Call Me Ishmael

I have exciting news! I finally broke 30:00 in a 5K!

I’ll write a race recap soon (heh… maybe! Since it took me almost a year to write my last one…) but I wanted to get it in writing here on the ol’ blog while the excitement is fresh, since I’ve written so much before about my Moby Dick PR and my goal of finishing in under 30 minutes, which has been a goal since 2014!

It was starting to feel like getting under 30 might just be out of my grasp. I beat the Moby Dick PR when conditions were ~perfect~ : flat-as-a-pancake course, exquisite running weather, and I was in prime pre-Bairn shape. I also remember wanting to die at the end of that race, and couldn’t fathom recreating that scenario with my post-Bairn self.

But I did! Yesterday!

It was a beautiful day for a race – temps in the mid- to upper-50s and partly sunny for the mid-morning start. I wasn’t expecting to PR at all, knowing a) that it was my first race in almost a year, b) I’ve been doing only a bit of training, and c) I knew the course had hills, which tend to slow me down quite a bit.

Apparently my bit of training helped… weekly Expresso Bike rides of a handful of miles followed by 1-1.5 miles on the treadmill at a ~10:00 pace, plus almost weekly runs with the Shammies.

Starting a bit further up the mob of runners might have helped too. There were a bunch of walkers and many of them placed themselves pretty far up, so I put myself significantly further up than I normally would, because I knew the course was narrow and I didn’t want to get stuck behind people. That meant I found myself cruising at about 9:10 for the first bit of the race, and the weird part was, it felt like I was running slow! I mean, I knew that pace wouldn’t feel slow for long, and keeping that pace for the whole course would not be sustainable, but I was chuffed that such a pace felt easy(ish) at all!

I took 2 or 3 walk breaks – one at the water stop and one or two along the course when I felt myself flagging enough that mental pep talks were doing nothing. But for the rest of the race, those mental pep talks carried me along, and I mostly felt strong and capable.

Man, imagine how I’d feel if I actually trained properly?! I should really give that a try sometime.

Anyway, like my last 5k PR, I didn’t feel the best in the last stretch, but I didn’t feel quite as miserable and pukey. I also remember the last time I had no energy to sprint to the end, whereas this time I was able to kick it in, and then kick even harder when I saw 29:– on the clock. I really wanted to break 30:00!

Reaching for a Bairn high-five in the final stretch

My official time ended up being 29:38, almost a minute faster than my previous PR of 30:26.

I was so pumped, but also so wiped and had to sit propped up against a Walgreens for a few minutes before I could walk again. I also told Drew “well, I just ruined race season by doing too well in the first one! It can only go down from here.”

Or can it? Only time and my questionable motivation will tell!

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In Pointless* Pursuit of the Pace Bunny

Every year, my running club launches a 1000-mile club challenge. Any runner who runs 1000 miles in the calendar year gets a special prize (last year was fancy running hats with the running club logo on it) and plenty of street cred.

Anyone participating in the challenge signs up to track their mileage online, and each run entered pushes their little avatar closer to the virtual finish line. There’s also a little avatar for the Pace Bunny, who sets the suggested pace of ~2.75 miles per day. Friends have joked in the past about how wild rabbits would show up in their yards to taunt them as they struggled to chase the Pace Bunny.

Since becoming a Shammie, I’ve toyed with the idea of signing up to chase the Bunny myself, but have always decided not to since I know I’ll fall well short of the 1000-mile goal.

Until this year.

Yep, that’s my wee avatar at the very bottom (although, as of this morning, someone leapfrogged me and I’m now at the top of page 3). Even though I know 1000 miles is still a bit of out of my wheelhouse, I decided to take the plunge this year.

Pursuing the Pace Bunny feels a little pointless if I think of it as trying to meet the big goal. But I’m opting to see it as a fun(ish) way to track my running progress and see how far I can get in a year.

