Race Report: Minneapolis Marathon 2015

I started running in 2001 at the age of 24.  I ran my first marathon in October of 2006 at the age of 29.  No one in my family ran back then and some thought I was crazy.  Why would I want to fork over one hundred dollars to enter a race not to mention the countless hours of training? It took my older sister many years until she finally “got it.”  I never held it against anyone. I knew what I was gaining from running and it was enough to keep me tackling marathons.

So my sister and I had talked about doing the same marathon at some point in 2015.  We live on opposite sides of the country.  I loved the idea of doing “a destination” marathon and traveling somewhere.  I wanted to do a spring marathon because I have found it much easier to train all winter  and run in the spring versus training all summer for a fall marathon.  I don’t work in the summer so you would think I have more time.  However, our summer weekly routine is not consistent. It is hard to train when you are home for a week, go out of town, home another week, and then go someplace else.  Not to mention the heat!

We looked at a marathon calendar and narrowed it down to a few options.  We chose the Minneapolis Marathon because the timing was the best.  It was the only weekend in the spring I had nothing going on.  The course looked great running through parks and along the Mississippi River.  I wanted to do a run in a larger sized city versus a small community marathon.  I had no idea I was signing up for a marathon that had only 700 runners.  Then I remember the large marathon is Minneapolis is the Twin Cities marathon which is in the fall.  However, my sister and I found some advantages of running “a medium sized marathon” versus one with 10,000 runners.

I awoke at 2:00 AM on Saturday, May 30th. I slept without waking up from 10 PM to 2:00 AM and felt pretty rested.  I think when it comes to this whole marathon experience I am grateful for all the solid sleep.  When it comes to travel and racing, I never seem to sleep well.  I had to catch a shuttle bus at 3:15 AM.  My husband did not appreciate the shower going followed by my hair dryer–but hey I was not about to travel all day without doing my hair.  I made it to the shuttle bus on time.  Everyone on the bus was curled up on the seats and trying to sleep but I was wide awake.

4:30 AM seemed way too early to eat breakfast so I waited until around 5:15.  I get up this early to workout so it didn’t feel excessively early to me.  I did enjoy a breakfast burrito at one of the new restaurants in Portland International Airport.  I boarded my flight and had a three hour layover in Kansas City…which by the way is one of my least favorite airports.  It is claustrophobic, not enough food choices, and the bathrooms were not very clean.  I got to Minneapolis in the late afternoon and my parents picked me up.  We enjoyed a pasta dinner at Olive Garden with my sister and her husband.

My sister, her husband and I all shared a motel room.  It felt a little bit like a slumber party.  It reminded when we all went to Texas together on a mission trip when I was in high school and they were in college.  We went to bed pretty early.  Again I slept amazing right to the alarm when my brother-in-law said, “Ladies it’s time to get going.”

Marathon 1

Another great thing about this marathon is I felt like I got the nutrition right.  I ate everything I trained with.  I had a Honey Stinger organic vanilla waffle bar and a few homemade mini zucchini muffins while in the motel rooms and a half wattle bottle full of Ultima sports drink.  I ate a banana in the car.  I had a Hammer gel while at the starting line.  I felt like I ate enough and everything was sitting well.

We drove to the starting line from our motel and had a little bit of a scare.  As my brother-in-law drove on a major highway, a “wrong way driver” was coming at us.  She was on the wrong side of the median.  There was not very much traffic on the road so my brother-in-law easily pulled off to the shoulder while slamming on the horn.  We did not want to turn around in fears we were about to witness a head on collision.  I think I saw her get off the highway, but our hearts were pounding.  Our guess she was a drunk driver coming home from a party in the early morning hours.

Thankfully we got to the starting line in one piece.  We had to walk about a half mile to it.  After a stop at the port-a-potties and snapping a few pictures, I lined up with the 4 hour pacing group.

Marathon 2

This was my first marathon with my little ipod shuffle.  I also wear my iphone on my arm band. This was for the purpose of texting my brother-in-law and parents following the race if I could not find them. A small race advantage is finding your family right away.  I don’t listen to music through my iphone because we don’t get much date per month with our plan.  So I am the dorky runner that wears a iphone on my arm and a shuffle clipped to my shorts, but I am OK with that.   I have not run my previous marathons listening to music.  The jury is still out on whether I would run with music or without should I run another marathon.

