Explaining a Loss

Last weekend my family suffered another tough loss. After a battle with cancer, my Uncle Steve passed away in his home surrounded by family.

Steve always seemed to have great stories. It could have been the fact that he traveled to places I may never go like Cuba or that he worked in film. He saw the beauty in people and places, where many would not. Though we were never very close, being that we lived in Colorado and he in Nebraska, I feel lucky to have had him in my life.

Steve

When we visited Nebraska, we always tried to make a point to stop by and see Steve. One of my favorite visits was just before we started having kids. We went out in the Old Market for drinks and some music. We laughed as we walked down the street and into the bar because it seemed that Steve know everyone we passed. The first time we visited after we had Ella, he was so excited he got out his camera and some lighting equipment to take pictures of her by the flowers in the backyard. It was so sweet.

When we got in the car to go to Nebraska for the funeral, I tried to explain to Ella what was going to happen. I told her that Uncle Steve went to heaven because the doctors couldn’t help him get better. After verifying that meant that we wouldn’t see him anymore, she said ok and that he would be ok because he’d see his mom and dad in heaven.

My sister-in-law Amber was nice enough to babysit the kids while we attended the wake. There were so many people gathered to pay their respects to a man that touched their lives. We continued the celebration at our family bar in the Old Market.

The next day was the funeral. This was the first funeral that Ella would be old enough to experience. Though I told her that some people will be sad and she may see myself, her grandparents, uncle and aunts cry, we are there to celebrate Uncle Steve. I was hoping that was enough to prepare her.

I went to the church early so that I could review my reading. The entire time I’d held it together, but when Steve’s son walked in and asked one of his uncles to help him tie his tie, I had tears well up. All of a sudden I was struck with such grief for Jack’s loss. His dad won’t be there to teach him to tie a tie, how to shave or how to drive. I feel grief for both Jack and Steve for the experiences they won’t get to have together, but remember that they did have good ones while he was leaving.

When we gathered in the side room at the church with the casket before our family walk down the aisle of the church, Ella asked about the big box with flowers on it. I quietly told her that Uncle Steve was in it. She was obviously confused but saved more questions for the processional to the cemetery.

When we got in the car the flood gates of questions opened up. She wanted to know why Uncle Steve was in a box if he was in heaven. How did he get into the box? Why they were going to put the box in the ground and how they would do so? We did our best to explain but it was hard to explain the concept of heaven yet a body being in a coffin to bury. How you explain that to three year old, I have no idea.

She handled it well, though questions have continued. After the burial everyone gathered for food and more memory sharing. Steve’s best friend made a video tribute which was great.

Steve will be missed.

Advice for New Marathoners-to-be

Resolutions and goals are flying. In the past several weeks I’ve gotten text messages, Facebook messages and emails about half marathon and marathon training. Most of them contain the same questions: what do I need? What are compression socks? Do I need xyz?

So, I thought it the perfect time to share my top pieces of advice for people thinking about training for and completing their first half or full marathon this year.

1. Get the right shoes. Seems simple enough, you go pick some shoes in a color you like. At least that is what I thought when I first started running. To get the right shoes, go to a store where they will analyze your gait and arch. From there they will make sure you are fitted in the right shoe to provide you with the support and stability you need to prevent injuries.

2. Find a good training plan. I only use the Less is More Plan because it works for me. Hal Higdon has some great beginner plans that I often tell people to look at. You don’t have to run every day, or even fives day/week unless you want to and can do so without an overuse injury.

3. Be careful about increasing mileage too quickly. The golden rule is not to increase weekly mileage by more than 10% per week. For example, if you ran 10 miles last week, this week you shouldn’t run more than 11 miles total. The same is a good idea for long runs. I’d say if you’re not already running 10-15 miles/week, build up to that before jumping into training. On that note, you do not have to run every day. In fact cross-training is really important in order to avoid injury.

