Monday, October 29, 2012

The Birthday Boy

Sometimes we have to rearrange our priorities.  Sometimes, a clarity of vision overcomes previous decisions...or even indecision.  This certainly was the case for me, as the days began to count down toward a plan I was beginning to regret. 

That original plan was made last spring, when I rescheduled a week in Palm Springs CA.    It was a time-share week booked this time last year for a week in the Spring.  But things got in the way of that plan, so it was rescheduled for the end of October.  But as the calendar slowly marched its way around the horn of Summer and swung into the Fall months, I began to dread the trip rather than anticipate it.  I'd been doing so much travel these last two months, driving up to the Northeast to run in a couple of half marathons and then two weeks later driving to Nashville for another half-marathon and continuing on up to New Castle IN for an MTF event.

So I cancelled my week in Palm Springs CA.  And, as always happens when I face a difficult decision, a new opportunity opened up.  Suddenly the last weekend in October was open.  Now I could drive to Mandeville and spend that weekend with my family and, as it turned out, be there for my grandson's 5th birthday party. 


My grandson is really, really into the show, Wild Kratts.  I must admit that it is an incredibly engaging kids show, but with enough interesting and educational content for adults, too.  So when the birthday party invitation arrived in the mail, I wasn't surprised to see that the theme for his party was going to be Wild Kratts.  Fun!!

When I got to my son's house on Friday, the evidence of the upcoming party was everywhere!  Cute animal masks for the kids, decorations consisting of animals collected from every corner of the house - stuffed animals, molded plastic animals, animal print sheets for table cloths, animal plates and bowls.  And really clever goody bags with little plastic animals, toy binoculars, and snack packs of animal crackers. 

My son whipped together a great jambalaya for dinner and then they filled me in on the plan for the next day,

Trevor was up early Saturday morning, the excitement of the day already building. 

There was a really well-done cake from Albertsons, but we augmented it with cupcakes.  I got those going Saturday morning, and my son and I iced them with "paw-prints" later that morning.  We all took turns blowing up balloons before breaking out the helium tank and inflating a bunch more to decorate the house, inside and out.

I helped my son clean the backyard and swept the deck while my daughter-in-law cleared the tree debris from the trampoline, to get ready for the party.  They had some fun outdoor activities planned for the kids, all of them in some way related to the "wild outdoors" of Wild Kratts. 

Then the kids arrived!  The trampoline was a huge hit, as was the "fishing hole."     They were definitely having fun!

Loads of fun!!  Magnetic fishing poles, real "swimming" fish,
(battery-powered) and the poles were never idle.

Enjoying the Frog Leap.  Clever use of
log sections left over from the recent tree removal.

Mimi holding her own among the bigger kids!

Little Mimi spent the entire time on the trampoline, not once getting knocked over by the bigger kids, and absolutely refusing to get out until everyone else emptied out for cake.

Five years old is a great age!  They're old enough now to understand "anticipation" and to get genuinely excited about the whole "birthday cake and candles" thing!!

The kids encircled the cake table in eager anticipation!  We all sang happy birthday, and before Trevor even had a chance to suck in a big "candle blow-out" breath, his friend blew out the candle for him.  It was so cute!

It was a great party!  We had a couple of tuckered-out kids at the end of the day!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Getting Some Two-Wheeled Miles to BigTex Rally

Lately, every time I walked out into the garage, I'd feel sadness and no small measure of guilt, looking at the two motorcycles sitting out there, side by side, unloved and unridden.  But this weekend got both pretty two-wheeled girls out for a romp.

Zooty BMW got to go to Orange TX Thursday afternoon for an overnighter, where we'd be signing the BigTex Rally participants out early Friday morning.

Three of us met at the Hampton Inn in Orange at 4:45 AM to review the start procedure and then went over to the start gas station at 5:30 AM and got the riders briefed and signed out and on their way at 6:00 AM.  Three other start locations were doing the same thing with their riders.

I contemplated getting a run in afterward - I'd even brought my running gear - but instead I decided to pack the bike up and head back home.   It was early enough and I could be home by 9:00 AM or so, plenty early enough to go for a run in my own neighborhood.