On one hand I loved having music at the very beginning.  This is when my nerves are at their worst.  Having the music calmed my anxiety level and “pumped me up.”  I focused more on running and less on trying to keep up with the pacing group.  However, I really got tired of the music by around Mile #21 and looking back I could have turned it off.  By that point I did not care about anything but finishing strong.

Marathon 3

The run started through many scenic parks and we could not have asked for better weather.  It was in the 50’s and sunny.  My brother-in-law cheered for us at Mile #4 and then a few miles later. Again another small race advantage is he did not have to deal with a lot of traffic and weaving through crowds. This was very motivating.  I was able to stay between the 4 hour pacing group and the 3:45 group most of the first half.  As we get further into the city we ran through the University of Minnesota.  At around Mile #12 the half marathons turn off and go to the finish line.  Us full marathoners keep going and then turn around at Mile #17.  We were going down some massive hills and my only thought was “Oh no we are going to have to go up these on the way back.”  I trained on big hills (there is no way around them in Oregon) but I still hate them.

At the turn around around Mile #17 (or it could have been closer to #19) I felt like I was dragging.  My brother-in-law yelled to try to stay on the 4 hour group’s tail.  I really tried, but it was extremely hard.  I hated having them pass me, but I could not keep up with them.  Once I stopped to walk through an aid station, they were almost out of sight.  I was a little disappointed because I wanted to break four hours.   I knew if the 4:15 group caught up to me, I would not PR at all.

I tried to think positive thoughts.  It is a beautiful day.  I am running in a marathon–my fourth!  How many people can do that?  I worked hard in my training.  I gave it my best.  I am not walking but running mostly–how can I ask for more than that at this point?

The big hills that came at Mile #22 and #24 plain stunk.  They were terrible and I had to stop and walk up most of them as were many others.  My right knee often starts to give out around this point on marathons and my form falls apart.  It is almost harder to run downhill so I did not appreciate reaching the top and going back down.

Marathon 5

Once I saw the Mile #25 sign I put in my last surge of energy and I ran most of the way.  It was a blessing to see my dad at Mile #26 and I pushed as hard as I could to the finish line.  I was excited to see 4:04 as I crossed the finish line.  I did not break 4 hours, but I did PR.  The 4:15 group never caught up to me!

My sister had suffered an IT band injury while training.  I was not sure she would be able to finish let alone run the marathon.  So I had a twinge of anxiety as I saw the 4:15 group finish followed the 4:30.  Her husband said she was strong until Mile #20 maintaining a 4:15ish pace.  While watching her I was shivering. I had my cell phone out of its case so I could snap a photo of my sister as she crossed the finish line. I left my jacket in the car and they did not give out space blankets.  My dad lent me his sweater, but as I put it on I clumsily dropped my phone on the asphalt.  The phone still works but has a nice scratch going across it.  I tried to not let it ruin my mood.

My dad somehow found himself in a conversation with a homeless person. My brother-in-law and I stepped away in fear we would be too distracted and miss my sister coming in.  My sister crossed at 4:55 and she looked strong.  It was amazing to share this moment with her.  My first ever marathon with a family member and I could share it with my sweet sister.

Marathon 6

We left the marathon soon after.  Honestly walking to the car was almost worse than the last few miles of the marathon.  This might be TMI but if you are thinking of running a marathon, your bladder can do weird things post run.  I intentionally went to the bathroom right before getting in the car so we would not have to stop.  It was only about a 15 minute drive back to the motel so I assumed I would be OK.  A few minutes into the drive I had to GO…BAD!  There was nowhere to stop…we were downtown and there were no discreet bushes or trees.  My brother-in-law graciously dropped me off in front of a hotel where I went as fast as my sore legs could carry me to the lobby bathroom.  Then I waited on a street corner until he could come back from me.

The rest of the weekend was relaxing and a time of celebrating family togetherness.  We had a lunch at the motel and said good-bye to my brother-in-law who was flying home that afternoon.  My sister, parents, and I went out for a nice dinner.  The following morning we had breakfast together and I met an old friend who lives in the area for coffee.  My sister and I did not have a firm plan for the rest of the day.  We just wanted to explore Minneapolis.

