Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Recital 2010

Emma Rose and Sky before the recital. Do they look nervous? Naaaahhh.
 My younger three kids (ages 15, 12, and 9) have been taking piano lessons for four years now. My oldest, who is almost 23, started taking lessons when she was 6, and continued with lessons (adding to that voice and guitar in her middle school years) until she was 17. She now leads music and worship services with her husband (also a musician!) at churches in San Antonio.

Anyway, the kids had their annual Christmas recital today, and did great. We have been so lucky to find such wonderful music teachers wherever we have lived as a military family. Our kids have learned so much. My son missed out today because he was on a youth group retreat.

Oooh, sitting in their places. It's getting close!

Emma played "Carol of the Bells" and did an awesome job.

Then, the girls played "The Holly and the Ivy," a trio with their piano teacher. Originally they were supposed to play with their brother, but since he was playing hooky on a youth retreat, Mr. O'Dell took his place...

Sky played three pieces: a jazzed up version of "Go Tell it On the Mountain," then "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," and finally, "Cascades" written and arranged by Scott Joplin. She was FANTASTIC!!!
A group photo

One of the "projects" my son was busy with while his sisters were performing at the glad to know he was working so hard!

Jingle Bell Run Recap!

Well, the Jingle Bell 5K 2010 is history now, and the girls both did great! I was Sky's running partner, and Hubs was Emma's. Sky ran the entire way with an official time of 33:12 (and no side stitches!!), and Emma ran the first 2 miles without walking, walked for about 60  seconds, and then ran the rest. Her official time was 37:01.

Peanut butter on toast makes a good pre-run breakfast!

They look sleepy but it really wasn't that early. We left the house at 8:00.
Luke was watching everything and knew we were getting ready to leave him. There were some dogs at the race, but Luke would have stopped running after a mile. Lazy boy!
The girls got a chance to practice a little piano before leaving for the race. Their Christmas recital was today (Sunday). Pictures to follow soon!
They look pretty cold, don't they?
Warming up in McFaddens

Costume contest. I have no idea who won because it was too noisy!
Enjoying some free hot chocolate before running.

Waiting to start. Funny, Santa was there to announce the start, but no one at the front of the line could hear him. It was announced several times. We in the middle were yelling, "GO GO GO!!!" and finally the people at the front heard and crossed the starting line. I've never seen that at a race before. Not that I have much experience! I've never attended a small race before.

Almost ready to start!

The Running Sky!

Pittsburgh, the city of bridges!
Post-race drinks and snacks at McFaddens!  Classic "we did it!" faces.
I am so proud of the girls!! They trained and worked hard to run their longest race ever, so far. Sky said she is ready to train for a half-marathon. I told her, let's take it easy and go for a few more 5K's, maybe a 10K first. Emma was a little disappointed that she had to stop running to walk for a while, but I think she's okay with it now.  How many 9-year-olds can run nonstop for over 30 minutes anyway?

Friday, December 10, 2010

All ready...

...for the Jingle Bell 5K! The girls are sooo
excited about running their first 5K!

Aren't Emma's little size 2's extra-adorable with the time chip? And, is it just me, or do the shoes seem to be mocking us as we gasp for breath during a race?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Snow run

Just got back from a run with Sky, and although it didn't snow today (yet) it was a slightly cool day for a run:

No sun made it feel even cooler. But it was all good. She is totally psyched for the Jingle Bell 5K Saturday. Now, if I can only remember to buy some jingle bells for our shoes before then!

Ready to roll!

Like mother, like daughter?

Probably not the best running form when you want to prevent side stitches. Good thing it was just a dorky pose!

Now like good little Catholics, we need to go take showers so we can smell sweet for the Immaculate Conception Mass tonight.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Good-bye, side stitches!

Sky ran 3 miles with me today!