While the rally participants were out exploring Texas and scooping up bonus points, I spent Friday getting some chores done and getting caught up on a few things.  One of those things was getting some sound effects edited and loaded onto our Player's Club laptop in preparation for the upcoming production of Hallelujah Girls.   Then that evening I transferred everything over from the BMW to the FZ6 and I was ready to get up Saturday morning and head north toward Dallas to meet up with the volunteers and help at the finish.

9:00 AM seemed a bit too early to head north, but I was determined to catch at least some of the Aggie football game on TV, so I climbed aboard the FZ, backed her out of the garage and proceeded north to Cedar Hill just south of Dallas. 

My forward progress was stymied more than once when, first the entrance ramp onto 610 North Loop from US 59 was blocked and I found myself heading east rather than west on 610.  So I had to exit 610 at the next opportunity, do a U-turn and get back up onto 610 going westbound.  Then, as I approached the Hardy Toll Road, a temporary electrical sign told me that the toll road was closed at Bammel Rd.  Not wanting to deal with detours and more delays I continued west to I-45.  This was the very thing I was trying to avoid by taking the Hardy Toll Road.  I hate the stretch of I-45 between downtown and Beltway 8 north of the city.  It's narrow, with 4 lanes squeezed into the space that really should only hold 3 lanes, and the drivers in this part of town are reckless beyond belief, swerving, lane-changing, cutting other drivers off. 

But I did finally manage to survive this stretch and get north of the city where traffic loosens up and the flow goes more smoothly.  I stopped for gas in Buffalo and then continued on to Ennis, where I got off I-45 and onto US 287 toward Midlothian.  The wind was knocking me around all morning and it seemed no matter which direction I was headed, it was hitting me broadside and pushing my lightweight little bike out of my lane.  But when I turned onto 67 to ride those last few miles to the hotel in Cedar Hill I caught a bit of a break as the wind now seemed to be off my front quarter.

A last stop for gas near the hotel, it was about 1 o'clock, so I grabbed a slice of pizza from the gas station and a small yogurt and then continued on to the hotel and checked in.  Up in the room, bike unpacked, riding gear replaced with shorts and sandals, I settled in just in time to catch the last of the 3rd quarter of the Aggies game. 

Minutes later, my cellphone tweedled, letting me know I had a text message.  It was a simple message, an address that I immediately recognized as the Rally Master's work office.  I responded back with "Is that where I'm supposed to be?"  and the reply immediately came back, "Yes."  To that I answered, "Only if someone comes and gets me."  Heck.  Once I'm off the bike and riding gear is removed, I really hate getting back on the bike. 

I didn't hear anything more, so continued watching the rest of the game, which the Aggies managed to lose in the 4th quarter.  Then, at around 2:45 PM, a message came through that someone was coming to get me.  I quickly packed up my laptop and went down to the lobby where my "ride" was waiting for me.  We all convened in the conference room of the Rally Master's company office where we went through the scoring process and got some last-minute news about the riders.

Then it was back to the hotel at 4:30 PM where we knew some of the rally participants were already waiting for us.  We quickly got the hotel conference room set up and we scorers got our computers ready and then we waited for the riders to go through their paperwork and ready themselves for scoring.

It took us a long time to score the riders.  There were five of us doing the scoring, and there were maybe 40 or so riders.  We were supposed to start scoring at 4:30 but, really, the first riders weren't ready to be scored until closer to 5:30.  We scored well into the evening, well into the banquet and at one point I jumped up and grabbed a plate of food before the caterers packed things up and left. 

It was good to see old friends, folks I don't get to see often, and to make new friends.  I think most everyone had a good time doing the rally, judging by the smiles on their faces. 

I was glad that I could help out.  Besides, it gave me a good excuse to take my little "girls" out for good long rides.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Did You Say "Sesame" or "Salami"...or was that Sesamoid?

To the quick listener, they almost sound the same.  But the correct word is Sesamoid.

"What the heck am I talking about?" you may ask.