Marathon 9

We started out an outdoor sculpture park my husband and I had gone to about fourteen years ago.  There was a mini golf course with actual art you golfed around.  I had never see anything like that and we had fun playing mini golf.  Who won you might ask?  We tied of course. Then we went to the Minnehaha Falls which my husband and I had also gone to in November of 2001 and it was COLD! I loved having more time to sit and view the falls.  No major hiking for us–we were SORE!  We had dinner at a Lebanese restaurant we found on the Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives website.  Then my sister wanted to go shopping.  I felt a little dead by that point but I did go to a few stores with her and bought presents for the kids.

Marathon 11

I wanted to be home in time for children’s school musical.  When I booked the trip the musical was scheduled for before I left.  Because of auditorium rental schedule changes, they had to move it to the last week of school.  Because my bus was running fifteen minutes behind I missed the oldest child’s piano solo, but my husband recorded it on his phone (LOVE technology!).  I saw the rest of the program.  By the time I got home I was exhausted and jumped right into a crazy week of wrapping up work, 8th grade graduation, Education meeting, end of the school year picnic, street hockey, strawberry picking, husband’s Open House, husband’s karate test, and more Open Houses.  Let’s just say I am glad our pace slowed down this week!!

I am blessed to have completed Marathon #4.  I have not made any firm decision on future races or triathlons this summer or fall.  Let’s just say I am already back to running, swimming, biking, weights, and street hockey–I just can’t seem to slow down.

 

 

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I Survived the Hagg Lake Triathlon

Triathlon is an amazing sport because you do not put continuous strain on the same muscles.  Swimming, biking, and running all work different parts of your body thus preventing overuse and even worse…injury.

The challenge for the newbie triathletes like myself is was what to focus on.  If I did not have much of a life, I would run, bike, swim, lift weights, and do yoga twice a week.  Being a mom of three and not wanting to wake up at 4:30 AM every single morning and feeling ready for bed at 8:30 PM when the sun hasn’t fully gone down, I can only focus on one or two areas.  I chose open water swimming.

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After nearly crashing head on into a dock last summer and literally swimming in circles, I knew I had to tackle this.  I had the wet suit (bought super cheap on ebay), the nice goggles (Mother’s Day gift), and access to a private lake.  After several practice swims this spring and summer, I knew I was ready.  A week before my triathlon, I swam in my friend’s lake and did not fasten my wet suit properly.  I felt something dragging and rubbing against my neck, but ignored it.

IMG_1153The next morning I woke up with a chafed neck.  My husband looked at it and had the nice response of:  “Woa it looks really really bad.” Thanks. And it hurt like a neck injury.  I could not fully turn my neck to the right without pain.  Thankfully chafing heals quickly and by Saturday morning (the morning of my race) it did not hurt anymore.

I drove to Hagg Lake and left my house at 5:15 AM.  I printed out directions from Map Quest, from the race website, hand wrote directions, and programmed the GPS.  Obsessive?  Probably.  I almost missed the start of the Portland Marathon in 2006 because we were overconfident we could find the starting line in downtown Portland having only lived in Oregon one month.  Never, ever again.  I can still feel the panic.

I signed up for the “tri-it tri” which is for the novice triathletes who are first timers.  We swim 1/4 mile while the sprint triathletes swim 1/2 mile.  However we bike the same 12 miles and run 3.1 miles. I found out quite a few of my tri-it competitors were not first timers–they were just scared to swim 1/2 mile.  I cannot say I blame them.

All we had to was swim to a green buoy, swim across to another green buoy and then swim back to shore.  They gave us the instructions like four times which I was very thankful for–I think I need them that many times before it sticks.

We were the final wave of swimmers.  When the gun went off it was a big crowd of people all swimming towards the buoy.  I kept bumping into people and finally found a spot where I could push forward.  At one point I looked back and there was hardly anyone behind me.  Oh well–my goal was to swim open water not get first place.  My anti-fog goggles fogged up the entire time but I could look up and see the green buoys.

I made it out of the water and headed up to transition.  I’ve learned the art of transition and had all my items laid out in the order I put them on.  This would be my first triathlon biking in clips–the last two I wore regular shoes and biked on the clips (which is probably more dangerous because there is very little pedal–but I felt safer).  Running with the bike in clips is challenging and hopping on the bike and clipping in is nerve wracking, but I made it.

