiar park where our families were waiting for us.  Seeing their happy faces and stopping for a quick hug gave us an extra spring in our step.  We logged the next two miles at about 9:20 each, and we agreed to try to hang at that pace until the mile 12 marker.

My sweet cheering section :)

While miles 1-6 were rather urban, starting in downtown and then traversing some industrial areas, miles 7-12 took us through beautiful neighborhoods and along well-maintained parks, and many of the residents came out to cheer us on.  As we were kicking up the intensity of our effort, I was grateful for the distraction of lovely houses and cheering fans.  The band at mile 11 was my favorite of the course, for no other reason than their rendition of "Run Around Sue" made my heart happy and gave my tired legs a little extra pep.

As we planned, I pushed the pace as soon as we passed the mile 12 sign.  Emily stayed a step behind me but promised that she was ok.  Mile 12 took us across an overpass into downtown, and the view of downtown and the other runners in the field was fabulous.  Pushing uphill at the end of that mile, however, I could tell that my energy was waning.  We saw my parents right at the 13-mile mark, and I mustered a smile and a wave for them.  As we neared the why-does-it-still-seem-so-faraway finish line, Emily stepped ahead and took the lead.  "Let's go," she said.  "Let's get it!"  I didn't know I had any gas left in the tank, but I found just enough to turn in a strong finish alongside her.  We couldn't believe our eyes when we saw the official time: 2:03:58!  More than 4 minutes faster than her previous record, and 8:21 faster than our April race.

This giant street marking totally messed with my carb-starved brain.
This faux finish was at the 13-mile mark, and that final .1 seemed endless...

Full of pride and finish line adrenaline, we walked to the car discussing possibilities for our next race.  One good finish line deserves another, right?  We will plot our spring race soon enough, but for now, I'm going to bottle up the excitement of this finish and savor the sweetness of hard-earned victory.

Elated at the finish line!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

It's Go Time: Rock 'n Roll St. Louis

The hay is in the barn.  The seeds have been sown.  The work is done.  Now it's time to go out and show what I can do.  The Rock 'n Roll St. Louis half marathon dawns early tomorrow morning.

I'd be lying if I denied my pre-race jitters, but I certainly feel more confident than I did on the eve of the GO! St. Louis race in April, my first half marathon.  I know that my body can cover the distance.  I am strong, injury-free, and mentally prepared to face the challenge of mile 11.  I don't have a specific time goal (at least not one that I'm willing to verbalize), but I definitely hope to beat my spring time of 2:12:19.  Considering how much I labored for each step of that race, I am optimistic that I can shave a few minutes off that time.

I'm working to focus on the excitement of the day: running in a new part of the city, hearing local bands, spending the morning with my BRF, and seeing the joy on my kids' faces as they oogle my finisher's medal.  I've logged the miles and finished the training.  Now it's time for some fun :)

Ready to rock, roll, and sparkle!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Inspiration from a BQ'er

I love that running gives me a chance to draw inspiration from others.  I love to watch other runners work hard, push their boundaries, and strive relentlessly towards a goal.  I become deeply invested in their training and seeing their successes feels almost as thrilling as accomplishing my own goal.  I thrive on the team spirit and sense of camaraderie we share as we constantly work to better ourselves one mile at a time.  While watching their efforts (through blogs, Strava, and Twitter), I am inspired to set my own big, scary goals and set out to accomplish them. 

Because of SBS and other strong women, I have the courage to dream big.

One of my favorite running bloggers, Sarah Bowen Shea of Another Mother Runner, set out on Sunday to run a Boston-qualifying time at the Victoria Marathon.  She shared her training with us through various media, and as a result, an enormous tribe of mother runners sat glued to their devices cheering for her as she pushed herself 26.2 miles through beautiful British Columbia.  When I saw that she had nailed her qualifying time, my excitement was off the charts.  I cried happy tears - for a woman I know virtually but not "in real life" - and that feels perfectly normal to me.  After all, I cried when her partner in crime, Dimity McDowell, finished her IronMan race in 2013.  Those mother runners inspired me to first lace up my shoes, which means that I owe them an enormous debt of gratitude.  Doubtless, I'll never be able to do for them what they've done for me, but I can cheer like a crazy woman at their victories and cry happy tears in celebration.

