February 24, 2012

An Encounter from Down Under

My kids have been out of school all week (our school district always takes off the week of President's Day) and I've been busy trying to keep a balance between entertaining them and also having some relaxing downtime. It's been a nice break overall, although I have to admit I'm ready for school to start again on Monday.

Yesterday I took the kids to Legoland. We go often, as we have season passes and it's not too far away. We've hit a sweet spot in the kids' development where A is finally tall enough to go on most of the rides, including the roller coasters, and D is finally tall enough to be able to sit by himself without an adult next to him. Before, we'd have to go as a family, but since A can go on the rides with D, and D can sit by himself, I'm now able to take them by myself.

I decided to go on a ride that we've never been on before, which was some sort of logjammer ride (where you sit in a log-shaped boat and go up a hill..and then down into some water, getting splashed along the way). When A had her tracheostomy, I would have never even considered such a ride, as I wouldn't want water to get in her breathing tube, but now that the tube is out and the hole is closed water rides are fair game. Amazingly, D had never been on the ride either, so we were all looking forward to it.

As we walked over to get in line, A told me, "I need to take out my hearing aids". I couldn't believe it! Of course, I would have taken them off---at around $3000 each, you'd better believe I'm taking them off whenever there is a possibility of her getting wet--but SHE mentioned it to me FIRST! I had no idea that she had such self-awareness about the hearing aids, that she now knows that they must be kept dry. My little girl is growing up! As we walked over, I took off the aids and put them safely in my tote bag.

We got in line.

Another family got in line right behind us, a family consisting of a mom, a dad, and two adorable little boys. Both boys were were wearing hearing aids! I couldn't believe it. We rarely see kids with hearing aids. Glasses, yes---but hearing aids are much rarer. And here were TWO kids wearing them! I had to say something, so I told the mom that my daughter also wears aids.

That got us into a conversation that lasted the whole 30 minutes or so that we were waiting in line. It turned out that this family was visiting from Australia. Both of her boys (who were roughly my kids' ages) have hearing loss due to a rare metabolic disorder. They were so nice and it was great to hear about how things are done Down Under. I learned that:
  • In Australia hearing aids are covered by the government 100%. (Here in the United States they aren't covered by most insurances. At all.)
  • Not only are hearing aids 100% covered, but they are replaced with NEW hearing aids every 3 years.
  • The Australian sign language, (called Auslan) is very, very different than American Sign Language (ASL). Out of 26 letters, only 1 letter (C) is finger spelled the same.

D hit it off with their older son, and they ended up sharing the log together during the ride. I got their email address, and hope to keep in touch. It just goes to show that you never know who you might meet. We've been to Legoland a gazillion times and have never even thought about going on that ride until yesterday. What were the chances that the one time we do, a family with two kids with hearing loss would be right behind us?

February 20, 2012

Getting Ready for the Oly

It just hit me this week that I have my second Olympic-distance triathlon (Oly) on March 18. That's just four weeks away. I'm doing the SuperSeal. Last year I did this race, but the sprint distance; this year I've upgraded to the Oly. It will be only my second Oly to date....yet for some reason I haven't been as nervous as I was about my first one. That is...until now.

I don't know why I haven't been nervous. Before my last one, I was freaking out, mainly because the bike portion was on some wicked hills. The triathlon was in September and I spent much of the summer doing hill training. I finished the triathlon just shy of 4 hours---slow, but completed. The Oly I have coming up has always seemed so far off in the distance. I registered for it last fall, so March just seemed so far away.

My training has been decent, but it could definitely be better.

  • I haven't been swimming as often as I should be. I'm in the pool at least once a week, and last week even logged a 2500 yard (50 lap) swim, but before my last Oly I was in the pool twice a week. However, I think I'll be okay for the 1500 meter swim this triathlon will consist of. I AM a bit nervous about the water; when I did this race last March the water was so cold, even in my wetsuit, that I had a panic attack and forgot how to swim for a bit. This time I will be prepared for that. I also fondly remember how much I enjoyed the last 2/3 of my Oly in September. In the pool it usually takes me a good 500 yards to warm up, so when I do sprint tris and the swim is only 500 meters, I don't have time to find my groove. When I did the Oly in September, I struggled for the first 500 meters but really enjoyed swimming the last 1000. I hope this is true in March as well.
  • I have recently upgraded to clipless pedals, and have been trying to get used to them. Today I had my second fall, which is expected for a beginner. I have been biking, some longer distances and some shorter, but definitely not what I was biking in preparation for my last Oly. I think I have been lulled into a sort of complacency, as last time was SO hilly and this time the bike course will be flat for all 40k (25 miles). In fact, I DID the bike course, last year; this time it will be a double loop of the course instead of a single loop. It is a beautiful course, and it was on the bike portion of the race last year that I fell in love with biking. But although the course will be flat, it won't be easy; the winds will be in my face for half of it.
  • My running, as always, has been solid. I just did a half marathon two weeks ago, and continue to run in the week. My last few long runs post-half marathon have been 6 miles each, and I will continue to up that mileage before the Oly. I am not afraid of running the 10k (6.2 miles) on the race.
  • I have done a few bricks recently, even if it was just running a mile after biking. This week I even did a 10 mile spin at the gym on the spinning bike, and ran a mile on the treadmill after. Today I did a "mega-brick": a 25+ mile bike ride immediately followed by a 6.2 mile run, the exact distances of the Oly. It was hard, but I did great! I finished in 3:08, including the transition, which leads me to think I'll have another 4 hour Oly once I factor in the swim and one more transition (swim to bike).

