Friday, March 28, 2008

Wanna see something beautiful?

Look what's been happening at our house for the last few days...

Book #26: Chuck Klosterman IV

Title: Chuck Klosterman IV
Author: Chuck Klosterman (duh)

A compilation of interviews, columns and a part of a novel by Chuck Klosterman.

I like Chuck Klosterman. I think he's funny. He's a great writer. I've enjoyed most of his other books. But this one is a little weird. The first part, the part with the interviews and articles, is great. I learned more than I ever wanted to know about Billy Joel and Val Kilmer and Britney Spears and Steve Nash. It was fun. The columns (mainly reprints of stuff Klosterman had already published in Esquire) were fun too, although not as educational. The novel, well, the novel was just plain weird.

Book #25: Persepolis: Story of a Childhood

Title: Persepolis: Story of a Childhood
Author: Marjane Satrapi

A graphic novel about the Iranian adolescence of Marjane Satrapi.

I loved this book! I'm not much of a graphic novel reader, so I'll admit I was highly skeptical when someone recommended it to me last year. But when I saw Satrapi interviewed a month or so ago about the movie version of the book, I decided I had to read it. You should read it too. Her drawings do a great job of juxtaposing the innocence of childhood and the horror of the Iranian revolution. I promise-- you'll love it!

Book #24: Finn: A Novel

Title: Finn: A Novel
Author: Jon Clinch

A novel chronicling the life of Pap Finn (yep, Huck's dad), from his early adulthood until Jim finds him dead in his shack on the river.

Although I loved the idea for this book (just as I loved Ahab's Wife and lots of other novels which tell the other side of a fictional story), Pap Finn was such a tormented, terrible, totally repugnant fellow that it made for really hard reading at times. I won't give away the twist that Clinch puts on the story, although it shouldn't be too hard to figure out from the early chapters, that explain some of the language in Twain's story. I recommend the novel to those who love the original, don't mind some very salty language, and who don't have a hard time dealing with murder (and quite a bit of it). Overall, I felt like Pap Finn deserved what he got.

Book #23: A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

Title: A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
Author: Ishmael Beah

When Civil War breaks out in Sierra Leone, Ishmael Beah loses his family, then, as a twelve year-old, becomes a soldier in the army, where he kills in a drug-fueled rage until he's chosen for rehabilitation through a United Nations program.

A Long Way Gone is a hard book to read. When Ishmael Beah first loses his family and moves from village to village, looking for them and for shelter, he's not much older than Bryce is right now. It's amazing that any boy that age could survive with no one other than other boys for companionship and protection. In some ways A Long Way Gone reminded me of Candide (which I read many years ago and might have a faulty recollection of). Every time I thought Ishmael was coming to the end of his trials (when he found the village where the rest of his family was staying, for example), something worse would happen (the village got ransacked and everyone within it was dead). I'm also amazed that after the years of killing at the slightest provocation, rehabilitation was even possible. It makes me grateful for the stability of our nation, and for the relatively simple childhoods my children are able to enjoy. I also marvel at the strength of the human spirit and for the way that someone who by all accounts should be "broken" was able, with a little help, to turn his life into something great.

Running: Two Weeks in Review (March 17-29)

last week
Monday: 5 miles on the beach
Tuesday: 6 miles, speedwork (1K, 2K, 1K, 1K, 1K with rest intervals)
Wednesday: 5 miles on the beach
Thursday: 7 miles on the beach (I love those beach runs!!!)
Saturday: 22.5 miles (just under 3 hours)

this week
Monday: spin and abs
Tuesday: 6 miles speedwork
Wednesday: 9.2 miles at the gym (was planning for 10 but a transformer blew and knocked out power)
Thursday: spin and abs
Friday: 15 miles, 12 by myself in the dark in my neighborhood, 3 pushing the stroller after the kids went to school
Saturday: 4 miles hills

Friday, March 14, 2008

And this, my friends, is what we call payback time...

Remember how my mom and godmother kept my kids for a week when I went on a cruise a few weeks ago?