Next Saturday we are running Jingle Bell 5K together, and she is all ready for it. I posted a couple weeks ago about how she gets cramps, or side stitches, nearly EVERY time she runs lately. It has become very frustrating for her because she loves to run, but the side stitches have been slowing her down (or forcing her to stop at times). She always avoids eating or drinking too close to a run (only very small, controlled sips of water), and that hasn't seemed to help. Today, after only two minutes into our run, she started experiencing the very familiar and annoying side stitch. In the past, all I have known to tell her is to press the area of her cramp with her fingers (I had read that somewhere), and 90% of the time that has not helped. However, today was different, and she was able to get rid of the cramps and stave them off for the rest of the run. SUCCESS!!

Lately, thanks to Brian, I have been trying to get her to focus on her breathing. He recommended teaching her to consciously acquire a breathing pattern of 2-2 or 3-3. I realized I do that naturally - most of the time, it's a 3-3 for me; if I'm running faster or harder it's 2-2.  It has been hard for her to put that knowledge to use, but today she finally got it, and started running with a 3-3 breathing pattern.

At the same time, I got her to concentrate on her running form. I read somewhere recently (I can't remember where so I can't cite the source) that a poor running form can also cause side stitches. When running, the arms should be at the sides and parallel to the ground. I noticed Sky does a lot of crossing her arms in front as she runs. I instructed her to try to keep her arms at her sides and point her thumbs upward - a method I read that helps to keep the arms at the sides. I couldn't believe how quickly and easily she adapted to that form!

After a few minutes, she said the stitches were going away. After 2 miles, she said the stitches were gone, and was going another mile. When we got to the end of our third mile, we stopped running and walked the rest of the way home. She was smiling, beaming, sweaty (despite the 20 degree temp), and very proud of herself.

Well, almost the rest of the way. There is a very steep hill about 1/10 of a mile long to our house. At the bottom of it, she very casually said, "Hey Mom, guess what?"

"What?" I answered.

"I'm going to beat you up the hill." And suddenly high-tailed it.

And yes, she beat me. (Although I have to say she had a head start.)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Running cold, and on empty

Bear with me. I took some pics Saturday morning, but was not able to upload them until tonight. But it is very important to note that Saturday was the FIRST REAL COLD RUN of the season for me....

I needed my Yaktrax! There were patches of ice and snow along the side of the roads, first time since March! I know what you're thinking: DORK!

Needed my ear muffs!

Oh, I am so excited to discover EAR MUFFS. These ear muffs are designed for exercising - they connect in the back of the head and don't slip! Last winter I wore a Nike headband thingie that covered my ears, and while I needed my ears covered, my head would get so hot and sweaty. (Hats are a big no-no for me - even though I was so excited when I discovered one that had a ponytail hole. But I get way too hot when I run, even when the temps are in the single digits! Luckily I have never had to run in sub-zero temps, but if I do I may need to put my hat to work blah blah blah blah, oh, caught'ya, you weren't listening were you?? Tsk, tsk, and blah, blah, blah...)

Doesn't it just LOOK cold? Well, it really was.

I didn't eat anything before heading out, and I really should have. I was sooooo sluggish. It took me 11 minutes to finish my first mile. I gained some momentum during the second mile, but remained uncharacteristically sluggish the rest of the run. Even a little bite of banana would have done me some good. By the time I got home, I was in desperate need of some good carbs and protein. (And a shower, my family informed me of - which I took care of eventually, I promise.)

I made myself a green smoothie....

On the bottom are chunks of banana, orange, pineapple, and apple, some raw almonds, ground flaxseed, and some ice cubes.  On top - a few handfuls of organic kale and baby spinach. I poured on about a cup of water, pushed the smoothie button, and....

Yay, a yummy green smoothie!!  If you have never tried a green smoothie, you must. I swear, the taste of the fruit overpowers the very mild taste of the greens. It looks green, but doesn't taste it.

I had also had an egg, and got protein, veggies, and fruit in one quick, healthy meal. Light, refreshing, and satisfying - perfect after a morning run! I like salads, but honestly, I like green smoothies even more. It's like a yummy, liquid salad that tastes like fruit!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Jingle Bell 5K

So Hubs, the girls, and I are all registered for the upcoming Jingle Bell 5K. This will be the first 5K race for all of us! I have run 10Ks and a half-marathon, the girls have run the 1-mile Kids' Pittsburgh Race,  but none of us have ever run a 5K! It sounds like fun. This particular race raises money for arthritis research, and everyone attaches jingle bells to their shoelaces for the race.