Congrats, SBS, on your hard-earned victory, and thank you for allowing us to share in your journey.  You've inspired me - and countless others - to dream big, aim high, and work tirelessly to make the dream a reality.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Hungry Runner: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Admission is the first step towards recovery, right?  Well, here goes.  My name is Kate, and I am addicted to muffins, especially of the miniature variety.  Ever since finding two mini muffin tins at a recent garage sale, I've been cultivating all sorts of miniature masterpieces.  Mini muffins are a bit high maintenance, but I've discovered that my kids will eat almost anything when delivered in the shape of a mini muffin.  And I can't say that I blame them.  Wee-sized food is just too cute not to eat!

Last week, thanks to our CSA share, I had butternut and acorn squash on hand, a muffin craving, and a quest to combine them.  When I discovered this pumpkin chocolate chip mini muffin recipe from the Minimalist Baker, I knew that I'd found a winner.  I decided that my squash could easily replace the pumpkin and gave the recipe a try.

Before I could make my muffins, I had to roast my squash in the oven.  To do so, I cut them in half, removed the seeds, and placed them face down on a greased pan.  I baked them at 350* for about 45 minutes.  After they cooled, I scooped the flesh out of the skins and used my stand mixer to puree them.  My squash roasted, cooled, and pureed, I was ready to tackle the muffins.  I tweaked the original recipe based on my pantry stock and my baking preferences, so my recipe looked like this:

1 egg
1/2 cup roasted squash puree (I used a combination of butternut and acorn squash)
1 cup milk + 1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup agave
2 tbsp oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup white flour
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips (mini chips are a must for mini muffins!)

1.  Preheat the oven to 375* and grease muffin tins.
2.  Combine egg, squash, milk, brown sugar, agave, oil, and vanilla.  Once combined, add baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon and stir until uniformly mixed.
3.  Slowly add flours to the wet ingredients and stir until combined.
4.  Add chocolate chips and mix just until the chips are evenly distributed.
5.  Spoon batter into muffin tins, filling them almost to the top.  Add an extra mini chocolate chip or two to the top for presentation.
6.  Bake for 18-20 minutes for mini muffins or 22-26 minutes for full sized muffins.
7.  Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes then remove to wire rack to finish cooling.

I am not any sort of a photographer, so don't judge this muffin by its looks.
It is moist, chewy, and amazing, I promise.

I'm pleased to say that they turned out beautifully, as evidenced by the fact that my double batch barely lasted three days.  These muffins made a great and quick post-run snack.  They are a wonderful fall treat and a fun way to use some of our winter squash.  Do you have any favorite ways to prepare winter squash?  Do you have a snack obsession on par with my mini muffin addiction?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Rock 'n Roll St. Louis training update #2

Race day dawns in 11 days, and most days, I don't even remember that I'm training for a race.  Sure, I'm logging the miles.  Yes, I've contemplated my attire.  Absolutely, I can't wait until tomorrow when I can first see race day on the 10-day forecast.  But whereas my first 13.1 absorbed much of my mental focus for weeks, this race is down near the bottom of my mental totem pole.  In some ways, this is a good thing.  Running half marathon mileage has become a way of life for me, so the difference between "training" and regular life are minimal.  I'm a bit lot more obsessive about logging the exact number of prescribed miles when a race is on the horizon, but the routine of 3 weekday runs plus a weekend long run is just normal at this point.  I've also been so preoccupied with major life happenings that I don't have much mental space leftover for thinking about the race.

