Betsie Bay Frozen 5k & warm snap skiing

Over the long President’s Day weekend, Jax & I loaded the kids (Miss L and his 2 teenagers – well, one is almost a teenager) into Finn (my Subaru Outback) and went north. There were running shoes in our bags and skis in the luggage box on the roof and we made good use of them over the weekend. On Saturday morning, Jax & I and his son B ran the Betsie Bay Frozen 5k. This is a great little event that supports nonprofits in the Frankfort / Elberta area, aka my happy place. A February event in the Betsie Bay area is typically snowy and arctic, but this year’s weird winter made it a perfect springlike run, with temps in the mid to upper ’40’s.

The event starts about halfway up the steep hill to the Elberta bluff, which overlooks Lake Michigan. It’s a perfect pre-race photo opp, with the lake, the Frankfort lighthouse and dunes in the background. Because parking is limited up on the bluff overlook, runners pick up their packets at the Frankfort American Legion hall and are bussed over to the start. It’s such a fun way to meet other runners and I hadn’t ridden on a school bus in years.

The first 100 meters or so is a sharp downhill, which is the perfect start for a race as far as I’m concerned (although I don’t know how they manage it during a normal winter – I could envision a pileup of runners at the icy, snowy bottom!) I’m a slow start runner so anything that forces me to go out at goal pace warms me up faster and usually improves my overall time. Next, you run through small Elberta, past the Cabbage Shed restaurant (the owners were outside with signs advising us that after the race, we’d more than earned a pint or two of Guinness) and out onto M-22, where you cross over the mouth of the Betsie River and wind down onto Main Street in Frankfort. The course is fairly flat after the initial downhill, and the locals come out to cheer you on, and the bus drivers that dropped you off are passing you on the road, honking and yelling their support. I surprised myself with a 27.18 finish, not a PR but a strong performance for me in a mid-winter event when my training has been spotty (I still got schooled by a lady in her 60’s and another lady pushing a stroller!! This event is stacked). Jax & B harbored secret hopes of placing, but had to content themselves with placing in their age groups only, as the event was chock full of Traverse City Track Club runners who blew everyone’s doors off. This was actually disappointing as there were tons of raffle items and little prizes for the top places. More so than any event I frequent, the local merchants and businesses donated a lot of cool swag and I was a bit deflated to walk away with nothing but my swag bag (not even my shirt – it was too big so I gave it to B).

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Miss L watching me come through the homestretch. She ran me in from here. ❤

 

On Sunday, we enjoyed skiing at nearby Crystal Mountain in 50-degree temps. Rather, Jax & his kids skiied while Miss L took her first-ever lesson and I sat on a hay bale in the sunshine, knitting and feeling happy to watch her joy. I’d paid for a 2-hour group session, but the warm temps had apparently diminished the attendance levels, so Miss L had a ski instructor all to herself. Midway through the lesson, they took a snack break for hot chocolate and L stripped off her jacket and finished the lesson in her shirtsleeves. She was a quick study and as I sat there watching her, I thought that few things in life are as pleasing as watching your child learn something new, have adventures, and accomplish things.

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The face of a happy mom.

After her lesson, Jax and his daughter took L on some of the easy hills so she could get good use out of her new skills. I knitted away and after an hour or so, Jax came down the hill, followed by a little pink streak who swooshed by me and came to an expert stop a few feet away.

 


Yup, Miss L is a natural on skiis, and reminded me of Little My in “Moominland Midwinter”, learning to skate on table knives and toboggan on a silver tray, wrapped in a tea cosy.

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self-care, post thanksgiving edition

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emmett digs self-care, too.

So the last two days have essentially been spent on the couch with my knitting and Netflix. Sarge and I took a pretty amazing multiple-hour nap yesterday and I managed to unload the dishwasher this morning while the coffee was brewing…progress.

I know you’re reading this wondering if I’m sick, because this level of sloth can maybe only be justified by some sort of illness. And the answer is no, I’m perfectly healthy. This is just my way of recovering from what was (to me) a very busy week. This, dear readers, is my kind of self-care.