Well, remember my talking about some minor foot pain these last couple of races?  I thought it may be due to a particular pair of shoes.  Upon further reflection and a bit of internet research, I've concluded that the pain in my foot, as discussed in a couple of previous posts (this one and this one), may be caused by bruising of the sesamoid bones in my feet.

Weird, I know.  These little bones lie at the base of the big toe, on the underside, and are sort of free-floating, embedded in a muscle and attached to ligaments and serving as a sort of fulcrum to allow the muscle and tendon to slide smoothly over the tarsals as the big toe is flexed forward in an en-pointe position or backward, such as when walking or running. 
This is the exact spot where I'm experiencing the pain while running.

I learned that these tiny little ovoid bones can be bruised - or even broken.  I also learned that it's a fairly common injury to runners, dancers, and to athletes who participate in fast start-stop activities like football or tennis.  For football players, it's called "turf toe."   The condition is called sesamoiditis.

For runners, its an injury associated with high running frequency and/or running on hills.  Think backward flexure of the big toes and which portion of the foot is going to make contact first when landing on an uphill slope.  And sure enough, I've been doing a lot of running lately.  And I've done a couple of very hilly race courses in the past 2 months.  In fact, when the pain hit during both the Nashville race and the Wichita race, it was while running uphill, and I did notice that it didn't hurt while running downhill or while walking.  The discomfort would start to accumulate the deeper into the race I'd get, something that the various websites mention when describing this condition.  Tendency toward sesamoiditis is also associated with age as we lose padding on the soles of our feet.  So here's something else for me to consider in the future:  trying a shoe model with more cushioning in the forefoot.

After the Wichita race, back in my hotel room, I noticed some swelling on the ball of my right foot, just under the big toe.  The swelling was gone the next day with no intervention required on my part (like icing it or taking ibuprofen to reduce inflammation), which is the good news.  Further good news is that I don't experience any pain when walking or doing slow and easy jogging. 

But I will take it easy for a couple of weeks and keep my mileage down to give it a rest.  I'm also looking at some light padding options.  A runner's on-line chat room gave me a good lead on some metatarsal pads that I may purchase.  They come highly recommended by other runners who are experiencing the same condition.

So, there it is. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Kansas is State #12

It's done!  The Wichita Prairie Fire Half Marathon has been run, and the medal and finisher's shirt are now in my possession!


Saturday was Fitness Expo day, where I needed to go to pick up my race packet.

Out my hotel room window, I could watch the creation of a start line/finish line and athlete village:

We were under severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings all afternoon on Saturday, so not much chance to get out and see the city, but I did pass this pretty view of the library in the foreground and a church in the background, as I returned to the hotel from the expo:


It sure was nice walking out the front door of the Hyatt at 7:50 AM, stepping out into the street and joining the throng of other runners waiting at the start line for the Prairie Fire Marathon/Half Marathon.  Not all of them are this easy and convenient but when they's great!

I had a tough time trying to decide between long sleeves or short sleeves this morning, since temps at the start were 54 degrees with a strong NW wind.  Ultimately I chose the long sleeved shirt after considerable debate with myself this morning.  It was certainly the right choice at the moment of the race start, but would it be okay later in the morning when the sun got higher in the sky? 

The route for this race was great!  We immediately ran over the Arkansas River on Waterman, then alongside for a ways, then back over the river on W. Douglas and heading east for a few miles before turning right into a beautiful and graceful residential district.  The course was mostly flat except for a long steady incline going up W. Douglas toward our turn. 

At about mile 5 I was beginning to feel a small stabbing pain in the ball of my right foot.  I felt this same exact pain, only in my left foot, during my last race, the one in Nashville.  In both cases it seemed to start while running uphill.   While I walked most of the uphills in Nashville (a premeditated plan), the Wichita course was otherwise quite flat and I had not intended to walk at all.  But at the top of the long gentle incline out W. Douglas, I was forced to walk for a bit to ease the discomfort.