When I do take time to contemplate it, however, I see that training is going well.  We ran 11 miles on Sunday, which was our longest run of this training cycle.  Throughout the run, I felt strong and pain-free, and the miles passed almost effortlessly.  We planned a route with lots of late hills to prepare for the hills at the end of the course, and we kept a good pace even through the inclines.  This weekend's long run will only be 7 (I love this point of a training plan when 7 miles feels like a short distance), and then we head into taper week.

The training plan with weathered edges and very few unchecked boxes:
race day must be near!

During this training cycle, I've been a strength training slacker, but I'd otherwise applaud my efforts.  I've logged all the miles, maintained a consistent post-run stretching regimen, visited my chiropractor monthly, done yoga a couple times a week, and haven't lost my sanity.  At the end of the day, I call that a win.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Why I Love Running in St. Louis

The iconic Gateway Arch anchors the St. Louis skyline.

I'm a native St. Louisan, and though I left for 6 years of college and graduate school, my heart has always been in this city.  Especially at this time of year with the Cardinals playing post-season baseball, it's hard not to get swept up in civic pride.  So it feels like a good time to expound upon the reasons I love living and running here in the Gateway to the West:

  • Friendly running community: St. Louisans are generally friendly folks (unless you start belittling their beloved Cardinals), and the runners here are no different.  I always wave at other runners I encounter and can usually count on one finger the number of people who do not return my greeting.
  • Terrific retail support:  Big River Running company, an anchor in the St. Louis running community, has been honored as one of the best running stores in the country.  Their customer service is second to none with a knowledgeable staff who are happy to support back-of-the-packers and elites alike.  They sponsor weekly group runs, training programs for both beginning and experienced runners, educational clinics, and more.
  • Great trail network:  The Great Rivers Greenway has been at work for decades creating an interconnected web of paved trails throughout the metropolitan area.  Our neighborhood is near several trails, which Emily and I love to explore on our long runs.  Additionally, many runner-friendly parks, such as Forest Park and Castlewood State Park, feature grassy trails for those seeking an off-road expeience.
  • Good local organizations:  Organizations like GO! St. Louis and the St. Louis Track Club go to great lengths to support local runners.  They host various race distances throughout the year, ranging from 1-mile kids runs to 5k/10k to half and full marathons.  They also provide arenas for runners to network and support each other's endeavors.
  • Wonderful weather - sometimes:  Local St. Louisans always like to comment on the weather, especially this oft-repeated gem: "You don't like the weather?  Just wait an hour; it'll change."  Though slightly exaggerated, that statement holds a fair amount of truth.  We experience the full range of weather around here, with bitterly cold and icy winters and hot, muggy summers.  But in between, we delight in beautiful spring and fall running seasons.  After coming off either extreme season, I feel like I can fly during the mild months.  It makes the humid/icy/scorching/frigid weather all worth it - sorta ;)

What do you like best about running in your area?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Race Photo Gone Wrong

I received notice that finish line photos from my recent 5k were available for viewing.  Knowing that such photos of me always fail to impress, I clicked the link with low expectations.  What I found has left me giggling throughout the day.  The organizers included a caveat that photos were tied to race finishing time, so the photos linked to my bib might include others who finished with the same overall time.  Ok, no big deal.

Then I started scrolling through the pictures and quickly realized that I finished with quite a crowd: that guy I chicked right at the finish line, a speedy middle schooler, a 20-something who looked ready to keel over.  Finding myself among the crowd felt a bit like exploring a Where's Waldo book.  Eventually, I found a snippet of my arm, a piece of my skirt, and a glimpse of my face - over someone's shoulder.  The best pic by far, however, was this gem:

Kudos on a great race, sir.
A well-framed photo of this man, who won the 70+ age group and ran a killer race, but definitely not a photo of me.  Fortunately, my friend's husband snapped a photo of me crossing the finish line:

Skirt sparkling, tall form, and from this distance,
you can't see my I-might-puke face.

Needless to say, I won't be purchasing any finish line photos from this event.  What was your best race photo?  Have you ever snagged a good one?