The best place to eat and drink is on the bike. I learned that on a Triathlon 101 video.  I taped a packet of peanut butter gu to my frame.  I ripped it off immediately and some of the gu got all over my fingers which got on my handle bars thus creating a sticky mess.  And what I am supposed to with the empty packet?  The video never said.  I threw it to the side of road afraid I was going to get yelled at for littering.

Then I made Rookie Mistake #1.  I grab the bottle of Gatorade, drink it, reach to put it back in the water bottle holder…and miss.  It goes rolling down the road settling in the middle of the bike course.  There is a whole slew of bikes coming.  Do I leave it?  Do I stop and get it?  Because I am such a cheap skate and it’s my favorite water bottle, I stop and almost forget to clip out which would have sent me crashing on the bike course thus creating another barrier.  I grab the water bottle just as bikers are coming and I yell, “Sorry just getting my water bottle,” feeling like a total dork.  Later on the course I saw someone’s water bottle to the side of that road so I wasn’t the only dork.

That was the least of my worries.  My friend told me this course is really hilly.  No problem.  I bike on hills.  “No, like people actually walked their bikes up the hill.”  Oh come on–how bad can it be?  Wow!  The uphills were massive.  I actually cried (thankfully not too loud) on the last hill.  But it wasn’t just the uphill it was the downhill too.  I am terrified of going at full speed down those hills.  I see myself wiping out or crashing into someone.  I know I shouldn’t, but I still ride the brake.

It doesn’t help I did crash my bike on a hill in high school and messed up my face–and blacked out.  I don’t remember falling.  I remember seeing a kid in the road and the next thing I remember is being in the bathroom wiping up the blood streaming from my face.  It also doesn’t help an elite triathlete who has given me advice and swims at the same pool as me had a bad crash a couple weeks ago.  I was so grateful I made it and I didn’t have to stop.  I just kept climbing up the hills.  I was proud of my orange road bike that has nice low gears for climbing.

It was a relief to get back to transition and strap on my running shoes.  Running–I can do this!  Then I made Rookie Mistake #2.  I pinned my number to my biking shirt which I was wearing over my tri suit.  I didn’t want to wear my biking shirt in the run because it was getting very hot out.  So I had to unpin the number and re pin in to my tri top.  I had to choose  running in layers when the temp is getting to the 80’s or get the worst transition time.  I chose the latter and yes, I had the worst transition time of all the tri-it triathletes.  But at least I was comfortable on the run.

The running course was partially trail, partially road, and a few rolling hills–pretty normal.  My time was about 9 minutes more than what I normally get on a 5K.  I had to take a few walk breaks because that bike ride nearly wiped me out.

My final time:  1:49:45.  Of the 21 tri-it triathletes, I got 8th place.  Of the women I got 5th.  Of my age group I got first (ha ha–there were only two of us).   Not bad!

What’s next?  I have no idea.  Probably no triathlons anytime soon and that isn’t because I don’t want to do another one.  It’s more of a scheduling and cost reason.  But maybe another open water one in the future?  Lord willing, I’d love to do it again.  And have my training focus on bicycling.

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Second week of summer

Week #2 of summer.  The unfortunate thing about this week was my seasonal allergies got so bad that I had a pulsing sinus headache that knocked me out most of Tuesday.  The fortunate thing was the kids are old enough that I could sleep while they played on their own. Especially because I took a Sudafed PM on accident instead of AM…so that pretty knocked me out all afternoon. The kids can work the TV (and they know only 1 hour in the morning), make their own snacks, get their bikes out of the shed, etc.  The husband works next door to our house so he could check in on them every hour and was home for a full hour during lunch. The oldest knows how to use the phone. It was a little anxiety ridden for me at first–“They’re unattended!”  Yet they are 8,6, and 4 now…it’s not like the days of laying on the couch sick letting toddlers run around and hoping nothing gets destroyed.

But that was only one day…one day of an overall pretty good week.

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It is the week before VBS and I am directing again this year.  What seems to be a daunting stressful job for many has become doable…and even fun…for myself.  It took many years of trial and error to get to this point.  While I know I won’t direct forever (I already warned my church this is not a permanent thing!) it has been a great volunteer position for me this year.  Lots of people stepped up.  Because my oldest is doing odd jobs to earn money for her mission trip to Philadelphia this month, she helped me sort volunteer t-shirts, name tags, and helped my friend set up decorations.