Tonight my mom flies into town and she and the kids and I leave really early tomorrow morning to drive to Florida to spend the kids' spring break with my grandpa (my mom's dad). I'm sure it will be fun once I get there, but I'm too deep in packing mode and in the self-defeating thought processes that come with trying to figure out what to put in the car to keep four kids occupied for a ten-hour car trip each way. The car is a crumby mess (what do the kids do in there, have four-course meals on the way to school?) and I can't decide whether to vacuum it all, which I know would please my mom, but c'mon, if they thrash it when our longest ride is ten blocks, what is it going to look like after ten hours?

Can't Eddie go instead? I'd gladly take call for him on Saturday night and go to work every day next week. While I'd fear for his patients, I'd be more afraid about what might happen if he and my mom spent a week in close proximity without me to act as a buffer.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Take it and Run Thursday: Building Miles and Going Long

On Saturday, I ran 20 miles. Then I came home, took a shower, went grocery shopping, and spent the rest of the day chasing kids and making truffles and frosting 100 cupcakes and outlining a workshop for an event I was in charge of at church on Sunday. A year ago if you had told me that I'd be able to run 20 miles and still go strong for the rest of the day, I would not have believed you. I think that for me, the ability to run long really draws on my motivation, and here are a few things that motivate me:

1) Someone to run with. On Saturday, I was planning to meet a friend at 6:30 for her last training run before her upcoming half-marathon. So I ran six miles before I met her, went with her for a little more than eight, and did the last six by myself. Even though I did twelve miles alone, it was so nice to have someone to talk to during the middle stretch. I probably ran a little slower, but I needed the social interaction more than I needed the speed. I recently joined a local running club, and I really think it's going to help me stay motivated too. Even though I love the mind-cleanse that comes from a solo run, the social butterfly in me also likes to talk when I'm out for two or three hours.

2) Someone to check in with. I'm on a message board for moms, and over the years, a lot of us have become runners. We have a weekly check-in thread, and I have learned so much from my girls over the years. They're the ones who made me believe I could run a marathon in the first place, who cheered me on to continue when Isaac got sick, who told me about training plans (I'm using FIRST to the Finish right now, and it's a fantastic challenge-- I love it!), who remind me to buy new running shoes when it's been a long time, who listen to me when I whine, and who make me feel good about myself. I couldn't do it without them. Let's face it-- going long takes a lot out of you, and it's great to have friends to check in with at the end to fill you up again.

3) Someone to run for. For as long as I can remember, my mom has been lacing up her sneakers and walking every day. Her current workout schedule (3+ hours at the gym, 6 days a week) makes my marathon training look wimpy in comparison. While I'm not advocating her extremism (yes, Mom, if you're reading this, you're way crazier than I am). But now that I'm a mom myself, I recognize that her example of physical fitness set a great example for me. I hope that I'm perpetuating the healthy lifestyle cycle for my own kids. Eddie, who always seemed somewhat indifferent to my obsession, has gotten really supportive of my running in the last year (and even running a bit himself!). So even though it seems sort of paradoxical on the surface, it's getting away from my family and getting in a good run that enables me to come back recharged and also set a good example for them.

It may seem kind of ironic, but I really do think that in this most solitary of sports, it's the relationships forged through and strengthened by running that keep me going the long miles.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

So what does a runner look like, anyway?

Yesterday, I was talking with a lady who made a comment that I've been thinking about ever since. She said, "I could never be a runner. I have chubby legs. You have such a runner's body." Before I had the chance to set her straight, my other line rang in and I had to cut our conversation short.

Over the last six months, I've had several people comment on my "runner's body" and it makes me uncomfortable every time, even though I know they mean it as a compliment. I've been a runner for at least six years, and for most of that time, I don't think anyone would look at me and immediately assume I was a runner. But that didn't make me any less of one.

In the beginning, I wore baggy t-shirts to hide my mommy tummy, and hoped that running would help me get rid of it. Although I was happy to be able to run throughout my pregnancy, it's an understatement to say that I was in no shape to parade my bare midriff on the cover of Runner's World just a few months postpartum like Paula Radcliffe. For at least five years, looking like a runner was not a priority for me, but running was.

