August 12, 2014

The in between -- seize it

Time to get real. I am not a cry-when-I-drop-my-kids-off-on-the-first-day parent. I have always been 90% excited, 10% sad to see them go. This year I was 1% excited, 99% sad to see them go. Because this year it was all of them, and this year, my life changes. Being a stay-at-home mom doesn't mean the same thing now as it did when they were all here. I'm sure I'll adjust, pick up more hours at work, spend a million hours painting, maybe finally have all the dishes washed at once. But it's sad because it's the end of an era. And that era was pretty good, and I'm sure that I didn't appreciate it as much as I could/should have while it was here. I hate, or do not prefer (in case my dad is reading), when people tell you that you should appreciate that time with your little toddlers, who are right at that moment simultaneously trying to fling themselves under cars and finding every hidden weapon (i.e. kitchen utensils) to impale themselves with and peeing on the carpet that you just washed. But today I can appreciate that sentiment, even though I still think saying it to a struggling, sleep-deprived parent is not the best timing to express it. 

Here are their attitudes about the first day:

Happy to go, nervous about swapping classes, not happy that she got PE class with all 7th and 8th grade girls, excited to have band with one of her best friends.

Nothing gets this kid down, not nervous at all about what to wear or which friends will be in his class, mostly thinking about which snack to pack and hoping that he gets to build a robot. 

Met the teachers yesterday, first day of school is today. Both not sure what to think about school. Happy about getting juice boxes, sad about not playing with Legos all day. Sad that they had to carry so much stuff into school this morning.

This was their birthday a few months ago -- recognize those expressions? 

By the time we dropped them off, they were both smiling. I would smile at the prospect of an official naptime with my personalized mat, too.

Just when I thought I was over crying, literally (but after they left -- trying to act cool in front of them), about my kids all heading off to school, Robin Williams died. How is it possible to be so sad about someone you didn't even know personally dying? But it felt like I knew him. Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting were two of the most influential movies of my childhood, teenage years. I still vividly remember sobbing (shoulders shaking, snot flowing) during the "it's not your fault" scene in Good Will Hunting.

And as my kids head off to school, I think of Mr. Keating whispering to the kids in Dead Poet's Society:
They're not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they're destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? - - Carpe - - hear it? - - Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.

Please do that, kids.

When my mother-in-law passed away earlier this year, I found some comfort and some sorrow in this song, Alone.

Come into the world
And you go out of the world

But in between
It's you and me

I don't know what I'm trying to say today, other than work myself up into more tears and sadness. But also I'm trying to say that I want to appreciate the "in between." 

August 10, 2014

Life is good, eat s'mores (a Balance Bar giveaway!)

How soon is too soon? Too soon is tomorrow when these cool kids start back to school.

Too soon is discussing with your spouse signing up for another race the morning after you were gone all day for a 50 miler. 

Too soon is eagerly stepping into a steamy shower after a long run in the rain. Chafe much? 

But is it ever too soon to start another giveaway? Well, I'm pushing the limits tonight by starting one five seconds after the other one finishes. 

You may have noticed that my postings are so slim lately. We bought a house, I'm working more hours, the kids were out of school (going back in the morning). Plus I'm still running. So that means that I have less time for the fun part of life, making up junk to post on the internet. 

Now that the kids will be back in school, I'm going to become a professional painter while I rehab the paint on the inside and outside of our new house. 

For anyone who is interested at all (all two of you), we ended up purchasing the home that we have been living in ever since we moved to Alabama. In a strange turn of events where we tried our hardest to find another home to purchase for about eight months, we realized that the best deal for the house we loved most was the one we have been living in all along. The random rental house that we found via Craigslist and agreed to rent without ever seeing it in person. Life can sometimes be a long string of happy accidents. 

All of that to say, sorry for the little content, but not sorry to be posting another giveaway for y'all. 