Unfortunately for me, the pain stayed with me all the way to the finish line.  I could run for a while, or until the pain became too great, and then I would fall back into a brisk walk until the pain abated a bit.  This, after having a great 9 mile training run just last weekend.  It just made no sense at all.  And I was so looking forward to a good finish time for this race.  I haven't had a sub 3:00 time since last spring.  Now that the temps are cooling down, I expected to have a great time in this race.  But it wasn't to be. 

I kept as brisk a pace as possible for the remainder of the race, and tried to distract myself from the discomfort in my right foot. 

At mile 12 we crossed a small pedestrian bridge into a tiny but beautiful park, The Keeper of the Plains, where a unique and impressive statue stands sentinel over the western KS prairies. 

The park sits in the middle of the confluence of the Little Arkansas and Arkansas Rivers.  Very pretty!  And definitely unique!  It was the perfect way to finish up the race. 

Now just a mile to go to the finish.  The course was laid out in such a way that the lead pack for the full marathon caught back up with those of us half-marathon runners near the back of the pack at around mile 8 or 9, then broke away from us again only to catch back up with us back-of-the-packers just as we were running through this park.

Across the finish line, I claimed my medal and then realized that there were finisher's shirts for us as well.   The only other race I've done that includes finisher's shirts at the finish line is the Houston Marathon.  All races - Wichita and Houston included - give each entrant a shirt when they pick up their race packets. And some of these events have "Finisher" shirts for sale at the Expo before the race.   But to get a shirt that says "Finisher" after crossing the finish line - and knowing that only finishers will be wearing these, that they're not for sale to just anyone - is an awesome nice touch. 

From the finish line I just kept walking bee-line straight.  Straight to the front door of the Hyatt and straight over to the Starbucks counter to get a Latte and a banana to take to my room.  I scarfed down the banana and dug into the little bag of chips I'd stashed from the day before. 

I was eager to log into Runners World where I keep my running stats to see which pair of shoes I'd worn during the Nashville race.  I had a theory that the foot problem was directly related to the particular pair of shoes.  I had no problems in the VT race nor in the PA race. 

And guess what?  By luck of the draw, I wore the same pair of shoes in today's race as I wore in the Nashville race.  And I wore the other pair last weekend for my pain-free 9-miler run.  I always have two pair of shoes in rotation.  When they reach the end of their useful life, I give them away and break out two new pair.  This seems to support my theory that there's something wrong with this particular pair of running shoes.  Not wishing to risk injury to further test this theory, I think I'm going to retire this pair prematurely. 
Showered and dressed, it was time to find some REAL food:

And then, because I wanted to get some recovery walking in, I headed down the street a few blocks to McDonald's for a caramel sundae.


Here's what my 50 States-50 Half Marathons map looks like now:
 Coming up next:  Route 66 Marathon/Half Marathon, Tulsa OK.  And this time, hopefully, I'll be wearing the "good" shoes.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Celebrities In Their Own Ways

I went to the Pasta dinner tonight and found inspiration in ordinary folks.

Yesterday I read a motivating story about an ovarian cancer survivor who ran last year's race just days after being diagnosed and is here a year later, cancer-free to run the race again.  From the article, I learned that there will be a a whole 'team' of runners doing the race in her name.   When I walked into the ballroom for dinner tonight, I scouted the tables looking for a likely group to sit with and chose a table empty except for two women.  A good sign.  As I got to talking to them, even after we'd introduced ourselves, I suddenly realized that the woman sitting next to me was THE Becky, as in the Becky of that inspiring story!

The guest speaker for tonight's dinner was a fellow who tells a truly interesting and riveting story about running.  His name is Dane Rauschenberg.  What a story!  He had us all laughing with him.  And laughing at ourselves, because who in the room hadn't done some of the bone-headed things that Dane had done.  Great evening!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Oreos and Football

Good thing there's a package of Cool Mint Oreos in the pantry!

Why?  Because I deserve a treat for getting this run in today!  Getting out of bed this morning wasn't easy.  I had a 9 mile run planned.  The weather last night said chance of rain this morning.  Cold front pushing through from the north, too.  And add to this the fact that, at 7:00 AM, it was still dark out!! 