Previous attempts at tracking my yearly mileage haven’t gone so well, as there have been times I’ve forgotten my Garmin, or my Garmin will die in the middle of a run, or my runs are tracked partly at MapMyRun and partly at GarminConnect and partly on some scraps of paper I swear I left around here somewhere. Drinking the Pace Bunny kool-aid gives me one single place to track my mileage… just as long as I can ignore all my fellow Shammies as they surpass the Bunny and make me look pathetic. This kind of comparison is also what’s kept me from joining in in the past – not wanting to see myself publicly being the weakest link in the club – but I’m past the point of worrying how I look now, at least to others. I’m logging my miles, in whatever tiny amounts I can get them in, and as long as I can keep my focus on my own avatar, then pursuing the Pace Bunny won’t be so pointless after all.

How do you track your yearly mileage, if that’s something you do?

Toddler Tuesdays

Guess what? I have a workout routine that I’ve been sticking with for three (count ’em, 3!) whole weeks now! I say this with some grains of salt, because anyone who’s read this blog knows these sorts of things don’t stick with me. But. I was reflecting on it while running today and it felt worthy of a blog post, so here I am.

Quick background: as I’ve mentioned at some point on this space before, I work part-time and am home part-time with the Bairn. I’ve managed this set-up since returning from maternity leave, and it’s been a pretty great compromise. I know I don’t want to work full-time, at least now while the Bairn is wee (props to full-time working moms out there!), but I also don’t know if I have it in me to be a full-time stay-at-home mom either (equal props to SAHMs!) All moms rock (dads too), and I’m a firm believer that we all need to do what works best for us and our families. Right now, my part-time situation is doing the trick, though it’s not without its challenges. But that’s not for now.

What is for now? Tuesdays. Reader, since the Bairn became a toddler, I’ve struggled with Tuesdays. Tuesday is the cusp day, the last day we’re home together before he goes back to daycare. Tuesday is the day my well of patience seems to run dry, and the day the Bairn tends to get a little stir-crazy. Not the best combination.

Tuesdays aren’t all bad. My Bairn has a talent for making me laugh, which helps!

Scheduling Tuesday playdates helps sometimes. Going to Tuesday storytimes helps sometimes. But not always, and neither of those helps my lack of patience and/or quiets the nasty voice in my head that calls me an awful mom for having a lack of patience. When the weather was nice pre-winter, long stroller walks would help sometimes. When I’m having a tough day when Drew’s around, sometimes I’ll escape for a run and that will help too. But I’m embarrassed to say it took multiple people suggesting that I try to work exercise into my Tuesdays before I finally realized it might help the Toddler Tuesday blues.

I mentioned in my 2018 recap that I had met my goal of bringing the Bairn to the gym with me… albeit it was a measly twice all year. Well, I had enough success those two times that I figured I’d make the gym my Toddler Tuesday destination.

For the past 3 weeks, the Bairn has hung out in the childcare center at the gym, up to his giddy eyeballs in toy trucks while I’ve hit the Expresso bikes and treadmills. Since I haven’t been great with the whole working out thing, I’ve started slow – first 1 mile on the bike and 1 mile on the treadmill, and today was 2.5 miles on the bike and 1.5 on the ‘mill.

Expresso Bike selfie from a few sessions ago

And you know what? It’s been feeling pretty good! It gets me off my butt, gets me out of the house, gives me a big ol’ endorphin kick, and makes me feel like I’m making a bit of progress in both my goal of establishing a mileage base and in my training for upcoming races (more on these later). It also gives me about an hour of Bairn-free time to clear my head. All of that together has been making our Tuesdays less tantrumy, for both of us! I just can’t believe it took me this long to figure out a solution.

I’m hoping that, when it starts to warm up a bit more and the sidewalks are more clear, I can add some stroller runs to our Toddler Tuesday workout fandangos. I also am hoping that I can be inspired by this workout success and maybe, you know, make it more than one day a week that I move my body around a bit. But it’s a start!

Now, what did I say about races? Ah yes. So in addition to running and exercising for my mental health / toddler help, I also find myself signed up for a few races that I want to be in relative shape for. A few coworkers and I will be running a 5K together in May, and one of those coworkers also roped me into signing up for a half with her in September. Plus, on a whim, I threw my name into the lottery for one of my bucket list races and actually got in. So there’s that. More on that another time!

