He Gets It!

This summer, Liam has been joining me on my workouts with the Beginner’s Running Group and November Project. He quickly fell in love with the social aspect of both groups. He’s the first to dish out encouraging words and high-fives. Of course, he loves receiving encouragement as well.

Last week, we headed to Lippitt Park for BRG after spending the weekend on the Cape. Liam played hard all weekend, tubing, swimming, and catching turtles. He was already tired, but I reminded him we committed to attending BRG. It was also ridiculously hot. After a quick warm up, we hit the Boulevard for intervals. I made sure our pace was barely above a jog and took Nuun with us. He found his mantra an repeated it, “There’s no need to lead… There’s no need to lead… There’s no need to lead.”

A few minutes into our run, our friends Kerri and Kristin caught up with us. After explaining they had already gone for a run, they admitted they were walking to their cars but, upon seeing Liam, knew they couldn’t leave him. We made it through the run, even when Liam wanted to give up. Kristin challenged Liam to a race to the finish line, which he gladly accepted.

That night, Liam was getting ready for his shower.

“You know, quitting is a lot harder when your friends are there. If our friends didn’t show up, this kid would have been out of there.”

At that moment, I knew Liam got what this is all about. It’s not about leading the pack. It’s about trying your best and not giving up. It’s about doing things you didn’t think you could accomplish. Most of all, running with a group is about supporting each other. There have been times that I was not at all feeling my run. I ran anyway because my friends were waiting for me. There are times I pushed myself to run farther and faster than I thought I had in me at the time because my friends were by my side. I’d like to think there might have been times when my friends weren’t completely ready or into their run but were able to get through it because I was by their side. Running and working out are about so much more than the actual activity.

First Half-Marathon Recap

I don’t even know where to begin when talking about this weekend!

             

Liam made his first communion Saturday morning. He did such a great job! I am beyond blessed that he is a part of such a fantastic school community. I love his school and the fellow families who attend. After the church service, we went back to our house for a cookout. It was perfect: low-key and casual. Liam was thankful for his day!

I went to bed early Saturday night because the half began at 7:30. I planned to be out of the house by 6. Liam woke up with me at 5:15. We tried to be as quiet as possible. Because he wasn’t sure if he would wake up with me, he left me a note for the morning with the bagels Mike picked up from Panera.

I was trying my best to be organized, but nerves were starting to kick in. In being hopelessly proactive, I applied Tiger Balm to my calves as I got dressed, only to panic when realizing I had not yet put in my contact lenses. Somehow, I managed to put in my toric lenses into my puffy, allergy-hating eyes one handed! My goal of getting out the door by 6 was only off by six minutes.

One the ride down to the race, I decided to listen to Hamilton, my go-to “Let’s do this!” music. The Spotify account was set to the Kitchen Echo. Luckily, people slept through the music blasting through the kitchen speakers for four seconds while I wondered why it wasn’t playing in my car.

The atmosphere before the race was calm and cheerful. We chatted and laughed until it was time to gather by the starting line. The gentleman who coordinates the races explained a few things about the race and the course, beginning with, “I don’t give a sh*t who comes in first as long as everyone finishes.” His cell phone number was on every sign; if you couldn’t finish, he informed us to call for help. He would come get us and provide free admission to any future race.

We started off together, separating by the time we made the first turn. My friend Kerri and I stayed together. We were hauling! My goal was to finish the race in three hours, requiring a 13:42 pace. Kerri assured me I could do that. My first mile was 11:36! I became scared of burning out. We slowed down, clocking our second mile at 12:46.

Our third mile was back in the 11’s.

“Should we slow down?”

“We’re good. Our goal is 2:45. You can do this. You are stronger than you think you are.”

So, three miles in, my goal changed!