This one is to celebrate National S'mores Day, which is today. You still have time to celebrate if you haven't yet! Well, at least you could probably whip up a microwave version. And, sorry, you're out of time if you live on the East coast. 

I know you're thinking, how did I not realize that such an important holiday was happening on this very day? Truthfully, if more recognized by Hallmark, this holiday would most likely be more important to people than Valentine's Day. You see, on National S'mores Day you don't have to reciprocate love to another human in exchange for chocolate, you just get the chocolate. Less pressure, just as much chocolate, with a marshmallow bonus. 

Or if you're trying to keep it a little healthier with a balanced dose of carbs, protein and fat, there are Balance Bar Gold S'mores.  

I tried them out and liked the taste. Not the exact copy of the campfire s'more, but still enough to satisfy your sweet tooth with only 14 grams of sugar.

And if you squint, you can read the ingredients above.

Interested in trying them out for yourself? Win a free box of Balance Bars just like the one above by entering the Rafflecopter below. For U.S. residents only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

August 4, 2014

BANa rehydration: review and giveaway

Let's talk hydration. Especially during these summer months, staying hydrating is clutch to successful racing and running. The less hydrated you are, the harder your heart has to work to pump blood. So better hydration equals better performance.

Along with fluid, you have to replace the salt you lose in your sweat. Here are some interesting salt factoids from Cycling News
The average concentration of sodium in sweat is 1150 mg per litre, but can vary greatly (450 mg to 2300 mg per litre). Assuming a sweat rate of 1.5 litres per hour, an athlete with sweat of average saltiness would lose about 1700 mg of sodium per hour. Excessive sweating, combined with consumption of plain water in copious amounts (e.g., 10L in 4 hours), results in a sodium deficit, i.e., dilutional hyponatremia. 
Losing salt is no joke because of the important roles it plays in our bodies. (Click here for source.)
Sodium is a vital nutrient. It’s a major component of extracellular fluid, and is essential for maintaining the volume of the plasma to allow adequate tissue perfusion and normal cellular metabolism. Because sodium is used as an extracellular cation, it is typically found in the blood and lymph fluid. The maintenance of extracellular fluid volume is an important physiologic function of the sodium in the body, particularly in regards to cardiovascular health.
Recently, I've been testing out a new hydration tool. BANa, emphasis on the Na for sodium, is serious rehydration that uses the power of salt to keep you from bonking. Dr. Benjamin Yoo created BANa after treating college athletes for dehydration. He would treat them with a saline solution given intravenously (sometimes requiring multiple bags of the solution to recover), and that's where the idea was born that they could get this treatment in a bottle on their own, no hospital stay required. One of their marketing slogans is that BANa is "an IV in a bottle." Read more about Dr. Yoo and his research here

Each container has 800mg of sodium. So two of these in an hour would replace the average athlete's sodium output. This is twice the amount of sodium in a bottle of Gatorade. And if you are counting calories, this has none vs Gatorade's 400+/bottle. Plus, check out that its formula uses natural ingredients from top to bottom. 

I like that it's sweetened with stevia (a plant!) instead of artificial sweeteners. 

Why get your salt from a drink instead of a capsule? I've considered this a lot lately with the ease of using salt capsules, but here are two reasons to stick to traditional methods of salt intake. Salty food and drinks stimulate your thirst, keeping your wanting to drink more. Also, it's possible to ingest too much salt via capsules, and that is less likely to happen via food and drink. (Click here for source.)

At first sip, this drink is quite salty but leaves a sweet aftertaste. For my personal use during a race, I mixed it half and half with water in my handheld. I was going to be drinking constantly, so I knew the whole bottle would go down easier that way. The flavor is best when served cold. 

I also found that half and half was a good mix for my hydration pack on training runs. Using the tube to drink, I didn't taste the salt as much, probably because the salt taste buds are near the front of the mouth and with the pack the fluid enters near the back of the mouth. Thanks to my big brother for pointing that out.

There is also a version for the kiddos when they get sick and dehydrated. 