Fingers crossed I can keep this routine going for a while…

What helps you stick to a workout routine?

Samantha’s Harvest 5K, 10 June 2018

What: 5K

Where: Reading, Massachusetts (course map)

Who: Me and the Bairn (his first race outside of the womb!) and a ton of Shammies

Benefited: Samantha’s Harvest

Time: 38:09

Splits:
-Mile 1: 11:08
-Mile 2: 12:44
-Mile 3: 13:18
-Mile 3.1: 1:15

Background:

I’d been wanting to run this race for a few years. It’s one that always has a big Shammie representation, it’s in a town I hadn’t run in before (see my race maps which badly need updating!), and it benefits a great charity. Unfortunately, it almost always falls on the same day as the Worcester Firefighters 6K… until 2018, that is! (Dang, this recap is waaayyyy overdue.)

Pre-race:

Drew had a soccer game at the same time as the race, so I didn’t have my usual personal cheering squad. Feeling like part of an especially sporty family, I loaded the Bairn and the jogging stroller into the car and set off for Reading High School. By the time we got there, there was already a sizeable Shammie crowd; I don’t often show up at races alone, so it was nice to be met with so many familiar faces! Bib pickup was super easy, and the Bairn and I milled around and socialized a bit before gun time. (Warmup? What warmup?) After a quick Shammies group photo:

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Shammies representing

all the runners were led off the high school campus to a cul-de-sac, where the race started.

The race:

The Bairn and I brought up the rear as the gun went off, and Shammie E kept us company for the first half-mile or so, until I just couldn’t keep up anymore. (Those of you who’ve read this blog before may remember Shammie E, who kept Fetus Bairn (is that too weird of a name?) and I company at the Beach 2 Beacon 10K!) This was my first time ever pushing the jogging stroller while running, and I wasn’t even really in 5K, non-stroller-pushing shape to begin with, so I was content to run as slowly as I needed and take walk breaks whenever. I didn’t want to hold E back, so we waved goodbye as she sped off.

The road guards for this race were mostly high school students, and they did a great job (for the most part). There was one confusing intersection where the Bairn and I took off up a hill, because one road guard gestured in that direction as his friend was texting someone, and then the friend looked up and yelled at us that we were going the wrong way. Eh, it wasn’t like I was gunning for a PR or anything, right? I was only mildly annoyed because the hill was so frikkin’ steep!

Honestly, I don’t remember too much else about the race, which I guess is unsurprising as it’s now almost 9 months later and I’ve got a bad case of Toddler Brain (like Pregnancy Brain, except it’s accompanied by a ball of energy who throws tantrums at the drop of a hat). I do remember being excited to see the high school track, where the finish line was, and hearing a random Shammie yell “Yay, go Shammie!!” at me.

When I saw 38:something on the clock as I crossed the finish, I had a teeny pang of disappointment as my competitive-with-myself part of my brain was upset I hadn’t miraculously PR’d. Mostly, though, I was chuffed that I finished in under 40 minutes, considering I was doing my first-ever stroller run on an unfamiliar course when it was kind of hot!

Post-race:

I freed the Bairn from his stroller and let him wander around a little. He mostly wanted to escape the fenced-in track area to explore the open fields, but I was trying to chug water and focus on making my face less red. Several people complimented his “crawl walk run” shirt, which he wore special for race day.

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A partial view of the Bairn’s race day shirt. You can also see his blurry wee hand as he spins the stroller wheel

Post-race activities seemed pretty low-key. Awards were given to overall and age group winners (the Shammies cleaned up nearly every category), then people just kind of dispersed. I may have been so distracted by Bairn wrangling that I didn’t hear any announcements, but that’s just as well. I did notice some Shammies enjoying post-race beverages in the parking lot, which would have been fun to join in if I hadn’t been a) lugging a Bairn and b) driving said Bairn home.