The course was beautiful. We ran to Charlestown Beach and back through country roads. Kerri and I stayed together for the first ten miles, then she went ahead. At the next mile, I encountered a girl I “knew” from a Facebook running group. On the way out in the race, I stopped and hugged her, then let my social anxiety kick in, worrying that she thought the worst of the crazy, sweaty random person who hugged her. The next time I checked my phone, I had a friend request from her. I saw her again just after Mile 10. She took pictures and shared them with me, including one of my favorites of Kerri and I high-fiving when we reached double digits!

Just after Mile 12, I hated everything! I was done running, my shoulder was sore, I was gross and sweaty and wanted to be done.  As I turned the corner, I saw two of my Rhode Runner buddies! I have never been happier to see anyone! Ignoring how sweaty I was, I left into each of their arms and expressed my love for them both! I began to cry as I ran up that final hill, overwhelmed by the support and the fact that I was actually about to complete this huge accomplishment. Hold it together, I told myself, you can’t run if you’re sobbing.

After that encounter, I was recharged and ready to finish this race, pushing myself through the last bit. When I turned the corner towards the finish line, my friends cheered me. I was at 2:44, I still had a chance to reach my goal! And I did, finishing in 2:44:59!

I don’t even care if this picture is flattering. It was taken immediately after finishing the race! I was ecstatic!

 

I was deliriously happy! My friends surrounded me and cheered for me. Then I realized the problem with finishing fifteen minutes faster than I planned: Mike and Liam were not yet there. I had told them to get there for 10:30; I finished at 10:15. They arrived a few minutes after I finished.

My friends are amazing! In this entire process of becoming a runner, they are my favorite takeaway! They make terrible runs tolerable and push me.  They are supportive and silly. We gathered and ran in with the rest of our group.  We stayed for over an hour after the end of the race, eating and celebrating.

Many times, I consider running a solo sport. Because of my schedule, the majority of my training was done by myself. However, races are what bring everyone together.  We made friends with others in the parking lot before the race and at the finish line. People we have never before met cheered for and supported us.

I’m still riding the high that comes from reaching a goal. My next half is in October, allowing a few weeks to regroup and decide the next goal. I’d like to work on speed; I think I doubt myself and fear burning out at the end when I need energy the most. It’d be great to take a minute off of my 5K time.

For now, I need to thank my husband and son for supporting me. For screwing up weekends by filling them with long training sessions. I need to thank my running friends, now simply known as my friends, who pushed me out of my comfort, convincing me to accomplish what had previously seemed impossible! I don’t think you will ever understand how much I appreciate your support and friendship!

My Favorite Audiobooks

When I visited California, ran each night along the Sanfranciso Bay Path, listening to Hamilton as I completed my evening runs (to In and Out Burger). By the time I joined BRG, the Hamilton Mixtape had provided the soundtrack for my runs. Those two albums remind of times I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried new things, both with life-changing results.

The week before the Gaspee Days 5k, I put together a Spotify playlist titled “Run Run Run,” filled with guilty pleasure tunes to get me through my first race as a “real runner.” As I continued my running, I added to the playlist but found that the playlist didn’t always match my mood and finding other playlists on Spotify. This was great until I started going over my data usage each month. When I attempted one of my first longer runs, I purchased an audiobook to try during the run. I was hooked! I often borrow audiobooks on CD from the library, to listen to on my ride to work. However, changing CDs and carrying a CD player during runs did not sound enjoyable.  Audiobooks are expensive and I am cheap. Before signing up for a trial of Audible, I downloaded the OverDrive app from the library.

OverDrive allows you to borrow audiobooks for free. You can download the books, allowing you to listen without eating all of your precious data. It isn’t perfect. There are often long hold lines for popular books and you cannot renew books, something I often do when borrowing books on CD. However, I have never had an issue finding a book that I enjoyed. If I find myself getting close to the end of the two-week borrowing cycle, I listen to the book at a faster speed to ensure I complete it on time.

I have the best intentions to read more. Each year, I set a goal and track it using the Goodreads app, coming two books shy of last year’s goal of twenty-five books. This year, I have already “read” fifteen books in 2018, a mix of real books and audiobooks.