4. Mind your paces. When I first started running I thought I had to run as fast as I could during every run. It took a few years and some injuries to figure it out. While I use week day runs for speed training, long runs should be at conversation pace. It sounds counter-intuitive I know. If you don’t have a running partner to shoot the breeze with, sing aloud your favorite song as you go. This is my favorite site to figure out the paces for different distances and workouts.

5. Don’t go crazy buying stuff. There is so much stuff for runners these days. New runners are especially vulnerable to the marketing. Even I am prone to getting super excited about the latest gear…until I look at the price. All you really need are good shoes, good socks and proper fuel. A GPS watch is nice, but you can easily use an app on your phone.

6. Practice makes perfect. Practice fueling throughout training. Try all sorts of fuel options from the various gu flavors and brands, to gummies, honey sticks, etc. You never know what will work with your body.

7. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I think one of the big fears I had when starting to train was asking questions that I felt like were stupid. There is no such thing as a stupid question. In fact, if you’re thinking it, someone else has before you.

8. Find a buddy. A running group, your neighbor, a friend. It is more fun to run with someone and have someone to hold you accountable. It also helps keep your long run paces in check.

Very basic tips for that first round of training. What are your best tips?

Taking the Plunge

Last summer we were all about jumping in the many lakes around us. When I told Josh that I was going to jumping in a lake in February, he questioned my sanity. Honestly I was questioning it myself. I’ve heard about Polar Plunges for years. They hold them all over the country but I’ve never been brave enough to partake. Well, this year was different. Maybe it was the running group encouragement or me just deciding to make the most of my first Minnesota winter. Which side note, has been extremely mild. I’m actually jealous of all the snow that other places are getting. If it’s going to be cold it needs to snow.

Anyway, back to the Plunge. The Polar Plunge events benefit The Special Olympics both locally and nationally. Each participant is asked to raise a minimum of $75. Thinking about race fees, that’s nothing. I posted a couple status updates on Facebook and thanks to my awesome friends and family raised $125 in no time. With my funds raised, I was ready for the big jump.

Thanks to the advice of seasoned plungers, I knew to wear old running shoes and clothes I could get off quickly. I also was told not to wear anything that might weigh my down because I’d want to get out of the water quickly. I brought my favorite sweatpants, warmest boots and a coat for my post jump warm up clothes. Come Saturday morning I was really excited that we were going to see temperatures in the 30s.

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The event was really well organized. I meet my teammates, went into the warm-up/changing tent and within a few minutes we were getting our picture taken as we prepared to jump.

Pre-Plunge

When we entered the final little tunnel before our jump, I said to my teammates that I wasn’t sure I really wanted to do it. Of course there was no turning back. I was about to jump in water they had to cut through ice to get to.

As we were announced, we lined up and waited for the countdown.

Polar Plunge 1

Here we go!

Polar Plunge 2

Live action :

It was cold and took my breath away.

Polar Plunge 3

Polar Plunge 5

I was slightly worried I wasn’t going to be able to move my legs to get up the steps to get out. I felt like I was moving in slow motion, but I made it out and ran into the tunnels that lead to the changing tent. For once I was thankful for the few extra winter pounds I’m carrying around to keep some more warmth in my body.

Post Plunge

By the time I got into the tent to change I was warmed up. I was actually sweating by the time I was dressed and went to me Josh and the kids.

It was fun and for a good cause. Maybe I’ll do it again next year. If you’re slightly crazy, there are tons of events happening the rest of the winter all over the country. You can find one here.

Winter Happenings

When we told people about our plans to move to Minnesota, we were met with all sorts of grunts and goans immediately followed by ‘just wait until winter.’ Well winter is here and it hasn’t been so bad yet. Yes, it gets damn cold. Even this week when the thermometer tells me it’s 30-40 degrees outside, thanks to humidity and wind, it feels 10-15 degrees cooler.

Regardless of the chill in the air we’re making the most of our winter. There isn’t too much you can’t do if you’re bundled up. Last week we did just that.