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After being sick on Tuesday, I was itching to get out of the house.  The weather was beautiful!  My head still was not quite right in the morning.  By 3 PM I decided to bite the bullet and take the kids biking.  I knew they would go slow and we could take breaks as needed.  It was our first bike ride together on a trail.  My youngest’s bike is not in the greatest condition and the training wheels don’t stay in place so that created a few falls…and stops.  But overall everyone had a great time.

ImageIt is difficult for me to bike with all three of them because I have a racing road bike.  I bike in clips (though I am still a rookie and learning how to do this).  I am too nervous about biking slowly behind them especially when they stop suddenly…not sure I could clip out that fast.  So I wear my 90’s style roller blades…and I still get a good workout too.

ImageBecause I was feeling so much better, I decided to play street hockey Wednesday night.  Some guys from our church started a Wednesday night hockey night in our church parking lot.  I don’t like to play volleyball or basketball–but I won’t turn down a game of hockey…even I have not played since junior high intramurals…and we’re talking over 20 years ago!

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I took the kids to the Public Works Day at the local park.  It is when the Public Works department comes with all their big trucks and educate the children about what they do.  There is also some bike safety education, games, face painting, and free lunch.  My kids went last year and loved it…so we had to go again.

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We have been trying to teach the children about other cultures.  One of the best ways to do that is with food.  The husband made a Korean barbecue and then we had the kids read a website about the country.  We quizzed them about what they learned.

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I am not sure what country we will do next.  Ethiopia?  Indonesia?  Greece?  The kids want to do Mexico, but I would rather do one that is going to be more of a challenge…and different.

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We ended the week by going to Eugene for part of the day.  My friend Linda who was in the youth group I lead back in Michigan was playing in an ultimate frisbee tournament there.  I visited her over Spring Break in May in LA where she currently lives.  This time she got to see the husband again and meet the kids.  We were able to watch her game and go out for pizza…this is a picture from when were in LA together.  I was a dork and left the camera memory card pack home in the PC yet again.

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Now on to VBS week–where our week will be pretty much be VBS and not much more!

Triathlon Journey: Swimming in the Open Water

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Last May I did my first sprint triathlon and was hooked.  I wanted to do a mid summer triathlon that required swimming in the open water (my first tri took place in a pool).  I had grown up playing in lakes, rivers, and ponds so I had little fear of not seeing my feet on the bottom.  I had never swam laps in the open water.  I had only learned to swim about eight months before this and had only been swimming laps regularly for about three months.

So when my friends invited me to swim in their lake last June, I was excited.  Here was my chance to swim across it because I knew I had the endurance.  But it went terrible.  I could not stay in a straight line.  I veered so off to the left so I was completely off course from my friends who were swimming.  Coming back I felt so panicky my husband rode next to me in a kayak.  I kept wanting to grab the kayak.  He kept telling me my stroke was off.  How come I can swim in a pool but not in a lake?  I was on the verge of tears and threw my goal of an open water triathlon out the window that day.

When we were in Michigan last summer, I was thrilled we were staying on a lake.  Lots of open water practice right outside my window.  But I was incredibly nervous and anxious.  The times I did try I felt exhausted after two minutes.  How come I can swim for an hour in a pool but only two minutes in a lake.  My brother-in-law said, “Your stroke is off.”  Then my sister-in-law watched me, “Yeah you know your stroke is off?”  Again I was constantly veering off to the shore and almost hit a dock “head on.”

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So my husband said to put the goal off for a year and focus on swimming at the pool.  Why should I focus swimming in the pool when I am trying to learn to swim in a lake?  But I took his advice to heart.  I became a regular at the pool early Wednesday mornings.  I worked on my stroke (which used to be really off), my speed, my kick–everything.

I asked some triathletes this spring when it would be warm enough to get in the open water.  I asked some of them if they could give me lessons.  One of them said, “You can totally do it.  Just have confidence in your swimming.”  Um…I was confident last summer and then I had to hold on to a kayak and almost hit a dock.

 

DSC09185So last week I went to my friend’s lake and took my eight year old with me…mostly for moral support.  I jumped in the water (which surprisingly with a wet suit was quite comfortable). I started swimming and then I looked up–I was going pretty straight!  And I had the endurance–I felt like I could swim for a long time!  I yelled to my daughter, “I can do it!”

