Thursday, April 26, 2018

Exciting News About My Parents!

From the time I was 9 months old until I was in college, my parents lived in the same house in the suburbs. They moved to another suburb in 1998, and in 2003 they moved to about 5 hours away. In 2006, my dad's job moved them to the far north, about 13 hours away, where they have lived since.

So it has been about 15 years since I lived in the same city as my parents. I don't know what it's like to have dinner with them on a random Sunday, or to have support of family nearby as our young sons grow. Well, that's about to change!

My dad is retiring and they are moving back to my city! It is a very exciting time for us. They will close on the house on May 11th, so only about 2 weeks away!

The college where my dad works threw a little retirement celebration for him earlier this week, and the news picked up the story. This wasn't the first time my dad was in the news. He also dad got attention when he wore head to toe pink to raise awareness of breast cancer.

You might notice in the video that my dad wears a button that says "Please excuse my intrusion". The story goes that when he worked at the Missouri Institute of Mental Health in the 90s, email was brand new. His boss at the time was quite aggravated with this new concept of email, and described it as an intrusion to his day. As a result, my dad begins nearly all of his emails in this way.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Running My First Ultra - Double Chubb 50k

"It's everything you ever want
It's everything you ever need
And it's here right in front of you
This is where you wanna be..."

Photo Credit: Mile 90 Photography

In December of 2017 I signed up for my very first 50k. Shortly before this, I was chatting with a running friend who I trust about my hesitation to run an ultra marathon. With complete candor he said "you haven't run a 50k yet? You need to just do it and get it over with."

This echoed in my mind from the time he said it until I finally decided to bite the bullet and sign up. My hesitation seems so interesting to me now that I completed the race. The race was tough, don't get me wrong, but as another trusted friend texted me the night before the race, I was "more than ready".

The week leading up to the race was an extremely stressful time for me. N is traveling every other week, and BBZ is having trouble at school determining what it means to stand up for himself physically and what it means to fight. This is a big topic for my deep feeling boy, and one that relies heavily on his dad's guidance. I'm doing my best, but N's absence is certainly felt.

While the week was challenging, it was also a great way for me to find strength in myself to be able to deal with things at home on my own. This was great strength to find before one of the biggest challenges of my athletic life.

N wanted to support me any way he could, and even considered bringing the boys to the race along with me and staying all day. I decided not to have the added distraction of trying to get them out the door with me or worrying about them being entertained the whole time. I took off from home on my own and was ridiculously nervous the whole way there. My hands were even trembling!

I was dealing with some serious self-doubt. I wondered if I could really do this. This was bigger than anything I've done, am I capable? Am I ready? Will my body respond to what I demand of it? Would my GI issues interfere? Every negative scenario crossed my mind. Until I stepped out of my car.

The minute I parked and my feet hit the ground, I realized something...I have logged miles and miles on these trails. This is where I belong. I know trail running, I love trail running, and trail running feels like my second home. The nerves passed and the strength I think I always knew I had overtook any self doubt.

It was a beautiful surprise to see my sister-in-law (SIL) and brother-in-law (BIL) at the start line! They came out to support me and stayed the whole day, even through the rain. They surprised me at the aid station at the tracks and even drove me home since my legs weren't working well and my hands were kind of frozen. Their support meant so much to me.

I chatted with them a bit and visited with some other running friends. Trail running is a small world, so I finally got to meet some ladies who I heard of through mutual friends but hadn't had a chance to run with yet. The RD gave us the go at 7:30am and we were off!

The race takes off up a steep road and an even steeper trail for the first mile or so. I knew I started off too fast but I wanted to get in front of the crowd as much as I could so we wouldn't get bogged down at the single track. I'm happy to move over to be passed, but I didn't want to have to go around people, which is always a bigger challenge for me.

I settled into a nice pace and really enjoyed the trail! My goal was to get to the 7.5 mile turnaround at 1.5 hours, so I settled into a good pace and stayed on track. When I got to the flats I still felt strong, but definitely slowed down because of the mud. It was tough slipping around, but the high of being exactly where I was hadn't worn off. I was enjoying every single mile.

I got to the turnaround at 1:20:00ish and decided I probably came out of the gate too fast and needed to back off a little if I wanted to finish strong. My only goal in this first ultra was to finish. I had a loose time goal of  3:00:00 for the first loop and 6:30:00ish finish because I needed to give N a time to be there with the boys, but finishing at all was my only goal, no matter how long it took.

Photo Credit: Mile 90 Photography

I finished the first loop at right around 3:00:00 and was welcomed at the start/finish aid station by N and the boys and my SIL and BIL. It was so incredible to see them! My BIL asked how I was doing and I said I kind of wished I was done, but I was ready to go out for the next loop. It was true, part of me wanted to be done, but a bigger part of me knew I was capable of more than one loop. I grabbed some food and off I went!

The night before the race I set a playlist of only about 6-7 "power songs" to play if I needed the big push. Some were from the movie The Greatest Showman. The whole movie is about trusting yourself and being aware of what we are all capable and worthy of in this world. I turned the playlist on and listened to it off and on throughout the whole second loop. 