Once home, I did luxuriate for a while in the shady part of our backyard while the Bairn played with his water table:

watertable

It was a cool experience running with the Bairn (even cooler than running with him in-utero, because we got to chat and I could see him sitting up and taking everything in), and something I’d love to do more. I did manage one more stroller run last summer, but it was *such* a crazy hot summer that I opted for slow stroller walks with iced coffee way more often. Here’s hoping the snow and ice melts soon so we can hit the pavement together again!

2018 in Review

Hello strangers, and happy new year!

It’s so cliche, but wow, does time go so much faster the older you get, especially once you have kids. Wasn’t it just, like, 2008?? It is mind blowing to me that it’s 2019 already. My Wee Bairn is almost 2!! Whaaaaaat?!

Now that that’s out of my system, let’s take a look back at my 2018, shall we? It may have been lacking a significant number of blog posts, but life carried on regardless!

2018 Goals Recap:

1) Get the Bairn registered at the gym so he can hang at their daycare while I work out.

I did this! And I brought the Bairn to the gym with me all of… 2 times. Once in January, and once in December. Well… better than 0 times? I need to remember that this is an option during the long winter now, because it worked really well each time; he seemed to have a blast in the play area and I got to get my Expresso Bike on.

2) I’m registered for a half marathon in April; while I ran a half in 2016 without properly training, I’d like to NOT make that a habit. So, I’d like to train for this race. 

Umm, right. Yes. Well, I *started* training for the half. Then the Bairn got sick, and then I got sick, and training plans got derailed. I managed to get up to 5 miles and then my body started hurting. So I dropped down to the 5K and ran that instead, and it was one of the best running decisions I’ve made. You can read all about it here. So, while I didn’t hit my goal exactly, I did end up training for the race I ran, and also didn’t run a race I wasn’t trained for, so I call that a win.

3) Continue reading. Read more books by People of Color and from backgrounds not like mine. Continue reading to the Bairn as often as he’ll let me. 

I read!! A lot! I chugged through 43 books in 2018, which is way more than I anticipated reading. I didn’t even sign up for the Goodreads challenge because I didn’t want to be disappointed if I missed my goal. As for the rest of the goal, only 8 of the 43 were written by PoC, and a handful more were by and about people with backgrounds not like mine. It’s a start, but I could certainly read harder than I did last year. 13 of the 43 books were fiction, and 14 of the 30 nonfiction were parenting-related books, so clearly there was a trend to my reading this year (mostly on the theme of “OMG I have a toddler now, what do I do??”)

As for reading to the Bairn… one of my proudest bits of this parenting gig is that the Bairn *loves* books. We read him 3 every night before bed, and throughout the day he’ll pick random ones up and either ask us to read them to him or he’ll just start leafing through on his own. It’s adorable and awesome, and I hope his love of books continues as he gets older!

4) Actually use the jogging stroller for jogging!

This happened!! Only twice, that I can remember, but it happened! I pushed the Bairn in a race (recap still forthcoming…….) and pushed him around the pond once. I’m hoping to do more of it this year, especially because a new rail trail opened nearby so I’ll have a new cool place to run!

5) Get out and about with the Bairn more. I was scared to drive with him for quite a while, and also scared to mess with his fragile nap schedule. But Drew and I realized we didn’t do a whole lot with him in his first year. His grandparents got him memberships to the aquarium and Children’s Museum, so putting those to good use will be a start!

I definitely got better with this. I only ventured to the Children’s Museum solo with him once (and we met up with friends there, so it wasn’t totally solo), but we did way more out and about in 2018 than we did in 2017. We went to the mall, grocery shopping, to various libraries and storytimes, to friends’ houses, the zoo, and even to a trial class at the Little Gym. During the summer, nearly every morning I was home with him would feature a stroller walk to Dunkies for a giant iced coffee, and then a walk to one of several parks nearby. I may not have done many stroller runs this year, but I did take some epic stroller walks! Oh, and the Bairn and I spent several days out and about on our own in Berlin… more on this later!

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Animal stare-down at the zoo

 

My 2018 in Numbers (Running)

Total miles: 20.9 (up from 15.84 in 2018… up is up, right?)