I am happy I did that huge brick today; I only have 3 weekends left before the race! The weekend before the race I will be busy with a family event and unable to train (perfect for tapering anyway) so as of now I only have two training weekends left. This big brick today gave me the confidence I needed that I CAN do this. Slow or not, I will be able to finish, and finish strong (I was pain-free and energetic the rest of today!) I plan on two more long bike rides and runs over the next two weekends, and maybe a small brick or two mid-week. I will continue my swimming, and hope to swim at least once a week before the race, if not twice a week.

Race day is coming....and I'll be ready.

February 17, 2012

When My Heart Grew

I love to watch my kids interact together. A is now 5 1/2, and D is almost 8, so they are able to play together a lot more than they used to. A is still not as developmentally advanced, in terms of language, as other kids her age, but D is amazing with her. It's especially fun for me to watch them in the tub together, playing with the bathtoys and splashing around.

Back when I was pregnant with A, I was so scared of how having a second child would affect D. In fact, I was so focused on D that I wasn't even excited about my pregnancy. Even though A was a planned pregnancy, and I was happy about it, during the entire 9 months I was worried about how D would react to having a baby sister. I was also sad at losing my "alone" time with him. For 26 months, D and I were inseparable. I was with him all the time, rarely leaving him. He was my light, my joy, my sunshine. You know that "honeymoon" stage you get when you're in a new relationship? That was me and D for two years straight.

I was so sad at losing our one-on-one time, and so worried about how D would react, that I felt oddly detached from the pregnancy. Not depressed....but like I said, I wasn't EXCITED about her. I did all the right things----got her room ready, had a baby shower--but my focus was on my son. I was also scared that I wouldn't love her---how could there be room in my heart for another baby? The love I felt for my son was so great, unlike any love I had ever felt. (In fact, later, when she was born with so many birth defects, I thought that God was punishing me for not being excited about her. When I told this to my rabbi, he allayed my fears, telling me that God would never punish me for such thoughts or emotions.)

Before A was born, a friend sent me the following poem, whose author is unknown.

Loving Two

I walk along holding your 2-year-old hand, basking in the glow of our magical relationship. Suddenly I feel a kick from within, as if to remind me that our time alone is limited. And I wonder: how could I ever love another child as I love you?

Then she is born, and I watch you. I watch the pain you feel at having to share me as you’ve never shared me before.

I hear you telling me in your own way, “Please love only me”. And I hear myself telling you in mine, “I can’t”, knowing, in fact, that I never can again.

You cry. I cry with you. I almost see our new baby as an intruder on the precious relationship we once shared. A relationship we can never quite have again.

But then, barely noticing, I find myself attached to that new being, and feeling almost guilty. I’m afraid to let you see me enjoying her—as though I am betraying you.

But then I notice your resentment change, first to curiosity, then to protectiveness, finally to genuine affection.

More days pass, and we are settling into a new routine. The memory of days with just the two of us is fading fast.

But something else is replacing those wonderful times we shared, just we two. There are new times – only now, we are three. I watch the love between you grow, the way you look at each other, touch each other.

I watch how she adores you — as I have for so long. I see how excited you are by each of her new accomplishments. And I begin to realize that I haven’t taken something from you, I’ve given something to you. I notice that I am no longer afraid to share my love openly with both of you.

I find that my love for each of you is as different as you are, but equally strong. And my question is finally answered, to my amazement. Yes, I can love another child as much as I love you—only differently.

And although I realize that you may have to share my time, I now know you’ll never share my love. There’s enough of that for both of you – you each have your own supply.

I love you—-both. And I thank you both for blessing my life. --author unknown

This poem came at the right time for me, as I read it right before A was born. And, of course, we know the rest of the story. I fell in love, head-over-heels-madly-in-love--with my daughter within seconds of her being born. D loves his sister, and she idolizes him. He is so protective of her, so proud of her. A few months ago, I was talking to my husband at the dinner table about her upcoming IEP. I was crying, saying that all I want is for her to be a typical child, but no matter how well she does, she'll never be typical (she'll always, always have her hearing and balance impairments, if nothing else). D asked, "what does typical mean?" I responded that when you're typical, you can do things that other kids can do. His response was "what can't A do? She's amazing!"