Last year, I got serious about losing weight, amped up the training, and voila, I lost my boobs and found some definition in my midsection. But now I worry a little bit about giving advice to my fellow running sisters. I know that I, as the unconfident beginning runner with the spare tire around my waist, might have felt like advice from a girl who "looked like a runner" certainly couldn't apply to me.

I will say this. I'm training for the Wasatch Back race with eleven of my favorite sisters-in-running. We're all different shapes and sizes, all run at different speeds, all have good runs and bad runs, all have to convince ourselves to get out and hit the pavement some days. And we all look like runners who can be proud of the steps we take each day.

Monday, March 10, 2008

My Life Monday: Pictures

I went to snap a picture of Bryce a few weeks ago. He's always begging to have me take pictures of him. So I got him all posed, and at the last minute, he turned and showed me his booty instead. Annie thought it was so funny that she insisted that I take one of hers as well. This is probably the only time in their lives when they'll want their butts in pictures. Goodness knows I don't want anyone taking a picture of mine!

Book #22: Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know-- And Doesn't

Title: Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know-- And Doesn't
Author: Stephen Prothero

One part dictionary of religious terms and two parts lament over the state of religious literacy in the United States.

We're a religious nation-- why do we know so little about our own religions? That seems to be Stephen Prothero's main question. He gives a little quiz on religious literacy at the beginning (I scored and 80%, which had me depressed at first, until he went over the scores of his college students later in the book). The quiz is pretty fun, and the dictionary is useful, especially for me for the non-Christian religions. It made me wish I had taken a Comparative Religions course in college. Overall, I feel like my education at BYU and as a seminary grad served me well in knowing a lot about my own religion. And I'm glad for that, despite the years of lost sleep.

Book #21: The Kings of New York

Title: The Kings of New York
Author: Michael Weinreb

Michael Weinreb spends a year following the players on New York's Murrow High School's national championship varsity chess team.

Did you love Friday Night Lights and The Last Shot? How about Head of the Class? The Kings of New York is sort of like Head of the Class meets Friday Night Lights. Weinreb provides the interesting backstories and family histories behind the guys who make their opponents sweat on the other side of the chess board. It was a really fun, enlightening read.

Book #20: In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto

Title: In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto
Author: Michael Pollan

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

If you've read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma (and if you haven't, you should!), In Defense of Food should not come as a surprise to you. It seems like the most natural outgrowth of The Omnivore's Dilemma. The first two sections talk all about how bad the Western Diet is and how people in other parts of the world tend to stay skinnier and healthier eating their native diets, no matter what they are. Pollan really hates preservatives, packaged foods, and anything with "high fructose" and "hydrogenated" in it. In the third section (the most useful and shortest part of the book), he talks about all of the things we should do to eat well in a complex modern world. His definition of food? Things your great-grandmother would recognize as food. Don't fear butter, fear preservatives.

I love the third section of Pollan's book, and felt inspired while reading it to do things like join a CSA, start shopping at the farmer's market, and start making my own bread. But I read it on vacation, and so far I haven't actually done any of those things yet. As Eddie pointed out, Pollan's way of eating is a lot more time-consuming and a lot more expensive. Worth it? Probably, but right now I've got a lot of other things (mostly preservative-filled) on my plate.

I finished the book while we were in Mexico, and just as we were leaving Chichen Itza, in the jungle in the heart of the Yucatan Peninsula, I saw a little store in the village. Seated at a table on the front porch was a whole family-- obese mom, overweight dad, bunch of chubby little kids, sitting with a 2-liter bottle of Coke on the table and a big open bag of Doritos spread between them. So I guess the Western diet really is killing people all over the world, and not just us poor saps in America.

Book #19: Women Who Run

Title: Women Who Run
Author: Shanti Sosienski

Profiles of about ten women runners-- running (get it) the gamut from transsexuals to grandmas.