I hosted Thanksgiving at my house for the first time since being single, which meant that, starting Sunday, the entire house had to be cleaned (except for under the beds. And of course, the first thing Jax had to do was pull the bed out to plug his phone charger in. SIGH) There was shopping to do and  I’d never roasted a turkey myself, or hosted a holiday gathering on my own. So I attacked it with planning and organization. I had to make a spreadsheet of all of the dishes and their cook times so I knew when to start each thing and what needed to be prepared in advance. I assembled a portfolio of the recipes and thankfully everything turned out pretty well, I think. My SIL made the gravy and oversaw the potatoes and brought the desserts, which helped tremendously, as gravy is not my thing. Of course I didn’t get any pictures. But it was really meaningful to me to be able to have Miss L and her beloved cousin, my brother and sister-in-law, and Jax & Izzy at my house, and have us eat and share the holiday together.

Then, bright and early on Black Friday, Miss L went to her dad’s house, and my childhood bestie Kat arrived as – wait for it – we’d signed up for a HALF MARATHON. And not just any half marathon – a TRAIL half marathon. Now ask me how much training I did for aforementioned half marathon. Goose egg, that’s right.

It was Kat’s first half and she was really excited about it, and although I knew that I was not prepared in any way, shape, or form for a half, I couldn’t bring myself to drop back to a shorter distance or bail on her. The weather was cold, but not frigid, and the trail surface was exceptionally wet and treacherous. Friends, running a trail is different than road running. You are constantly confronted with slippery spots, switchbacks, elevation changes, and terrain issues. There’s no putting in your headphones and going on autopilot. There were slick bridge spots and boulders, and huge mud pits that just had to be run through. The distance ended up being longer than a traditional half, as the course had to re-route past bridges that were out.

I got through the first half on track for a slow but decent finish time, and had a brief but fierce internal debate with myself. My body felt beat to shreds, and I couldn’t imagine how Kat was doing, somewhere behind me. There were aid stations every few miles, but if she got into trouble, I wasn’t sure if there would be anyone around to help her. So I reasoned that time was unimportant for this race, and, somewhat hoping that she would decide to finish early and let us head back to the finish, I  waited at the halfway point for her. I perched at the top of a wooded hill, out of the wind but feeling my warm muscles cooling and clenching in the cold, and chatted with two of the course marshals. They were blown away that someone would choose to do their first half on a trail! When her little winter hat came bobbing up the rise, I knew she was struggling. I told her that we could always cut it short and head the mile back to the finish line, but the marshal told her that she was killing it and her face was determined. NO, she said. Let’s finish it.

So we set out on the second loop. It was a rough six miles, and although we weren’t last to finish, I think we were pretty close. There was a lot of walking. But Kat showed true grit and endurance and honestly, I was really proud of both of us.

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Nothing ever looked as good as that finish line.

So that’s why I’ve spent the last two days on the sofa. I finished watching The Crown on Netflix and, cowls all finished, am Log Cabin-ing until my next project comes to me.

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If you celebrated, I hope your Thanksgivings were happy and filled with family. If not, I hope you had a greater-than-usual Thursday and are practicing self-care wherever you are, too.

 

autumnal things

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Life has been a whirlwind of fall activities and general busyness, mixed in with angry cats still peeing on things, flu shots, hating Donald Trump, and wishing the weather were different. You know, the usual. The weather, at least, has finally started to cooperate, with rain and gloom (YASSSS!)  but it was unseasonably warm for several days and Miss L’s first pumpkin melted into slime on the porch. Luckily, one of our fall activities is our annual orchard trip with my brother and family tomorrow, so hopefully we can pick up another.

Other fall activities have included Girl Scout Core Camp (which I live tweeted – link in my sidebar), the book fair at school (I ran the cash register for a shift and realized how much happier I would be if I could get paid what I earn at Widget Central to do that as my real job), and preparing for Trunk or Treat next week. I’d planned on making all of Finn’s decorations out of crepe paper and construction paper and posterboard but who am I kidding. I can barely remember to take out the trash and I have a rotted pumpkin on my porch. I spent $20 on some preprinted cutouts on Amazon and Bob’s your uncle – done.

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After my recent running ennui, I am starting to get back into the rhythm of heading out for a few miles every couple of days or so. No pressure. No watch. Tricking myself into liking it again.

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the 5k that should have been a half. you can’t see him, but my dad is over on the left in that triumphant finish line pic, just out of the frame.

