Tuesday, March 24, 2015

When Runners Become Parents...

Thinking about having a baby?

My good friend, let’s call her Susie, shared her thoughts following the completion of her first race seven weeks after becoming a mom. “The four-mile Thanksgiving race is a family tradition. I started not knowing my plan, but ended up feeling great and running the whole course,” she said. A little over two weeks later, she won her age group in a 5k race.

Susie has been running for as long as she can remember, often to stay in shape for other sports. When offered college scholarships in cross country, basketball and soccer, she chose cross country and participated on a division one cross country and track team for four years. She qualified for Boston in her first marathon in 2006 and won the Water to Wine Half Marathon in Sonoma, California in 2013.

An engineer by training, she married at 26 and always knew she wanted a family. Four years later, following a summer of hard training and “pre-baby fun,” she and her husband agreed they were ready. Their son was born last October.

During the first four months of pregnancy, Susie ran comfortably, keeping her heart rate under 140 bpm. “During months five and six, it got harder. I felt I needed to keep running to stay sane, but eventually my body told me it was time to stop.”  She began taking long daily walks.

“My running friends swear that running made their deliveries easier. I don’t know, but I think it helped with focus and ‘getting down to business,’” she said.

A day or two after Susie came home from the hospital, she resumed walking. With her son strapped into a front pack, she gradually added time to her walks and within a week was up to an hour. Her first post partum run after five weeks consisted of ¼-mile run/walk intervals for three miles, a regime she adjusted as she became stronger. Her runs have been on a treadmill unless her husband is home and she can run outside, a welcome alone time.

Now nearing the end of a 12-week hiatus from her job, Susie will soon have to balance parenthood, work and running. She hopes to run at lunch, “because when I get home, I want to hang out with my little dude.”

She says there’s advice everywhere about running while pregnant but not much about getting back into shape after delivery. She did quote one runner’s blog that suggested exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor, and wearing pads under your running bra and black shorts or tights. Otherwise, she’s been on her own.

Her advice is to keep your sessions, whether running or walking, enjoyable. “Don’t overdo it and get hurt.”

Current goals, in addition to getting back into her clothes, include running for enjoyment. She hasn’t yet set her sights on any major races yet, but she’s admits to a competitive streak that will have her choosing an event to shoot for soon. “First I need to see how going back to my job and training are going to work out.”

As for parenthood, she and her husband plan at least one more child. “I’m loving it,” she said. “There’s nothing like parenthood.”

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Most Memorable Runs

What makes a run one you’ll recall weeks, months, even years hence, that will continue to inspire you, make you feel grateful, joyous, thoughtful, introspective or sooth a hurt?

Perhaps you came to a realization that made a change in your life, celebrated an event or were in a place that held special meaning for you.

Below is a sampling of memorable runs by area runners.

When my dad died, I flew home from Morocco tired, stressed and jetlagged. I couldn't sleep so I got up at 4:00 a.m. and went for a run. I remember thinking that running had saved my life--several times. I was back home by 6:30 a. m. My brother was up. “Hey, wanna go for a run?”
“Too late, I already ran 16.” That run got me through the day of my dad’s memorial service.

I keep going back to this run that I had long ago.  It was simply out my front door after work, at dusk, onto the Highline Canal, my normal route.  My kids were little so I was happy to have a moment to myself.  I wasn’t planning to run more than four miles.  It was snowing lightly, with a little accumulation, quiet in that way that the falling snow makes things. I remember thinking, “This is just so nice and peaceful.” I still have this memory of such a pleasant, relaxing run, perhaps because usually snow is more a pain in the neck than peaceful.  That run has stuck with me for 20 years.

 Tokyo!  My first and last marathon on the occasion of my 65th birthday, high fiving with volunteers along the way, partaking in wine and beer stops en route, but skipping the mystery foods as I headed for a slow and comfortable 5-plus hour finish time. Most challenging was finding friends at the end among 35,000 runners before indulging in a hot water soak and a celebratory margarita.

At a half marathon in Hawaii, as Frank Shorter presented my award, I mentioned that I was from Colorado. We chatted for a moment and then he gave me a hug and kissed my cheek.  For the rest of the day, I kept saying, “'Wow, I got kissed by Frank Shorter.” At a recent half in Massachusetts, I met and talked with Bill Rodgers. No kiss this time but I got his autograph. He wrote, “Let’s run forever.”

The sheer joy of realizing I could run again following hip surgery overwhelmed me on my first time out the door.  I paused for a light to turn, and began to sob uncontrollably. As I crossed the street, a lady on the other side asked if I was alright. It was my pleasure to assure her that I was.
I ran the Marine Corps Marathon with my son when he was recovering from an injury and spending long hours at work. This meant that I could actually keep up with him!  We talked the entire way and at the end I was stronger and “carried” him through the last 6 miles.  That day I became his running buddy rather than his aging mother.  We crossed the finish line holding hands and he choked up at the end.  It was my best run ever. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Behind the scene at road races

I’ve stood in awe of race directors for a long time now.  I can’t imagine doing what they do in order to pull off a successful running race. Large race or small, there are still a zillion details that must be attended to from making sure there are enough porta-potties to rounding-up and counting on volunteers, arranging for T-shirts, medals and awards, making sure the course is measured, traffic is controlled and aid stations are manned and supplied. Much of what they do is not obvious to those of us who participate in racing events—unless of course—something goes wrong.