Races completed: 3 (up from from 0 in 2018; 2 5Ks and 1 6K)

States raced in: 1 (up from 0 in 2018; good ol’ home sweet home, Massachusetts)

MA towns raced in: 3 (up from 0 in 2018; Easthampton, Reading, and Worcester)

Countries raced in: 1 (up from 0 in 2018; US)

PRs beaten: 1 (6K)

DNSs: 0

Not my best year by far, but I’m totally okay with that. It was an improvement from 2017, and improvements are improvements, no matter how humble!

Firsts and Milestones (Running)

  • New 6K PR: 37:01 (previously 38:14)
  • First time running in the Massachusetts towns of Easthampton and Reading. I need to update my running maps!
  • Ran my first race pushing a jogging stroller (recap still forthcoming…… one of these days!).

    samsharvest

    Shammies at the Samantha’s Harvest 5K

Firsts and Milestones (Personal)

  1.  I started a new job after 12 years at my previous one (I wrote a bit about this a few months ago)
  2. I flew internationally with a toddler for the first time… and lived to tell about it!
  3. Related to above – I went to Germany for the first time! We spent a few days in Berlin, where the Bairn and I did a bit of wandering around while Drew worked. We saw the remnants of the Berlin Wall, explored to the zoo, took in the Festival of Lights, and went to a LOT of playgrounds:
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    Exploring one of Berlin’s many, many playgrounds

    lights

    Part of the Festival of Lights

     

    Goals for 2019


1) Establish some kind of mileage base and try to run as regularly as life will allow. I’ve learned that running makes a significant difference to my mental health, and now that I’m facing a year with a two year old, I’ll need all the help I can get!

2) Run a half marathon. I kind of hate them while I’m running them, but it’s a good goal to train for, and it would allow me to throw my name in the hat for a marathon number if I choose to do so later this year.

3) Continue to make an effort to read harder (see recap of last year’s goals), using Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge if I need a push. Also, read more fiction. I didn’t have enough fiction in my life last year. And keep reading to the Bairn as much as possible.

4) Make coffee at home more and use some of my massive stash of travel mugs. Having the Starbucks app is daaaaaaangerous, folks.

5) Go to the gym more than twice this year. I don’t even want to calculate my cost-per-visit for 2018… those were some dang expensive Expresso Bike rides, and that is not sustainable.

6) A bonus goal for the year – try to be more mindful, especially in the moments when the Bairn can be a bit, well, toddlerish. Breathe more, yell less.

Happy 2019! What was your favorite thing about 2018? What are you looking forward to in the coming year?

Worcester Firefighters Memorial 6K, 3 June 2018

Where: Worcester, Massachusetts (course map)

Who: Just me, with moral support from Drew, the Bairn, and my dad

Benefited: Worcester Firefighters Scholarship Fund, Community Harvest Project, Genesis Club, American Society for Suicide Prevention, and NEADS

Time: 37:01 Personal record!

2018 was my fourth year running this race, and I PRd by a over a minute – and with a time more than 10 minutes faster than the first year I ran! (!!)

My streak ended in 2017 when I decided it was too hot for my out-of-shape postpartum self to attempt. I don’t regret that decision. To read my recaps from years past, see 20162015 and 2014.

Maker:S,Date:2017-11-11,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

The Bairn waiting for the start of the race

Pre-race:

To be honest, this race happened so long ago now that many of the details from the day have fled my brain! Let’s see what I can recall.

I seem to remember feeling a bit more rushed than usual upon arrival… usually we got there early enough for me to pick up my bib and warm up. This year was the first time I registered on-site – my first time ever doing day-of registration for any race, actually! Rather than pre-register and have to DNS for some reason, it felt smarter to go this route. It worked out totally fine. I didn’t get a t-shirt, but hey, I’m getting to the point where I have so many race shirts I’m not sad if I miss out on another.

By the time I was pinning my bib, it was time to head to the starting line. Drew and the Bairn set off to find a good spectating position, and I weaved my way through the crowd to attempt to find a good starting spot. This is one area this awesome race could improve in – an organized starting area! No matter where I position myself in the crowd, I’m always weaving around walkers. I love, love, love that this race is so community-oriented and that so many people of all different abilities participate. But it would also be cool if people planning to walk could be encouraged to start at the back.