At one point, all was so perfect on the trail I felt as though I was floating along the single track. I felt strong, and powerful, and as though everything was just as it should be. In this exact moment, these lyrics played in my ear:

"It's everything you ever want
It's everything you ever need
And it's here right in front of you
This is where you wanna be..."

I was almost brought to tears. This is it. I am here. This is what I'm here for. What I have spent countless hours training my body and mind for. All three of my boys are here with me, waiting to celebrate this with me. It was one of the most beautiful times in my athletic life.

There were moments that weren't so pretty, but even in those moments where I needed to walk when I would have rather been running, I wouldn't call them lows. I truly felt a huge sense of gratitude throughout the entire run for just being able to be there. A very dear friend of mine has a disability that causes him to live in nearly constant pain. The strength he has to muster to simply breathe in and out each day is difficult to comprehend. I spent this race channeling his strength, and relishing in the fact that I have the legs to carry me, and the strength to be able to do this race, and I refuse to take it for granted.

 Photo Credit: Mile 90 Photography

I loved talking with runners on the trail who either passed me from behind or runners who were ahead of me and heading back to the finish line. I loved sharing the love with fellow trail runners. I fed off of their energy and I hope they did the same with mine.

As I closed in to the end of the run, I was again overcome with incredible emotion. It hit me, that I was really going to finish this thing. It was really happening!!

I came around the bend of the road to hit the last awful climb they stick in at the end, and my whole little family was there. My boys were covered in mud and splashing in the creek near the road. N and my BIL and SIL were clapping and cheering and I could feel how proud they were.

I climbed that last awful hill and circled around the loop and saw the finish line. The last little hill was super slick and I had just run nearly 30 miles and I was not going to fall in the last .10 mile mark! As usual on the downhills, my arms went out like an airplane, which should totally be my trail name!

Photo Credit: Mile 90 Photography

I crossed the finish line with a huge smile on my face and pride in my heart. I did it.

 Photo Credit: Mile 90 Photography

Two little boys, always watching :) 
Photo Credit: Mile 90 Photography

This was the 20-year anniversary of the Double Chubb, put on by the St. Louis Ultra Runners Group (SLUGs). I ran the 25k distance in 2016 and knew this was typically a well run event, and this year was no different. The aid stations were well stocked, the volunteers were kind and generous, and the vibe was a positive representation of this incredible community of which I am now a full part. They even got a personalized beer made for the occasion from one of my favorite breweries, 4 Hands Brewery, called Single Track.

Friends reached out from all corners of my life to congratulate me on this finish. Well versed ultra runners reached out to see how I was recovering. I am one lucky lady to have the opportunity to be a part of this community. And tonight my boys took me out for a huge dinner to celebrate. And now, to plan for the next goal!

Official stats:
50k (31 miles)
1st loop: 3:01:30
2nd loop: 3:38:23
Pace 12:54/mile
33rd of 55
4th female of 13
Age Group 2nd of 8 (1-39 years)

Thursday, April 5, 2018

When I know better, I do better.

We've had raccoons in our attic before, but because their entry point didn't cause immediate issues, we were patient and managed to successfully encourage them out. This time was different.

The night before we left for Orlando, we heard and saw a raccoon causing some trouble on our roof. We chased her off, but the next morning I saw some roof shingles on our deck and investigated. I saw that she had dug a hole directly into our roof! We did our typical steps to try and get her out, but we had to be on a plane and did our best to cover the hole in a way that didn't trap her in, but would protect the soffit from too much rain damage.

When we returned from vacation, we figured out that not only had the mama not left, but she also had babies. We did a lot of the same things to try and get her to move her nest that worked last time, but we had to get our roof fixed, so we became impatient.

We called a company that helps in these situations, and trusted them to take care of it. They covered all of the possible entry points and set a trap at the main point and covered it with a tarp. Yesterday morning, I saw some shingles on the deck again, so I went out to investigate the hole. The tarp had blown off of the trap, and the mama raccoon was caught, and she was dead.

Suddenly it hit me. This was their plan all along. We had been so naive. We didn't ask enough questions, and now we had a litter of orphaned baby raccoons in our attic. Nate tried to contact the company, but they did not call him back. It became clear that the intention was to let the babies starve to death.

This was heartbreaking. I understand that a lot of people see raccoons as a nuisance and that's okay. Nate and I live near the woods and want to coexist with the animals who live around us. We had no intention of destroying this little family, but that's exactly what happened.

After some research we found that the Wildlife Rescue Center helps in situations like this. I called them and reluctantly told the story, and asked for their help. They connected me with a man who dropped everything to come out to the house and get these babies out of the attic, and into the hands of people who will care for them. My only wish is that I had thought to call him first.

My goal now is to tell everyone I know that there are humane ways to remove wildlife from our homes. It is just as easy, and there are people who dedicate thier lives to helping us live side by side with the animals we see as a nuisance. Lesson definitely learned.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Maya Angelou