My goal on this triathlon journey is to do an open water tri in July.  The moral of this story is 1) sometimes you have to wait for things…at times it takes a little more hard work and postponing your goals  2) sometimes your husband gives the right advice and you should follow it

 

Spring Break Plus A Bonus Week

So we had Spring Break plus “a bonus Spring Break” because my sister and her family ventured out to Oregon the week after our break. Since I had to dig my flip flops and shorts out of the attic for my trip to California and I am not about to put everything back, I feel like summer is on its way.  Especially with the warm sunny weather we are soaking up.  Yet I know well enough about the rain that sometimes invades in May and the June gloom here in Oregon so I am leaving a couple long sleeves and hoodies in the closet.

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So back in March we told the kids we were going to Washington because my husband had an all day meeting at a church. This was all made up.  There was no meeting. We told them they had to spend a full day entertaining themselves in the church nursery.  I hate holding the truth from my kids so I told them we’d stay in a motel with a pool.  Our plan was to surprise them and take them to Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, Washington.  And yes, they were surprised.

ImageOne of the best things about Great Wolf Lodge with a 8,6, & 4 year old (we have gone when they were younger) is we could do almost everything including all ride on a tube slide together.  There was just one slide my younger two did not meet the height requirement on.  It was refreshing and fun to not have to spend the whole time in the little kid’s area. However, it was nice they still wanted to play there at times giving us a little break too.

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It was a great time for our family.  I am in this new phase of parenting where I am doing more with the kids versus for them.  It really makes events like this enjoyable.

ImageAfter Great Wolf, my family dropped me off at PDX where I flew to LA to visit my friend Linda.  Linda was in the youth group I lead back in Michigan, and somehow she got all grown up on me and is now a graduate student at USC.  I love seeing my youth group “kids” all grown up finding their place in the world.

My first full day in LA I drove in my rental car braving the crazy six lane highways I am not used to.  I headed to Santa Monica where I enjoyed the festivities on the pier and a run along the beach.

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And an amazing sunset!

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 Linda gave me an “inside” view of LA.  We ate at several ethnic restaurants, drove to the Hollywood sign, I went to her Ultimate Frisbee tournament, and we even got to visit the LA opera.

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I could not get enough of the warm, sunny, LA weather.  I am not sure I could live the pace of LA, but the weather and the beaches are pretty amazing.

After four days of being home and trying to revert back into some kind of routine, we were thrilled to have my sister, her husband, and kids come visit us in Oregon.  They live back in Michigan where we used to live so we don’t get to see one another often.

While they were here, my brother-in-law did the Beaver Freezer Triathlon on the campus of Oregon State.  It was my second sprint triathlon.  He has done more and even completed an Ironman Triathlon.  It was fun to do one with a family member.

Amy runningMy time was very similar (only a thirty second difference) from my first triathlon last spring in Stayton, Oregon.  But the swimming went so much better.  Last spring I felt nauseous swimming and could not get into a good swimming pattern.  I felt like I could have increased my speed on the bike, but I am still not totally comfortable “bike racing.”  This is something I hope to work on this summer.  The run for me was by far the best and my run time was only about 1 minute and half more than my normal 5K time.

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My brother-in-law is the guy in the back with the blue shirt and sunglasses.  I thought this picture was funny with the “happy runner” in the front.

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One of the greatest things about having my sister and her family here is seeing all the cousins playing together.  They are ages 12,10,8.6,4–there was a baby every two years.  My brother continued that pattern with an almost two year old and a baby due next month.

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The weather cooperated and we were able to spend most of Monday at Silver Falls State Park.  We have been there many times.  We appreciate it more going with people who have never gone before.

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My sister, her husband, my niece, my nephew, and my oldest two hiked to Double Falls which was about a four mile hike round trip.  My youngest and I made it just past the lower South Falls and took a breather while the rest went on.  We were able to hike back together.

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And then return home to a wonderful dinner cooked by my husband.

After my sister’s family left I cannot believe how tired everyone was.  It has taken us a few days to get our energy back.  My sister made the comment that there is something relaxing about getting back into your normal routine.  I have found that to be true.  The house is slowly getting put back together and everyone is returning back to work, school & regular activities.