Sky (12) and Em (9) are accustomed to running a mile or a little more here and there with me, but neither have run the distance of a full 3 miles yet. They have both been faithfully running three times a week now in preparation for the race, and working on their distance. When Em runs, she goes all out (and the little booger is FAST) but poops out after about 3/4 of a mile. It's hard for me to teach her to save her energy to last longer. She does make it past a mile, but not without crying and wailing. (Which cracks me up, because she will NOT QUIT, even though she is very vocal and dramatic about how miserable she is. I worry that people who see us as we pass by are going to think I'm acting like a drill sergeant, but I always tell her she can stop. She never wants to!)

Sky gets the concept of saving her energy to last. Today, she ran 2.23 miles and felt great. She had planned on going 3 miles, but she got a severe cramp and needed to walk. She encounters cramping nearly every time she runs.

I can't figure it out. I don't have this problem, so it is hard for me to relate. I have looked "cramping when running" online, and still can't find anything suspicious. She doesn't gulp down huge amounts of water before running (although she will sip a little to hydrate). She doesn't eat within a half-hour of running. She starts out slowly (either a slow jog or walk) - so she has warmed up before running. Sky is the opposite of Em - she rarely complains - so when she tells me she has a "really bad cramp" I know she has a really bad cramp. Hopefully we can figure this out soon, so she can increase her mileage without too much pain!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Air Force Marathon 10K...It's Over Already?

Dawn & me after receiving our WELL-DESERVED medals 
for the 10K!!!

Yesterday afternoon, I arrived home from a MUCH too-short weekend away in Dayton, Ohio for the 10K at the Air Force Marathon. Today, it was time to put on my homeschooling mommy hat again, and get back into our regular routine. But after looking forward to this weekend for so long, I have to say it went by much too quickly!

Starting with a 4.5-hour drive from Pittsburgh to Dayton, I met one of my best girl friends, Dawn, at the hotel  for a girls' weekend get-away. After getting our room, we headed out the the Nutter Center to pick up our race packets for the 10K - and to do a little shopping at the Expo. I ended up getting a new long-sleeved tech shirt that says, "Running is cheaper than therapy," and a sticker for my car window that says "Runner Girl." There were a lot of vendors with some pretty enticing things for the running-obsessed. I had a hard time not going crazy buying everything I saw! One shirt I really liked, but ended up not buying, said, "Running is a mental sport, and we are all insane." If I had found one in pink, I may have given in. ;) After doing a little shopping, we had a light dinner and went back to the hotel to pin our numbers onto our shirts, set out our running outfits, and get to bed early.

The morning of the race was ridiculously frantic. It started calmly enough, as Dawn and I had no problem waking at 5:15 AM to get ready. Last year was my first 10K, as well as my first race ever, and I was extremely nervous. This year, I didn't feel nervous at all. Excited, yes - but not nervous!  We were very happy to find that this year, the hotels in the area had arranged for a shuttle that would pick us runners up and drop us off at the race, so we didn't have to worry about driving and parking. Yay!! Well, it sounded great, until a group of us runners found ourselves still sitting in the bus at 6:45, stuck in what seemed to be an unending line of traffic - with a start time of 7:15! Aaaccckkk!!!  At that point, we all decided to bid a friendly farewell to the driver and in unison, piled off the bus to walk/run to the starting line. It was at least a mile to go from  where we got off - probably longer. We bus refugees booked it as fast as we could, but not without making a necessary stop at the port-a-potties! You should not, do not, cannot, start a race with a full (or even half-full) bladder! As Dawn and I stood waiting in the potty line, we could hear the announcer over the mic pep-talking the runners to get ready; we watched the awesome jet fly-over, and listened to someone belt out The Star Spangled Banner. Talk about nerve-wracking! And a thankfulness for modern technology - at least what really counted was chip time and not clock time! Dawn and I each were actually inside port-a-potties when we heard the gun go off. We jogged to the starting line, zipped across start, and spent our first mile zig-zagging around all the walkers.