In my months of listening to audiobooks during long runs, I find myself preferring non-fiction and autobiographies over fiction. I also find myself listening to cheesy, celebrity autobiographies at an alarming rate. Here are a few of my favorite audiobooks:

A Man Called Ove

 

Last spring, I trudged through My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. I finished it over an extended period of time and didn’t love it. Hearing praise for A Man Called Ove, I decided to give Fredrik Backman another try. I loved this book! It tells the story of Ove, a crotchety old man, and his neighbors who insist on including him in their lives. I enjoyed the flashbacks explaining how Ove became his grumpy, particular self. I’ve heard rumors about it becoming a film; I would love to see this!

Yes, My Accent is Real and Some Other Things I Haven’t Told You 

 

I love The Big Bang Theory. At the recommendation of a friend, I found this book. I enjoyed hearing Kunal Nayyar discuss growing up in India and coming to the United States as a college student. My favorite passages were the ones in which he discusses his relationship with his father. I found myself wanting to spend time with his dad more than Kunal himself. Not that Kunal is at all offputting; his father offers him sage advice at pivotal times in his life.

Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun, and be Your Own Person

I have never watched a single episode of any of Shonda Rhimes’ shows, not because they do not interest me. I’ve missed her shows because they start at 9:00 and 10:00, a time I am already in bed asleep. By the time I’d hear how great a show was, I was already several seasons late to the party and never got around to tuning in. Year of Yes follows Shonda’s pledge to say “Yes” to every opportunity offered to her. I finished this book wishing to be her friend. I enjoyed her positivity, her appreciation for her life, and her notes on balancing work, motherhood, self-care, and adult relationships.

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America

As someone who often admits that if I had history teachers as amazing as my English teachers, I probably would have become a history teacher, I thought I knew about my country’s history. This book enlightened me to a lot of things I did not know about the beginnings of America. It definitely made some of my longer runs go by quickly!

 

 

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life

 

Samantha Irby managed to leave me speechless! I loved this collection of essays about dating, work, and family. She is unapologetically honest, leading to hilarious one-liners that I would often repeat. This is the book I’ve recommended to every friend I know can handle Irby’s antics. From discussions about disastrous dates, her love/hate relationship with her cat, to adapting her friends who now have kids, We are Never Meeting in Real Life is a surprise that got me through a few great runs, even getting me to run longer at times because I wanted to hear how stories end.

Gratuitous Year-End Review

Gather round, folks, it’s time for me to summarize the highlights of the year!

I think I’ve grown more this year than I have in a decade!  My forties may be my time!

Highlights:

Okay, I’m going to be superficial and say that seeing  Hamilton was one of my biggest highlights.  I’m still amazed that Mike and I were able to see Hamilton at all, nevermind having third-row seats!  Hamilton got me through some challenging times; I am thankful we were able to make the trek to Broadway to see it.  While we were waiting for the play to begin, we were able to go to the top of the Empire State Building.  Mike and I thought it would be a brilliant idea to avoid the elevator lines and take the stairs from the 82 to 88th-floor observation decks; we quickly learned that was a terrible idea!

 

Becoming a runner was my most significant achievement of the year!  I can’t say enough good things about  Beginning Runner Group.  Their support throughout the process of running a 5K was the key to my success!  If it weren’t for this program, I would still be saying, “Someday, I’ll teach myself how to run.”  Wednesday night, I finally conquered the giant, seemingly endless hill on Rochambeau, accomplishing my last running goal of the year! Next year, I am signed up for not one, but two half-marathons.  While I have no interest in ever completing a full marathon, I am nervous and excited to meet these goals next year!

Making great friends and finding my people was one of my favorite parts of 2017.  Here, I wrote about being very lonely after Liam was born.  It took me a while as a mother to find great friends.  I now have a wonderful, supportive group of friends who encourage me, laugh with me, and push me to better myself.