Especially for the kids, I again like that the ingredients are more natural and don't include artificial flavors and dyes like Pedialyte (compare ingredients here). (And we're dog sitting this week! We love this little guy!)

Want to try BANa out and see what you think? It's currently available at some Bi-Lo, Walgreens, Whole Foods, and Piggly Wiggly stores. Check availability in your area here or order online here.

Also, I'm giving away a sample set, two bottles of the adult version and two bottles of the kiddo version (which can also be used by adults)!! So enter to win with the Rafflecopter below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

July 31, 2014

Hotter n' Hell: when it actually was

Hotter 'n Hell lived up to its name this year. Last year, we got a little bit of a break when temps dipped into the not-so-hellish 80s. Unless you're in southern California, where 80s counts as hellish. This year, not so much on the near-heavenly-for-Alabama-summer weather. The high got to 94 that day, and according to me, it felt like 204.  

For the past two years, I've done a multiple-week summer road trip with my kiddos, and for those same years, I've been registered for the Southeastern Trail Series, which happens to schedule this race for the day after I return home. Or I decide to return home the day before in order to participate. Either way, what happens is I'm undertrained for racing yet overexcited to be out of my car and taking a break from four kidlets making extremely loud demands in the five square feet of our VW Jetta. 

I was so happy to see my trail people again on race morning.

David Christy of David Christy Photography puts down his camera to sign for a hellish loop.

While everyone was prepping for the race, I was sweating already because I was nervous about the fact that I forgot to bring my Skin Sake, a race day must-have for me. Luckily, I found a sample buried in my bag. Thank you, swag bag samples.

You'll notice that most people are geared up for hydration. I myself went with a pack and a handheld bottle on the first loop because my pack was completely frozen from taking it out of the freezer only ten seconds before I left for the race. With 9-mile loops, it was completely melted without a trace of its former coolness remaining by the end of my first loop. 

I knew that my time from last year was about 3:44, and I was hoping to match that. In the beginning, I felt better than last year, plus unlike last year, I had managed at least one 13-mile run on my road trip. That run was thanks to my brother-in-law Randy who mapped out the run and said he would bike it with me and carry supplies. I had high hopes of sitting on the couch endlessly, but when someone makes it that obvious that you could easily run, you just go do it. 

The people at the front who mean business. 

I finished my first loop in around 1:45, and I knew that that meant I could even slow down a little on my second loop and still match my time last year. But somewhere around mile 5, that giant climb, I started to feel symptoms of heat exhaustion.

For those who haven't visited the blog in a while (no surprise since I've only been writing once every million years lately), I almost died from what I now believe was heat exhaustion/stroke at Run for Kids. And although I am prone to exaggerate (see previous sentence for reference), I am not exaggerating when I say that I firmly believe that I was right at that point where you lose consciousness and fade away from life. My body was shutting down. Once you have experienced heat exhaustion, you are more likely to experience it again, and I'm pretty sure that running 18 difficult trail miles on a 94-degree day would be a perfect recipe for heat exhaustion soup. 

At Hotter 'n Hell, I became nauseated, sluggish, and didn't want to eat/drink. For a few minutes, I thought it was just the hill that was getting to me, but as I summited, the flat felt just as hard as the 35-degree (guessing there, but it felt like million-degree) elevation of climbing out of Peavine Falls. My heart was racing and my breathing was labored with barely any effort at all. That's when I knew that something was wrong. People started flying past me like speedy bullets compared to a slow motion three-toed sloth, and all I could manage was an awkward clumsy walk. That's when my buddy Dean Thronton bopped by with a ziploc bag full of goodies like ginger chews and s-caps. Thankfully, he stopped his own race and kindly offered my choice of items from the bag, and I took an s-cap. 