After such a crazy start, the run was very, very pleasant. The weather could not have been better. It was slightly chilly - too chilly to be comfortable standing around in a tank top and shorts, but perfect for running 6.2 miles in that tank top and shorts. There was no humidity, and the sun was shy. Dawn and I eventually got separated, but we both did well and set new personal records. I do wish I could have run faster than I did, but since I took so much time off after the half-marathon because of my shin pain, that was no surprise. I still beat last year's time by 20 seconds! :D

The rest of the weekend was spent doing fun girl things without husbands, kids, or deadlines - shopping, eating out, talking, beer and margaritas, a little more shopping, oh and did I mention talking?? Dawn and I have been meeting annually for a weekend away since 2005. When we started, neither of us was into running or exercise, and as moms of preschool-aged children at the time, we totally thrived on this time away of girl talk and indulgence. After a couple of years, we both began to run for exercise and wondered if we could ever get together for a "healthy weekend" away. Last year's race was the first time we actually met to run, and it was the very first race for both of us - she ran the 5K, and I ran the 10K.

I think we now may be hooked! Not that we've got the whole "healthy weekend away" conquered - but it's better than before! We're getting there, I think! Baby steps. Just the fact that we actually see a morning of running a few miles together as "fun" is a big thing. And already, we are making plans to meet next year for either another 10K...or perhaps (if I can twist her arm enough)....a half-marathon!  Yeah!

Just one last thought I will leave you with: EVERYmom needs a girls' weekend away!!!!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hooked on Green Smoothies!

This is my peach-mango green smoothie I had for breakfast this morning.

I have recently discovered the nutritious and delicious Green Smoothie, and I'm hooked! I've been hearing about green smoothies for years, but never got around to trying one myself. I enjoy eating salads and fresh vegetables, so I didn't think I needed to find a way to "sneak" in my vegetables. However, over the past few months I have been paying close attention to my daily intake, and I find that I'm not always eating enough vegetables every day like I thought - especially not the green leafy ones.

I would also like to lose a little weight before the 10K, which is coming up very soon. I have gained a few pounds since the half marathon because I had to quit running for a while when I injured my shin, and boy did that catch up with me quickly! (You can run easier and faster when you're lighter!) My vacation to Virginia Beach and Texas didn't help much (especially Texas, where I was tempted by Tex Mex food on a daily basis!).

After my 12-year-old daughter was born, I lost a lot of baby weight quickly by going on a SlimFast diet. I thought about doing that again, but it no longer appeals to me because SlimFasts are highly processed and full of sugar. Fresh, natural ingredients with no refined sugar is what my body needs. So, I decided to put myself on a Green Smoothie diet in the same manner of a SlimFast diet - I am having a green smoothie for breakfast and one for lunch, and then a "sensible dinner."  I did a little internet research on making green smoothies (since I really had no clue how to get started), went shopping for ingredients, and am pleasantly surprised at how GOOD they are! And very easy! Actually, it's much easier than putting together a salad. (And smoothies need no oils or dressings!) The greens have a very mild flavor, so what you taste is the fruit. Pretty much anything goes - you can use whatever fruit combination you like! My favorite is peach and mango - two of my favorite fruits. I've really enjoyed starting off the morning with a run and then chugging a nice, cold green smoothie when I get home. They are light and refreshing and satisfying.