A IS amazing. And so is D. I'm a lucky, lucky mama that I have the two of them. And they're lucky to have each other.

February 13, 2012

My Run for Sherry

Saturday was the Virtual Run for Sherry.

I wrote about Sherry before. She was a wife, a mother, a teacher, a friend, and a runner. She went for a run one morning and never came home. She was 43 years old. Her body still hasn't been found. Two men are in custody and I believe one has admitted to killing her. She was abducted one mile from her home in Montana, 10 minutes into her run.

On Saturday a world-wide virtual run was created to honor her memory. Bibs were available to print out, and people were encouraged to run, walk, skate, just MOVE---all in honor of Sherry. I read that over 20,000 bibs were downloaded and printed. People from all over the world ran in her memory. You can view just a sampling from this video her cousin Beth posted on her website.

I ran for Sherry on Saturday. My husband and son were in Colorado skiing, so it was just me and my daughter, A. I have never run with her before, even though I have a jogging stroller. I considered putting my bib on and heading to the gym, where I could stow A in the daycare and I could run on the treadmill. But that didn't feel right. Instead, I put A in the jogging stroller and set out to do 2 miles.

A took this picture of me on my phone. Not bad for a 5 year old!

It was hard pushing the stroller while running, and it wasn't my best run, but this wasn't about me. It was about Sherry. It was about appreciating that I could run, that I am alive, to not take it for granted. It was about running for someone who can't. I still can't fathom being killed while doing something you love. This could be me. It could be anyone.

I stopped along the way to pick up trash--since I had a basket in the bottom of the stroller, I had a place to throw the empty Gatorade and vodka bottles I found in the grass. But other than those stops, it was a quiet, pensive run. I didn't bring music with me, as I wanted to be able to hear A if she talked to me. (By the way, she LOVED "running" with me; too bad pushing the stroller was so hard that I'm unlikely to do it often). I thought about Sherry those entire two miles.

I hope that this world-wide run gave some comfort to Sherry's family. I know for me, it made me feel more a part of my fabulous running community than ever--and made me feel part of something bigger than me.

February 6, 2012

Surf City Half Marathon Race Recap

Yesterday I ran the Surf City Half Marathon. For me, this is the second of a three part race series (if you do Long Beach, Surf City and OC consecutively, you get an extra medal at the end of your third race as part of their Beach Cities Challenge. I did the Long Beach Half Marathon in October). While I did not set a PR (I'm still trying to recapture that magical race in Las Vegas) I had a great run along a gorgeous course.

With the race being held in Huntington Beach, this would be an overnight trip for me. This time my whole family came with me. Bonus! We drove up from San Diego on Saturday afternoon and stopped in Irvine to have lunch with our old neighbors, who recently moved there. It was great to catch up with them, especially because their son is one of my son's best friend. After, we drove straight to the Expo for my packet pickup.

Packet pickup was extremely well organized and easy. In fact, this entire event was well organized, from start to finish. (I was especially impressed with their Facebook page; if you asked a question, someone from the race answered it within the day. Great customer service). I got my bib and shirt, and then we walked around the Expo. Although I saw things I could have bought (one shirt in particular had paw prints on it and said "my running partner has four legs"....it was adorable, but not for $30) I ended up leaving the Expo without spending a cent.

After the Expo we checked into our hotel. At the desk, I asked about the shuttle service, which I thought they had to the race start the next morning. It turned out that we booked at the wrong hotel! We booked at the Doubletree, and the website said the race was partnering with the Doubletree Club. That hotel was right by our hotel, but it was not a partner with the race. Our mistake, not theirs; we didn't realize there were two different hotels, both by Doubletree. This meant that I would not have access to a shuttle (we called the other hotel to ask, but were denied) and so J and the kids would have to get up early and drive me there. Not ideal, but it had to be done. We ate at the Red Robin that night (kid-friendly) and I tried to get to sleep. Trying to sleep with a 5- and 7-year old in the same hotel room is hard enough on a regular night, but the night before a race was heinous. They were so excited to be away, and did not fall asleep for quite a while. Luckily, I think we all dozed off by 9:00, and, while I woke up approximately every hour all night, I did get a decent night's sleep before my 5:30 wake-up call.