As usual when I get into a down situation, I thought I was hydrating/salting/eating enough. Maybe I was and maybe it was just the heat getting to me. I am not sure how many minutes I spent walking, but it was definitely over a mile and included some steep declines which are usually my favorite part of a trail race to barrel through with abandon because rocks somehow do not scare me on a decline as much as they do on level ground. But no barreling down hills that day. I just hiked it knowing that any running was going to make the situation with my body worse. 

And then about a mile or two from the finish, something just clicked. Maybe the s-cap kicked in, maybe I cooled down enough to recover, maybe that last banana (surprisingly not disgusting) Hammer gel worked its magic. I am not sure which of those things it was, but one or the combination of them fixed whatever was going wrong with me. And from there, I pushed forward and ended feeling like a normal human being. 

Right before I sat down to write this tonight, I read this quote from Olympian Roland Schoeman. It's the perfect summation of Saturday's race for me. 

My time was 4:07, and I was 13th of 22 women in the race. Last year I came in 4th. Was I disappointed with my time? Yes. But I finished the race feeling excited that I knew I could overcome sickness in a race. That almost dying stunt at Run for Kids scared me pretty badly, enough that I am not willing to take any risks in the heat. When I know something is not right, I know that I immediately need to back off. And this race taught me that if I back off and let my body recover, it can give me more eventually and even within the same race. So overall, great learning experience. 

What I didn't learn from last year was that you probably shouldn't volunteer yourself to sweep the course when you are already completely spent from the race. But I had already planned to meet some extra helpers out there, and I figured I could handle it if I just went slowly. My helpers ran ahead picking up trash, and I lolly-gagged picking up flags and taking pictures. 

Some of my sweeping thoughts:

Here's a picture of ... me and a trail. My standards for interesting photo ops were low when I had extra energy at the start of sweeping. 

Blood Rock, the almost-end of the first long hill. I also found the perfect hiking stick to make my climbs easier. 

Thank you, David Tosch, for making this race course painfully obvious. 

If you got lost during this race, you deserved it. Not sure I've ever run a race with better marking, and I heard of zero people getting lost. 

Sweeping, sweeping, sweeping, overlook (ears perk up, tail wags). Sigh, I heart Alabama so much at overlooks like that one. 

Sudden mood swing to sweeper rage at the person who threw their cigarette butt on the trail. And photo evidence of the dirtiest hands I've ever had. 

This rope was either 106 or 160 feet long. Either way, I felt like I was on Survivor trying to untie the knots as fast as possible to win immunity. This is the point in the race where you could go down the rope (shorter route) or follow the trail (longer route) to the bottom -- a new feature of this year's course and my favorite part of the race. During the sweeping, I had good timing in that a family hiked by and agreed to help me pick up all the blue flags along the trail while I coiled up the rope. Thank you, random family, for your help! 

By the end of the day, I was so dirty that my clothes and body could probably have used a double washing. This is why you wear black at trail runs, e-peoples. Never white, never anything you are afraid to get dirty. 

And according to these photos, I was already asleep before the race started. 

Photo by David Christy Photography.

I like BUTS tanks and I cannot lie. Thanks, Sonia, for helping us get these!

After 27 miles of run/hike/sweeping, maybe more than the distance I had run combined over the previous two weeks, I slept like a rock that night.

What was the last big lesson you learned during a race? 

Did it take failing to learn that lesson?

July 25, 2014

You better run like a girl

We just arrived home from our 14-day tour of the East coast(ish). Driving through Amish country in Ohio (remember that I added -ish to the coast part) two days ago reminded me that life can be a lot simpler than we make it. We can get by with less than we are. We can make things from scratch, and we can try to build the new things we want from old things that we have.

The other thing that inspired me recently is this video. Have you already seen it? If not, watch now.

What would you have done if they asked you to run "like a girl"? I hope I'm not accidentally, because of subconscious societal norms/customs, giving the impression to my daughter that I expect less from her than I do from our sons.

**More to come on our East coast tour! Plus I'm racing an 18-miler tomorrow. Fingers crossed that I run like the kick-butt girls who live around these parts.