Here is what I put in my green smoothie this morning:

5 cups of loosely packed spinach and kale, combined
1/2 orange
1/2 mango
1/2 peach
1/4 ripe banana
2 Tbsp. flaxseed
2 Tbsp. raw almonds
1 cup filtered water
1 cup ice cubes

Organic ingredients were used - and I cut up the fruit before adding it to blender. Fruit and nuts on bottom, spinach and kale on top. Blended on "smoothie" setting for about 1 minute, until everything was smooth.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Defensive Running

A couple days ago, a young mother in our area was pushing her 1-year-old and 2-year-old babies in a double jogging stroller, and was hit by a car and killed. Witnesses say she saved her babies' lives by quickly shoving the stroller out of harm's way just before being struck. She had been training for a half-marathon. The idiot who killed her was driving under the influence - and had run a stop sign. I can't imagine these precious little babies who will now have to grow up without a mama. It just breaks my heart.

This is not the first time I have read about a runner being seriously injured or killed while out doing one of the things s/he loves the most. I realize that some of these accidents were completely unavoidable on the part of the runner. However, it has made me extremely cautious when I am on the road, and I have learned just a few things that hopefully, will increase my safety.

For one thing, I refuse to run on a busy road that does not have a good shoulder. Some roads in my neighborhood have no shoulder at all, but the traffic is sparse, so I do run on these roads with great precaution. I have to assume that every driver coming my way does not see me. When out running, you really have to "run defensively" - I have taken a defensive driving course and was taught that you basically expect every other driver on the road to do the wrong thing. Well, when you're running, it's best to do the same thing. Never assume the driver will see you, or that he will politely give you room, or will stop at the stop sign as you cross the intersection. He may be fiddling with his cell phone, or changing the radio station  at that very moment. It may be that he is not tuned into pedestrians, but is focused on looking for other vehicles. One time my husband and I were running together, and my husband was ahead of me. I saw a car approaching the road we were on to the left, and it had a stop sign. The car stopped and needed to turn right (toward us). I called for my husband to stop, that the driver was not going to notice him. It was true - since the driver was turning right, all she did was look to her left for cars. It never occurred to her to look right. My husband was surprised - he said, "I can't believe she didn't see me! You were right!" If he hadn't stopped, she would have hit him.

Another thing I won't do is run on a windy road. Our neighborhood is full of them. I admit, there is one road that forks off from my home street that has a blind curve, and I run it periodically. I just know I have to be extremely careful if I decide to take it. This means, for that particular curve I have to run on the wrong side of the road for a few feet. I always run against traffic. However, in this situation, there is no way a car would see me coming around the bend if I were running on the left side - and there is nowhere for me to go since there is no shoulder, and clusters of tall trees immediately off the road.

There is a very busy road close to our house that I love to run. However, it has a nice shoulder and I only run an area of this road that is straight. As I already said, I always run against traffic, and I keep as far left as I possibly can. I watch each and every car that approaches. I never wear an iPod because I don't want anything distracting me. I have also learned to make eye contact with the driver as each car approaches.  It's amazing how much this helps. If a driver doesn't make eye contact with me, then I know he doesn't see me and may be distracted. I get way over when that happens - even if I have to run in the dirt or grass.

Another thing I do is slow down and look at every cross street before I pass. If a car is approaching closely, I will stop and wait, and again - make eye contact. Most of the time, the driver will see me and motion for me to go on. But I'm not taking a chance, assuming the driver sees me! I try to be courteous and give a wave to every driver who is friendly to me on the road - whether they are moving a bit over to give me more space as they pass, or motioning for me to cross in front of them. I am hoping this will encourage them to be kind and courteous to other runners they encounter on the road.

Of course, it's probably obvious, but if you're going to be out at dawn or dusk, it is crucial to wear bright, reflective clothing or gear. I have never run when it's pitch black except when I was at my Dad's house, and there were sidewalks available - plus hardly any traffic. I know some runners use head lamps as well as blinking lights on their shoes to run at night - which is definitely a good idea. I, however, am too chicken to chance it.

From the other point of view, since becoming a runner, I have become much more aware of fellows runners on the road while driving. I can't believe how many times I have seen a runner on the wrong side of the road, or running on a narrow, winding road unnoticed until the last minute. Some runners assume I see them crossing in front of me at an intersection or stop sign. I always think, "You're just lucky I noticed you!" Fellow runners, we must be very careful on the road and always "run defensively"! Your life is worth it!