 

Thankful for friends who embrace silliness!

 

Seven has been my favorite age!  I love everything, well,  most things about having a seven-year-old!  Sometimes, it seems he ages a year in a week.  Other times, I see glimpses of my baby boy hiding in this ginormous kid.  Liam is kind, thoughtful, and curious.  I love this journey, but look forward to seeing the adult he grows up to be.

How did he grow so much in one year?

I should admit that, in spite of all of my working out, I only lost a half pound this year.  However, I lost ten inches, proving that the scale is not always the best way to measure progress.  While I hope to tone up a bit next year and lose a bit of my tummy, in this post, I was able to finally realize that working out is not just about losing fat and trying to cancel out food consumed.  More than anything, I am looking forward to getting stronger and faster next year!.

Liam is thriving at school!  We were so happy with his daycare center that we kept him there through kindergarten. Last year, we started him in a new school for first grade.  He was so nervous about learning a new building and making new friends.  While I didn’t tell him, I had the same fears!  We both had to learn new policies and politics and make new friends.   I am happy to report that lightning struck twice!  Liam loves school, his teachers, and his new friends.  He loves staying at their after-school program and participating in after-school activities.  In addition to Liam making great friends, Mike and I managed to befriend a great group of people! We are truly blessed to be part of a school that makes you feel like a family!

 

 

Guilty Pleasures, I Mean Running Motivations

One of the hardest parts of running was going out solo.  I loved BRG for the camaraderie, chatter, and support.  Being a bit competitive, I also needed to know that I would keep up with the others.  Knowing that we were going to do our first fifteen-minute interval as a group made me make sure I was ready to do it in with the group.  When I am in weight training classes, I have to be able to use heavier weights.  (I know that no one else cares; this is totally a me issue.)

Running on my own each Saturday was a mental challenge.  When I first ventured out, I would run around the blocks near my house, creating an escape plan if I tired or wimped out and needed to head home.  Within a few weeks, I was making myself commit to a three-mile loop.  First starting out, it was hard to be alone with my thoughts:

     “What made you think you were a runner?”

    “Can you feel your belly jiggling when you run?  Why bother doing this?”

    “You’ve tried to be a runner in the past and failed.  What makes this time different?”

Once I got going, I was okay and managed to find a more positive thought process.

   “I’m going to do a full three miles, even if I need to go past the entrance and backtrack before I leave.”

     “I’m going to do three miles in 38 minutes.”

At some point during my run, I think something out of my mind: “I should train for a half marathon. You could totally do it!

There are two things that help me change my negative thoughts while running: cheesy music and Pokemon Go.  Yes, I did mean to write that.  I consider myself a bit of a music snob; Mike jokes that I only like bands that no one else knows.  I wouldn’t call myself an expert, but I can definitely hold my own in a conversation about most music genres.  When I am running lately, I usually listen to one of the following:

Cheesy 90’s pop music  (think Brittney, NSYNC, and the Backstreet Boys)

Obscene 90’s gangsta rap

They get me through my runs.  The heart wants what the heart runs.  Hamilton gets into the mix a lot, but I’ve been listening to it for so long now that I need new tunes.  Hamilton is still my go-to for motivation.  As I run down a busy street listening to my cheesy pop music, I pay even closer attention to others around me, fearful that I will be hit by car listening to “Backstreet’s Back,” revealing my secret to the outside world.


Pokemon Go?  Ugh, this one is embarrassing.  We take a lot of walks as a family.  When Outtie was with us, we took two twenty minute walks daily.  We go hiking and do a fair amount of Geo-caching.  When I finally gave in to the Pokemon Go craze, Mike and I instantly became competitive.  Playing while running provides a distraction.  I can hatch an egg and try to catch new Pokemon.  I am embarrassed admitting that the game gets me through runs, but it totally does.


BGR often reminds us, “If you run, you are a runner.”  I guess I can add, “Even if you do embarrassing things while running, you are a runner.”