If you're a woman and a runner and get inspired by the stories of other runners, this is an inspiring, happy book, and a very quick read (I read it on a 2 hour bus ride in Mexico, lol). My favorite profiles were of the woman who started the See Jane Run stores and of Kristin Armstrong.

Book #18: The Rule of Four

Title: The Rule of Four
Author: Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason

Tom and Paul, seniors at Princeton, get lost in the puzzle created by the Hypnerotomachia (an obscure Renaissance text) and encounter danger in the process.

The Rule of Four is a puzzle book, often lumped into the same category as The DaVinci Code. However, as I read it for the second time for my book group, I think that the comparison both gives it too much and not enough credit (if that's possible). What I mean is that as a puzzle book, it doesn't really work. While we got to work out the puzzles along with Robert and Sophie, in The Rule of Four, we never actually get to puzzle over the puzzles on our own, which felt like a shortcoming to me (remember The Westing Game from childhood and how satisfying it felt to work out those puzzles?). On the other hand, I felt Thomason and Caldwell were superior to Dan Brown in giving their characters emotional depth, a feat that I think is especially impressive in a book written by two people (how do two people write fiction together? It seems impossible to me). One thing that I missed the first time I read the book but appreciated this time around was the side story of Tom's broken femur, his recovery, and his continuing limp. We know a little bit too much about broken femurs at our house to skim over that part this time.

Book #17: The Long Road Home

Title: The Long Road Home
Author Martha Raddatz

The story of an army humvee in an ambush in Baghdad.

You know how we always hear things on the news that say, "Eight US soldiers were killed in an ambush today in Sadr City. Muqtada al-Sadr's Shiite Militia claims responsibility" and when the next line is something like "Gas prices jump to national average of $3.20/gallon" our minds immediately shift away from Iraq and on to something a little closer to home. Maybe not anymore after reading The Long Road Home, which provides the whole backstory behind the ambush of an army humvee, including the thoughts of those on board, those that came to rescue the soldiers hiding out, and what all of their families were going through back home at Fort Hood. It made me a lot more cognizant of the costs of the war, both human and economic, and made me feel more strongly than ever that while I really appreciate the soldiers who are serving their country, the situation in Iraq is too complicated for our military might to solve alone.

The Week in Training-- March 10-17

I've decided to reinstate my "Week in Training" posts now that the marathon is less than 7 weeks away. If it bores you, don't read it. I'm using the FIRST to the Finish training by the Furman Institute for Running and it's a much more intense training than I did last time.

Monday: 1 mile warmup, 6 sets of 3/4 mile sprints (9.8-9.9mph) followed by 1/4 mile jog (done)
Tuesday: abs and spinning (done! Took Isaac and Maren back to the gym daycare for the first time since October and it felt so liberating! I'm glad the 5am spin classes are part of my past!)
Wednesday: 10 miles at marathon pace (7:40 min/miles). I hope to have a chance to run outside and use my new Garmin! (done, at the gym, 8.2 mph pace)
Thursday: abs and spinning (done, along with 1 mile at a 5% incline at 8.5mph)
Friday: 15 miles (done-- 8.2 mph, 1/2 marathon pace 1:36!-- I love the gym daycare!)
Saturday: drive to Florida (still hoping for 3 miles of hills, but I won't be too broken up if it doesn't happen)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

I think he's paying attention only selectively...

Isaac: Possums and bats are nocturnal.
Me: Where'd you learn that?
Isaac: At church.
Me: What else did you learn at church?
Isaac: Dogs sleep at night but cats sleep during the day.
Me: Yep, that's true. Do you learn about Jesus at church?
Isaac: Who's Jesus?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Take It and Run Thursday-- Gear, Gadgets and Equipment

When I started running, all I needed to be happy was an old pair of shorts, a cheap pair of sneakers, and about 45 minutes with no children in my arms. Life was so simple. As I've gotten progressively faster and more competitive, it seems like my need for stuff has increased exponentially. Here's a list of just a few things I cannot run without:

* My treadmill. On days like today when I have a sick kid home from school, plus my preschooler and toddler, there's no way I can get in a workout without a treadmill. I did have to stop three times in a six-mile run this morning, but I finished it. I have a pretty basic Horizon T20, and even though Eddie said it was just going to be an expensive clothes hanger when we bought it, I've gotten tons of use out of it. It got me through three Minnesota winter and three (so far) Texas summers. When I upgrade, I'll need a faster model, though. This one goes up to 10mph, and sometimes when I'm sprinting, that's not quite fast enough.