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Friday night Josh fired up the chiminea and we roasted some marshmallows for some winter s’mores under a clear, star-filled sky.

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Sure there were some sticky gloves and frosty noses, but we had a great time.

We heard about the Winter Festival in Saint Paul which featured an event called Crashed Ice. We strolled through some ice sculptures which we unfortunately melting due to the unseasonably warm (for Minnesota) temperatures. It was a muddy mess.

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We ate some dinner and then made our way through the crowds to see the Crashed Ice event. It looked terrifying, but then again I’m not such a great ice skater.

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It was hard to see and there were so many people that we stayed for a couple races then went back down the the ice skating rink. Ella was really excited to ice skate for the first time. She waited so patiently for our turn.

They handed me the tiniest skates I’d ever seen. She could hardly contain her excitement as she waited for me to put on my skates. She practiced walking around on her skates until I was ready to head to the ice.

The minute we got onto the ice she wanted to skate on one foot. She must have seen it in a movie or something. We very very slowly made our way over the the side of the rink where Josh and Anderson were waiting.

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The pictures aren’t the best, but that’s ok. It took us probably 20 minutes to get all the way around. We didn’t even fall down! Once was enough and Ella said she was done until we could go again at the rink in the park by our house. We may have ice skating lessons in our future.

Once we actually have snow I think we’ll head out to snowshoe and cross-country ski. We still have more winter ahead so there will be time I’m sure.

 

Giving it a Tri

A new year means something different to everyone. For me it means time to reassess goals, priorities and maybe just do something that intimidates me. While I have a list of goals/aspirations for 2015, my first opportunity to do something that I’ve never done was presented just a few days into the year.

Lifetime Fitness held a weekend full of events to get people off on the right foot. One such event was an indoor triathlon. Josh and some of my other friends have been encouraging me to do a triathlon. I swam in high school and having running down. While I know how to ride a bike, it’s not my strong suit. I figured an indoor event would be perfect, especially because I don’t even own a bike.

The very beginner friendly event was arranged by time rather than distance. 10 minute swim (10 minute transition time), 30 minute bicycle (five minute transition) and 20 minute run. I did a few brick workouts and tried to swim once a week in order to prepare myself for the ‘race.’

Come race day I was ready. I checked in and prepared for my swim.

I was none too excited that I had a nasty head cold. With the heat in front of us complete, I hopped in for a quick warm-up. I was so glad I did because the water was freezing! When the whistle blew, I swam as fast as my breathe would allow me. I had to switch from freestyle to breaststroke a few times because I needed the break to catch my breathe. I swam 450 yards.

As I changed into my biking/running gear I chatted up another woman who was a seasoned triathlete. She recommended a local women-only tri that is great for first timers. Noted, we headed to the spin studio.

One of the Lifetime employees helped me adjust my bike and off I went. They had a DJ playing music which was really nice. I was just in my own zone but could see out of the corner of my eye the woman next to me continuously checking my computer to see how far I’d ridden. My legs were starting to fatigue towards the end and I adjusted the resistance down a bit. Total distance: 9.6 miles

One more event to go and I was feeling good. I was enjoying the change of pace to hours of running. I went up the stairs, picked a treadmill and waited to get the green light to start. I wasn’t really sure what speed to go for. I started at about a 8 min/mile pace and tried to pick it up every quarter mile. The 20 minutes flew by and before I knew it, I was done. Total distance: 2.55 miles

When I was done, I went over to stretch a bit and finish my Nuuns which tasted so good. The ending was pretty unceremonious. They just said, you’re done, have a good day. Not that I was expecting much, but something more like a refreshment table or something would have been nice.

Not that they really mattered, but I was curious as to how I stacked up against the other participants. I was 46th overall of 86 and 13th in women’s open of 36.

There is another indoor tri sometime in March or April. I think I’ll participate again and hopefully see improvements. I’m stilling thinking about an outdoor triathlon this summer, but with fall marathon plans, we’ll see how training shapes up.