Lisa Sinclair and Ron Baker of Green Events and I sat soaking up the autumn sun outside a cafĂ© in downtown Fort Collins one afternoon and talked about what it’s really like to be a full-time race director.

In 2011, Baker, a recently retired dentist, who’d been running for nearly 30 years, met Sinclair when they shared the same running coach and discovered they had compatible ideas about environmental and social sustainability.

Baker was looking for a second career and Sinclair, who had been working for a local health club, was ready to put her extensive education and experience in sports science, physiology and business into practice in a business of her own.

Green Events was born. Today they own and sponsor four events every year beginning with the Sweaty Sweater 5k ad Polar Plunge in January and ending with the Equinox Half Marathon in September. (They camped out overnight near the finish line before that one.) They also manage several fundraiser running events for non-profits.

Their passion for preserving the environment and contributing a portion of race proceeds to non-profits is as important to them as their commitment to running.  In 2010, when they worked together in a zero-waste effort for for the Colorado Marathon and the Horsetooth Half in Fort Collins, they achieved a whopping 90% of race-related materials recycled.

The hardest thing about their job is the pressure that builds close to race time to make sure they’ve tended to every detail. Despite the sleep deprivation, they derive great satisfaction when they have created an event that runs smoothly and provides a memorable experience for the runners.

“The flurry of emails I have to deal with are one of the hardest parts of my job,” Sinclair said. Sometimes she forwards them to Baker for a laugh. The week before a recent event, a race entrant asked Sinclair if she could either find her a babysitter or change the starting time of the race for her convenience.

“Runners love t-shirts and they’re passionate about medals,” Baker has learned. After an inaugural medal-less year, for the Equinox Half he caved in. Baker felt that medals made in China weren’t a good fit for a green event. When Sinclair found a Colorado source using recycled materials, the problem was solved.

Behind-the-scenes race planning begins a good year before an event and continues until the last bin of recycled trash is emptied. And in-between there are those endless details.

Sinclair and Baker agree. They couldn’t do it without dedicated volunteers. And they wouldn’t trade their jobs for anything.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

On and Off

Off and On

The day long ago when I paused during a run, reached inside my shirt, whipped off my bra and stuffed it in my pocket issued in a new era for me. In those days, before the advent of running bras, my straps were forever making distracting, uncomfortable trips from my shoulders down my upper arms rendering this particular piece of underwear embarrassing and useless.

That day I began a slow decline into the ranks of those who don’t wear bras at all. Now I wear one when I think I should, or—more accurately—when I think someone’s going to notice that I haven’t got one on. Given my druthers, I’d never wear one at all.

My history with bras goes back to the time I first clamped one on at age 12. My nine-year-old brother, sensing my discomfort with this indication of oncoming puberty, marched himself across the street.

“Libby’s wearing a bra,” he announced to the neighbors after he made sure I was close enough to hear. His words were enough to bring me to tears in front of the older childless couple who’d become my friends.

I have a history with underpants, too, though it is not related to the running life and goes back even further. The students at Mrs. Herrington’s private school in a London suburb knew me as the new kid--an American with a weird accent. I had a hard time understanding them as well so we didn’t talk much.

I was small for my age and not accustomed to wearing a school uniform. I struggled with French and algebra, subjects unheard of in an American third grade and in which I was expected to “catch up.”

 For me, lunch-time has always ranked right up there with the worst things about moving. Not having a ready-made group of friends to eat with can make you feel as awkward as a tall blonde alone in a bar in Osaka, Japan.

At Mrs. Herrington’s we lined up in the cafeteria to get our food. There I stood one day, shortly after my arrival at the school, tray clutched in both hands, when the elastic in my Carter’s cotton undies gave out and gravity took over.

Before I could squeeze my legs together to avert the inevitable, my drawers lay at my ankles for God and all those proper English children to see. I froze. I didn’t drop my tray and grab for my pants. I didn’t yell for help. I didn’t do anything.

Amid kid giggles, the nearest teacher, a stern-looking one, disappeared and returned to hand me a length of string. “Give me your tray,” she said. “Go to the ‘baarthroom’ and see what you can do.”

I fumbled around as best I could to tie up my britches, wishing I had a safety pin. My re-entry into the cafeteria was a character-building moment of my life.

Even today I buy underwear carefully, avoiding skinny elastic. And I don’t leave home without safety pins, needle and thread.

No one’s going to catch me with my pants down, on the road or at lunch.