* The Jogging Stroller. Next to the treadmill, the stroller is my most indispensible item. I started out with a used Baby Trend double jogger (try running that thing up the hills of Southern Minnesota with 80 lbs of kids in it), and traded up three years ago to the Dreamer Design Ditto. Although the current model apparently has some problems, the one I have is a great stroller. A couple of months ago I pushed my six-year-old and my one-year-old through miles 14-20 of a long training run. Maren and Isaac are probably a little bit too familiar with the stroller for their liking, but having a sane mommy is a very good thing.

* The iPod. Enough said. I will add, though, that since the discussion about music on Runner's Lounge a few weeks ago, I started downloading podcasts. My current favorites to keep me going on long runs-- The Splendid Table (dreaming about that post-run feast) and This American Life. I've decided that the running podcasts don't do it for me-- I'd rather think about something else (preferably food) while running.

* The Shoes. Right now I'm running in Brooks Axioms and Asics GT-2130s. I love both of them!

* The Clothes. As long as they have a pocket, I'm good. I need a spot to stash my cell phone and my shot bloks. I love anything by Sugoi, but since that stuff is often out of my price range, I find myself settling for the Target workout gear instead. I have one of those amphipod extra pocket things, but I haven't gotten the hang of it. It chafes my waist.

* The Hydration Sysytem. I have an amphipod. I've recently decided not to race with it anymore, because I feel like it weighs me down, but I like it well enough as my security blanket for long run training. I used to think that hiding a water bottle in the bushes (filled with water or accelerade) was kind of amateur, but I'd rather be amateur and feel free.

* The Fuel. Before a run? A banana and a couple of Immodium before a race or a very long run (learned that one the hard way). Fuel during a run? I love the cran-razz shot bloks and the Jelly Belly Sport Beans. I've tried some of the gels, but they always seem to upset my stomach.

* The Timing System. A few years ago, I got a cheap Timex watch, but I never really figured out how to work it. My timing has been, at best, haphazard. Maybe that's why I always go out way too fast and then fade big-time. After months of drooling over them, I ordered a Garmin 205 this week, and it should be here before my long run on Saturday. If I can just figure out how to make it do the things it's supposed to do, I think it will really help me.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

She may be nonverbal...

...but she sure is smart!

These days, Maren's vocabulary is limited to about 10 words, most of which are the names of people in our family and animal sounds. But I know that she's happy or excited when she kicks her leg back and forth (think "dog wagging tail") and it's pretty easy to decipher the budding temper tantrums (she is fourteen months, after all).

Yesterday, she brought me a pirate eye patch that Isaac acquired while Eddie and I were gone last week. I put it on and she got all excited (kicking that little leg and everything). Then, with a look of determination in her eye, she headed towards our Little People bin and dug and dug and dug through them (we have a LOT of Little People) until she found the pirate with the eye patch. She brought it over to me and pointed to my eye and acted very proud of herself. She can't talk, but she's an observant little thing!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Back with pictures!

I've decided that there's nothing like going on a cruise to make you feel young again. When the average age of the cruisers is around 60, being in my mid-thirties made me feel like a baby. We also got to do lots of things that we haven't done in years-- sleep in late, have an adult conversation at the dinner table, and wear clean clothes all day long (you know, without snot or spitup or messy handprints on them). It was blissful. I read five books, spent lots of time in a chaise on the deck and in the hot tub, ran 32 miles, took a spinning class and a pilates class, was one of two sober passengers on a booze cruise, saw one of the seven wonders of the world, and climbed a mountain through the jungle. My only complaint-- not enough chocolate! Oh, and I did miss my kids a little bit. Enough that I'm glad to be home, but really happy that I had my husband all to myself for a whole week.