Running In Eugene and Portland and back to Salem

I am still recovering from a fast paced (but fun!) weekend.  On Friday morning after I was complaining about rising early and how cluttery the house felt, I was thankful to see the beautiful sun.  Despite a full day I did get to sneak a run in the late afternoon.  Then in the evening I got to take all three kids with me to the gym for a time to swim.  My oldest swims on a non-competitive swim team and needs no assistance in the water.  She’s learning breaststroke, pre-butterfly, and flip turns–things I don’t know how to do but wish I did.  My middle son wants to ditch his water wings and is close to being “water safe.”  My youngest is a fish in the water like her sister.

Then on Saturday morning I had the honor of celebrating life at my friend’s baby shower.  During my busy week, I feared I would not get the shower games and prizes together in time or the food planned in time.  However it all came together beautifully.

Saturday afternoon my friend and I drove south to Eugene  to visit one of our other friends who moved there.  I have only been to Eugene one other time last spring for a conference.  I wanted to go there my birthday weekend and run on Pre’s trail in memory of the track star of the 1970’s Steve Prefontaine and see Pre’s rock where he tragically died in a car crash.  My friend had plans on my birthday.  I am so glad I waited because the 60’s sunny weather was perfect running unlike the rainy windy cold on my birthday.  IMG_0253

Any running geek needs to visit Eugene aka Tracktown USA.  Steve Prefontaine wanted a trail similar to the style and terrain  of European trails to run through Alton Baker Park near the university campus.

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And it was a perfect day for a run.  The park was very busy with runners, walkers, bikers, dog walkers, and people sitting by the ponds relaxing.

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Steve Prefontaine died on May 30, 1975 when he swerved into a rock on Skyline Boulevard and flipped trapping him underneath his car.  I could see how the accident could happen as the hill going up to Skyline was extremely steep, there is little shoulder, and few street lights.  Runners come to this rock and leave running shoes and medals.  Or they touch the wall and run back down the hills (which I saw a nearby runner do).

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My most favorite part of the day was spending time with quality time with friends.  It is nice to have little to no agenda or schedule and simply get caught up on life.

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I am grateful for the friends God has blessed my family with here in Oregon that sometimes have had to serve as “our surrogate family.”

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Our running weekend continued.  The alarm went off super early Sunday morning and I had to nudge my oldest out to bed.  We were headed north this time to Portland to run in the  Shamrock race.  Did you know St. Patty’s weekend has the most running races of any holiday?  I actually heard the same thing about Thanksgiving so I am not sure which is correct.

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I am so thankful we could hitch a ride with another friend and I did not have to deal with big city driving in Portland. My big city driving days like navigating through Chicago are over.  My friends were all doing the 15K while my oldest and I were doing the 5K.  Our race was about 1 1/2 hours after theirs.  My youngest was content to hang out in Starbucks and get breakfast.  There are Starbucks cafes pretty much everywhere in Portland.

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The weather thankfully cooperated.  It was not nearly as cold as last year, but with a slight misty rain off and on.  Our race started about 15 minutes late (which is a long 15 minutes when you’re waiting at the starting line).  All the races were delayed because of an Amtrak train.

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Since I’m so paranoid about missing races since I nearly missed the start to the Portland Marathon in 2006 due to getting lost (which is another story in itself), we did wait at the starting line a long time.  We could have stayed in Starbucks longer.  My oldest had a great attitude despite my needing to be at everything early.

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It was the third 5K I have run with my oldest and so far the best.  She ran really well and only took a few short walk breaks.  Her time was 40:11.  She sprinted at the very end.  It was the first 5K I have ever run where I had to wait a minute or so for a streetcar to pass, where I dropped my cell phone and camera simultaneously (which is why I took an old camera), and where I ran carrying two hats, a coat, and water bottle.  It was still was fantastic!

People ask me why I like to run so much (or declare how much they dislike running).  And I don’t have a good answer except that running is me.  It’s who I am and it’s what I do. It’s my work of art.  The fact I can share it with my kids brings even more meaning.  This is how Pre said it:

“Some people create with words or with music or with a brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run. I like to make people stop and say, ‘I’ve never seen anyone run like that before.’ It’s more than just a race, it’s a style. It’s doing something better than anyone else. It’s being creative.”