My Hamilton Experience

After months of recommendations, I finally checked out the Hamilton soundtrack.  I remember the first time I listened to it during April vacation, waiting for our basement furniture to be delivered.  Even though it was background music as I completed a bunch of other tasks, I kept stopping to check the names of songs and listen to lyrics more closely.  Before long, I was listening to Hamilton while jogging on the treadmill, slowing my pace (even more than usual) to repeat verses or to look up the authenticity of facts.  (It turns out the Martha Washington did name a cat after him!)   I continued to listen to Hamilton during my “runs,” pushing myself to maintain pace for an entire song.

Fast forward a few months.  I decided to work as a facilitator for a week in California, teaching a new cohort a learning platform my school adopted the previous school year.  I was nervous for numerous reasons.  I was going to be away from my family and on the other side of the country by myself.  I was nervous about teaching other teachers.  (Impostor syndrome was alive and well that week.)  Each night, after teaching a group of teachers and administrators all day, I would head over to the walking path across the street from my hotel and try my best to run.  Hamilton was my soundtrack.  Each night, while setting goals to run to certain landmarks, I memorized the lyrics to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s play.  While I should’ve taken this time to explore San Francisco and neighboring Burlingame, I instead spent my evenings walking along the bay and watching airplanes.  (My favorite path here overlooks Narragansett Bay and is about a mile from the airport.  Yes, I flew 3,000 miles to do exactly what I do at home.)


Hamilton represented a time in which I truly stepped out of my comfort zone, both personally and professionally.  When I hear certain lyrics, I can remember exactly where I was on the running path when I understood them for the first time.  I remember singing the lyrics loudly, not caring who heard me because I was far away from everyone I knew.

The following spring, I joined the Beginner’s Running Group.  Again, I was out of my comfort zone.  By this time, the Hamilton Mixtape was released.  I listened to it throughout my training, taking solace during those first four-minute intervals that
“I only had to run through one song.”  Looking back, I can see my progress.  As someone who can run for three miles without stopping, I love remembering when four minutes intimidated me.  I listened to the Mixtape during the final 5k and met my goal time.

Again, Hamilton got me through a time in which I stepped out of my comfort zone.  It got me through two times in my life in which I was struggling to do something to better myself.  With my husband’s blessing, I jumped at the opportunity to purchase tickets. (It was a lot of money to spend without at least a heads up.) I had tickets to a matinee almost a year away.  We reserved train tickets to make it easier to get to the city without worrying about traffic and parking.

The day finally arrived!  We had to be at the train station before seven.  Because we had a few hours before the show, we visited the Empire State Building.  My husband had never been to the top.  It was fun to be touristy.  The view from the top was amazing!


Finally, it was time for the show.  We had to wait outside in the drizzling rain while I worried that something would go wrong.  Did I mention we had third-row seats?  The tickets gods were truly watching over me!  The show was better than I could have imagined.  Usually at a show, either a theatrical or concert show, I wish for the moment for the show to me a memory.  Hamilton was different; it flew by and I was so sad when it was over.


For the past week, my husband and I will stop conversations for random Hamilton observations:”Aaron Burr started off a little stiff, but I warmed up to him.”

“Aaron Burr started off a little stiff, but I warmed up to him.”

“I liked this George Washington better than the original.  He played it darker.”

“Did you notice that Lafayette lost his French accent a few times when he was rapping?  It must be so difficult to do both characters.”

“It’s funny that Hamilton had a beard here.  The play mentions that he couldn’t grow facial hair.”

“One of the ensemble players kept staring me down while dancing.  It took a few times before I realized I was his driste.”

These interruptions are completely acceptable in any conversation.

It was a long, but amazing day.  I still can’t believe I was able to watch this play that has been the soundtrack to me changing my life in many ways.  This past year reminds me that I can change things that need to be changed.  For anything major to change, I need to step outside of my comfort zone.  I need to take risks and challenge myself.