Anyway. The pipe and drum band marched by, remarks were given, and we were away.

Maker:S,Date:2017-11-11,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

The start. Can you find me?

Maker:S,Date:2017-11-11,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

Well, my running form is back to wonky, but hey, I was out there!

The race:

One cool thing about running this race so many times is that I’m getting to really know the course – know the turns, the hills, where the shade and water stops are, and when I tend to start to flag.  I know when and where I can push myself, and where to take it easy.

That plus the gorgeous 70-something temps made this year’s race feel easy. This race is held at midday, and the past years I’ve run it’s been in the high 80s or low-to-mid 90s, so 70s made it feel downright cool!

I also was determined to push myself this year, and I ran hard. Not all out by any means, but definitely harder than in years past. Granted, it was easier to push myself in the cooler temps, and I didn’t have an injury slowing me down, but it felt really good to actually try to race, rather than just dally my way toward the finish.

I think I was pushing myself to see how I could do, since I don’t try it too often. I knew I had another race the following week (recap to come… sometime in the future!) that I was going to push the Jogging Stroller in, and I knew that wouldn’t be a prime opportunity to really run, so I told myself I could take it easy the next time. This was the time to see what my body was capable of (at least with minimal training), and a chance to run hard to run through parenting and work and general frustrations. Huzzah for running to keep one’s sanity!

The first 2 miles or so felt pretty awesome and I felt strong, but sometime in the final third I started struggling a bit. I was determined to only walk during water stops, and I managed to run the rest of the time, but I was definitely flagging near the end. I forced myself up the last hill to the finish, then wobbled off to sit under a tree and focused very hard on not puking.

Post-race:

stroller

The Bairn spent most of the race trying to climb Mount Stroller

This was the first year I ran where the giant misting fan wasn’t at the finish line – boo! It took longer than usual to recover, thanks to my determination to push it despite not training at all. I sat under that tree for quite a long time, while my dad took the Bairn to inspect some fire trucks. Some water and ice cream helped!

Yet again, we didn’t stick around for the post-race party. One of these years I’d love to take more advantage of the park and the barbecue and adult beverages and general frivolity. This year our excuse was a grumpy Bairn who was bored of the scenery and getting close to naptime.

I did walk away from the race with a nice runner’s high, feeling strong and accomplished, and especially chuffed when I saw my official results – a PR of over a minute, and a whopping 10+ minutes faster than my first time running the WFD6K! The cooler temps certainly helped, but I was still proud of managing to finish the race with an average pace of 9:55.

Can I nab another PR in next year’s race? Will I actually get around to training? Will the scorching temperatures make a vengeful return? Only time will tell!

 

Ch-ch-ch-changes 

Has it seriously been 3 months since I last posted? Oh dear. The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?

My blogging never really got back on the rails after the Bairn arrived and I got sucked into the world of parenthood, where priorities take on whole new shapes. Or maybe shapes take on whole new priorities? 

Anyway, in addition to wandering through the new adventure of parenthood, I also started a new job a few months ago. After 12(!) years at my last job, it was time to move on. I landed a part time gig at a public library and it’s been great! I have a few days home with the Bairn and a few days working with awesome people at a beautiful library and getting the nerdy high I get from helping people find books and information all day. 

It’s also way more frenetic than my last job, which was chill and predictable for the most part. I’m on my feet almost constantly and I never know what spanners will get thrown into my day, which keeps things interesting. It also means I spend my lunch breaks generally sitting and reading, or going for walks in the sunshine, to clear my head and recover a bit, leaving no blogging time like I used to have. And when I get home, well, I’ve got a Bairn to wrangle before collapsing on the couch with a cider. 

So, all that to say, I’ve been neglecting the ol’ blog once again, but now as I’m settling into new routines, I hope to start posting again here and there. I have 2 race recaps that are overdue (including one that featured the debut of the Jogging Stroller!), so look for those soon(ish)!

In the meantime, here’s a not-great action shot of the Jogging Stroller in action several weeks ago:


Til next time, turn and face those ch-ch-changes!