My trip to the Midwest by myself

I’ve been home from Indiana and Chicago three weeks.  And I have not posted about my trip yet…so here I go…

I flew into Chicago and the next day we drove to our old hometown of Lafayette, Indiana.02-IMG_9198

This was the first time ever that my parents and siblings were together without our spouses and our kids. It made me realize how much I miss my brother and sister (and thankfully and hopefully have plans to see them again in 2014–don’t have to wait another year!).  We all drove in one car to Lafayette.  The joke was that Mom would bring her candy bag (a small Zip Loc bag with Brach’s candies she always took on trips) and we would fight in the backseat.  We had lunch at Triple X restaurant which was featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-In, and Dives.  It’s on the outskirts of the Purdue University Campus.

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We had the honor of eating lunch with some of my parent’s friends–one couple who was our next door neighbors.  I remember them as forty something parents juggling their three kids, carpooling to sport activities, and volunteering at our school.  Now that’s my phase of life!  My parents friends are all grandparents and it’s a little weird.

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But some things change, others stay the same.  My dad is still goofy and the life of the party.

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We visited our old church, Lafayette Christian Reformed Church.  I am somewhat in a state of awe when I am in the church sanctuary where I grew up.  The first row on the right hand side of the balcony was our family pew.  Almost every seat was filled right to the very back of the balcony.  The church has changed greatly since the 1980’s, but I will have always have a special place in my heart for it.  Sunday School, VBS, racing under the pews after evening service, pot lucks–all part of my childhood.

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The church put “a wall of pastors” in the basement.  This is the younger 1980’s version of my dad who served from March 1982 until August of 1989.

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The church I grew up in was an amazing beautiful building constructed in 1929.  I always remember the huge stain glass windows.

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I attended Lafayette Christian School from kindergarten until sixth grade.  I lived next door to the school so the playground was my prime hangouts before and after school and during the hot sticky summer months.

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It was a tremendous blessing to see Mrs. Buchman.  She was my first grade teacher for the last quarter of the year and my sixth grade teacher.  She is still teaching!  Obviously you have teachers that are memorable and that touch your life a little more than others.  She was one of them.  I always felt safe and cared for in her classroom.  She threw a surprise going away party for me right before I moved to Michigan and I’ll never forget how much that meant to me.

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This was our house.  The current pastors (husband and wife couple) live here.  We felt a little intrusive going in their house while they were on vacation.  They have fixed it up nice.

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I felt a little guilty taking this photo because it’s not my house, but this is my former bedroom.  It didn’t look anything like this.  I had greenish yellow walls, yellow curtains, and yellow shag carpeting left over from the 1970’s.  The closet door, however, was the exact same.

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For some reason when I think of our old house, I always remember this banister.  I think I used to sit on the stairs and stick my head through the posts.

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Then back to Chicago.  My uncle came and visited us.  We have a picture of us three kids approximately ages 3,7, and 11 wearing Chicago Cub baseball caps sitting with our uncle.  My dad tried to reinvent the photo to 2014.  The only problem is he doesn’t own Cubs hats–since when did my family all become White Sox fans?

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Our real reason for all meeting together was to celebrate my grandma turning 89.  I have fond memories of visiting Grandma in Chicago as a child.  I remember her serving large scoops of chocolate ice cream, playing Ker Plunk in the basement, riding the “horsie swings” at the park and listening to the trains come through on the tracks behind her house. When I was in college she had a heart attack and I really thought the Lord was going to take her home.  It’s hard to believe that was sixteen years ago.  It was a blessing to celebrate her birthday with her!

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While I was in the Midwest, Oregon got hit with a major snow blast–the most snow we have seen in years.  The whole city pretty much shut down.  At one point you could not leave your house unless you had chains on your tires.  My kids had two snow days in a row, church was cancelled, and my husband could not even order a pizza.  Meanwhile I had left the van parked in a car pool lot and this is what it looked like when I got back into Oregon.  I don’t own a snow brush so I had to put a plastic bag over my hand.  I was grateful the day after I came home was another “snow day” (although now we don’t get Good Friday off and go an extra day in June) so I could get some cleaning and organizing done before the child care kids return.

What a blessed trip!  I’m grateful I got to be a part of it.  I even got to go running (on treadmills) with my dad and sister.