My cat went through one of her "wild cat" routines at 6:30 this morning.  Just wanted to make sure I was awake and moving.  Nice of her to do that.  I stumbled over the disheveled bathroom rugs as I made my way in the dark.  Her favorite thing to do while in "wild cat" mode is to skate on the bathroom rugs, sliding them on the tile floor until they're in heaps against the wall and cabinets.

I pushed forward with my run preparations.  Don't want to think about it too long or I'll talk myself out of going.  Just get the running clothes on, set the Garmin watch, drink some water and grab a stick of gum, put some folding money in my little hidden key pocket in the shorts, and then walk out the door.  Don't look back.  Don't linger.  Just....Go!

Nine miles.  This meant doing about 2.5 miles within my neighborhood then exiting onto McHard Road, taking a right and running down to Cullen Rd and onto FM-518.  Along this stretch of McHard I saw a runner coming toward me and, as we closed the gap, we smiled at each other and he declared, "Perfect weather for running!"  "Definitely!"  I shouted back as we passed each other. 
He was equipped with a fuel belt, so he was clearly doing his long run.  This would be about right if he's training for the Houston Marathon in mid-January.  Those runners should be getting about 10-11 miles on their long runs at this point in their training schedule. 

And it was absolutely perfect running weather!  55-56 degrees out, with a nice cloud cover to block the sun and keep the temps low.  Shorts, running cap, and light-weight long-sleeved shirt were all I needed to keep me comfortable.  

Now it was just "keep my mind empty and let my body do the work."  As I neared Cullen, I spotted that same giant rabbit I've seen in this same location on other runs.  He froze for a few moments when he sensed me coming and then bolted into the woods.  But I was glad to see him.  Aside from the small herd of cattle in the large field across the street, no other wildlife were out today.  No wading birds, no turtles in the bayous, no ducks. 

The miles went by easily.  I thought about how different this is today.  Last time I ran this route was in mid-August when the heat and humidity forced me to slow down, even to walk for long stretches at a time.  Today, though, my legs were on auto-pilot and I recalled what my former running coach and mentor used to call me:  The Energizer Bunny, because I would just run and run and run.  Not fast, mind you, but still...I kept going, didn't stop for much of anything.  Truth is, I was always afraid to stop for fear I wouldn't be able to break into a run again.

A quick stop at McDonald's on FM-518 for a little yogurt parfait break.  Then over to the Kroger store to use their bathroom, since renovations at McDonald's had the bathrooms closed to customers.  Then...back the way I came.  Back down Cullen to McHard.  Back past the rabbit again, who bolted as soon as he saw me.  Again.  Back down McHard to CountryPlace.  And then back into my own neighborhood. 

A quick check of my Garmin watch and I confirmed that I'd be about three-tenths of a mile shy of 9 miles, so a little detour onto a side loop and then home.  9.2 miles total.  All walking.   As I sit here and write this, I am amazed at the difference that 20 degree cooler temps can make!

Next weekend:  Wichita Prairie Fire Marathon/Half Marathon!!   Meanwhile, think I'll jump in the shower and then find a football game on TV and eat some Oreos for lunch.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Stuck In the Middle With You

Oh, great!  Now I had this lame song running through my head as I got my run in this morning! 

A creature of habit, my route always takes me west around the big circle that circumscribes my neighborhood.   Pre-dawn, this often gives me a view of the setting moon and this morning it was a waning gibbous moon but still quite bright and spectacular as it hung in the quarter western sky.

Working around the western end of the ovoid circle of my route, I came around to face east just as the eastern sky was lightening.   The sun took a quick peek over the horizon and decided, once again, that it was safe to come up and she did so quickly.  Soon she was blazing in full orb, requiring a quick adjustment of my running cap to shield my eyes.

And that's when this blasted song popped into my head, daring me to alter the lyrics to accomodate the setting and my mood:

"Moon to the left of me, Sunrise to my I am, running in the middle with you!"

(with apologies to the song's authors, Jerry Rafferty and Joe Egan)