The next morning I woke up, got dressed (I was excited to debut my newly acquired Half Fanatics t-shirt, having just qualified in December), and had to wake the kids. I hated waking them so early, especially on vacation, but I needed to get to the start line. They drove me and dropped me off at the marked "family and friends" drop-off area. Again, this was well-organized and easy. There was no traffic whatsoever (they dropped me off around 6:30, right when the marathoners started their race and the half marathoners were just getting there) and I walked an easy few blocks to the starting area. Here I met up with Sheila, a friend of mine from Twitter and Dailymile whom I've never met in person. It was great to meet her (I'm bummed we didn't think about taking a picture!) I also found port-a-potty heaven: long rows of port-a-pottys with no lines! And inside, it was clean and looked unused--it even smelled nice (for a port-a-potty, that is!) I was happy I didn't have to wait in line and use a nasty one.

The pre-race scene was very reminiscent of the pre-race scene at the Long Beach Half Marathon. The same beach-y vibe, the same energy...probably because a lot of the same people do these Orange County races. It was very casual and laid-back, but with a huge air of excitement. I had heard that 60% of the 20, 000 people were running their first half- or full marathons. I'm not sure if that's true or not, but there were definitely a lot of newbies. When the announcer asked people to shout if it was their first half marathon, lots of people around me yelled out. Very cool. Anyhow, I found my corral and got in to wait. I was getting nervous about the heat; I ended up discarding my throw-away jacket and gloves while still in the corral! It was getting too warm, too early. It seemed that the race was delayed, as my wave didn't get off until about 10 minutes after the scheduled start time. Finally, we were off and running!

This guy ran with a watermelon on his head!

Self-portrait before the race

While I didn't have any major technical issues this race (I dropped my camera during the Long Beach Half Marathon, and my fuel belt came off during Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas, costing me my sub-2:30 time) I DID have issues with my iPod. For some reason, it was acting up for the first few miles. A song would come on, then stop suddenly for 30-60 seconds. Then it would resume in the same place it had stopped. I was fearful I'd have to run the race without music (something I never do) but luckily around mile 5 it stayed on for good.

Most of the race (about 10 of the 13.1) was right on Pacific Coast Highway, alongside the ocean. It was absolutely gorgeous. It was mostly flat, with some slight inclines here and there and some smaller "hills" around miles 3-5 ( they weren't steep, but they definitely not flat). They had a bit of course entertainment, but mostly the entertainment was the beautiful views of the Pacific. They had ample course support in terms of water, sports drink and food (I think they gave out Sharkies and Clif Shot Bloks). They did run out of cups around the mile 8 marker; the volunteers there were offering runners either a "refill or a splash" with their water (this is one of my tips for racing: always, always carry your own hydration, as you never know if the race will run out of water or even cups!) Other than that one water station, everything was perfect.

There were also lots of spectators along the course, which was awesome. My two favorite signs were "You are NOT almost there" (at mile 2) and "Do it for the Facebook pictures". As a runner, I always appreciate the spectators cheering and holding signs, especially ones that make me chuckle.

I loved the mile markers

I was on pace to break 2:30 up until mile 9. At that point the 2:30 pacers passed me, then disappeared in the distance. It was getting hot, and I started suffering. I hate running in the heat. While it certainly wasn't THAT hot, it was much hotter than I had anticipated for the first Sunday in February. I even had to dump water on my head at the water stops, something I never thought I'd have to do in a winter race. I also started to get a bit nauseous, and my legs started to hurt...and that threw me off. My body overcame my mind, and I took too many walk breaks.

Finally the finish line was in sight. The chutes were packed with people, and though I really wanted to slow down I didn't. Really, I was so nauseous at this point, and was doing some self-talk not to get sick right then and there! Luckily, I saw J and the kids on the side. I ran right by them, slapping my son D with a high-five, and crossed the finish line. At that point, I was just happy to be done. I wasn't exhausted (I think taking a Gu at miles 4, 8, and 12 really helped) but my calfs were so tight I thought they would snap in half if I flexed. In the end, I finished in about 2:36...not my best time, not my worst time. In fact, that time in somewhere right in the middle of where I've been coming in for the last year and a half. I wish I was able to recapture some of that mental toughness that got me to PR in Vegas---and I will one day--but that was not to be in the race yesterday. I got my medal and was handed a bag with food, containing a banana, granola bar and some other food. I got a similar bag of snacks after crossing the finish line at Long Beach. I like that!

All in all, I loved this race. I can't say enough about how well organized it was, or how beautiful the course was. For me, I need to practice mind-over-body, because while I think I truly needed some of those walk breaks, others I probably could have run through. I want to be more mentally tough. Regardless, it was a great race for this Half Fanatic. I look forward to finishing up the Beach Cities Challenge in May with the OC Half Marathon!

February 2, 2012

I'm Another Mother Runner!!!

I am proud and honored to be featured on Another Mother Runner today! I love their website, have their book, "Run Like A Mother" (in fact, Sarah, one of the authors, signed it for me when I bought it from her at the expo in Las Vegas), often wear one of their shirts while I run, and love to follow them on Twitter and Facebook. To have them profile me is truly an honor and I'm very excited. Please check it out!!!