I’m also knitting a lot. My mom’s cowl is almost done and I actually knitted up a cute little Christmas tree decoration out of forest green alpaca. It was still on the needles waiting for bind-off when Sarge, one of the angry peeing cats mentioned above, rummaged in my knitting bag one day. He found it on it’s very attractive wooden needle and dragged it out of the bag, around the house until the needle fell out, the stitches unraveled, and he drowned what was left of it in his water dish. That was discouraging – not gonna lie.
He and his brother Emmett went to the vet last week for a checkup and a refill of their prescription. This was a traumatic experience for all of us. Getting two angry cats to the vet is no joke. They each had to have blood drawn…Emmett did fine, and then they took Sarge back. Miss L and I waited in the examining room without much concern. Sarge is pretty laid-back and during his last vet visit, he charmed all of the nurses. I assured them that he would be easy. After about five minutes, however, we heard a blood-curdling yowl that echoed through the entire cinder block office. Sarge came back with a walleyed nurse, gave us all a dirty look, sat down on the floor, licked his butt, and shook his paw until his pink bandage flew off. We got home, got everyone settled in their separate rooms, and the pharmacy called to advise me cheerfully that the chicken liver flavored feline Prozac is back ordered indefinitely. That’s just great, I thought. So for awhile longer, we live in chaos. The bright side of this is that I found a great recipe for stain removal on Pinterest.

So that’s the update. I hope things are well in your neck of the woods.

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october hunter’s supermoon as seen from gs camp and as photographed on my crap iphone camera.

a funny thing happened on the way to the half marathon

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…I decided I just didn’t want to do it.

It wasn’t that simple, of course. I had a problematic training cycle and during my last long run, the shin splint pain that ultimately led to last year’s stress fracture was back in full force. Everything hurt. My times were slow and my recovery was worse.

During the week before the run, I went back and forth. Some mornings I woke up thinking, ‘yeah, I’ll power through it.’ Other mornings I felt simply exasperated and swore that I wouldn’t run at all. Miss L and I drove up north on Thursday night and spent a damp and drizzly Friday with my parents, hiking in the Sleeping Bear and book shopping in Traverse City. At some point, I realized that I just didn’t have the half in me, and it was as much mental as physical, and I decided to run the 5k.

When I first started running in 2010, the love of it hit me like a ton of bricks and I dropped many things that I’d previously loved because nothing felt as important as that love. I left off knitting and blogging, notably. For a few years I was highly motivated and bettered my times in every race. Then the injuries started mounting, and the motivation began to wane. At this point in my life, I still love running, but I love other things, too, and I want to be able to do them as much or more.

My folks and Miss L were my cheering section and I was happy that my run would only take a half-hour or so and that they could wait for me. Miss L played on the playground at the Empire beach and my dad was the first person I saw when I came into the homestretch. An hour later, I was showered and caffeinated and warm, and I’d set out for another hike.

I have long wanted to accomplish the Trail Trekkers Challenge, a program in which you hike all the Sleeping Bear trails in 1 year (over 100 miles). After the 5k, I had donned my orange cap to warn off trigger happy hunters and was out on the Windy Moraine trail. Coincidentally, this trail ran along 109 for a stretch, across the road from the Heritage Trail, where the marathon and half-marathon were still going on. As I hiked happily, rain dripping from the spicy smelling trees, I heard stragglers in the race across the road yelling at each other and every now and then I glimpsed a sweating, staggering participant. The forest was very green and wet, without much fall color yet, and I was extremely happy with my choice.

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just get this over with

These days, I’m doing better at knitting than I am at running. Or dieting. Or housework. I think I’d better stop now before I really start to depress myself.

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I had hoped for some free time this weekend, to do some things around the house and yard, to get my run in, and to try my hand at some homemade pizza dough. This free time never materialized. I had a sick headache for most of Saturday and spent the day on a rain-soaked soccer field watching a high school tournament – then Jax & I had to hustle over to a friend’s house to watch college football. We got in a little later than I normally would have, for the night before a long run, but I woke up Sunday without a headache and ready to run. Because I was on Jax’s side of town, I’d staked out my long run in a somewhat unfamiliar area. I’d picked the trail, I had my handheld water bottle, my running belt, my Audiobook…the location is really beautiful but about 2 miles into my run, I realized that I’d misjudged the trail surface. I’d sort of thought that it would be a fairly groomed trail, similar to those in my local metroparks or DNR parks, but this one got pretty rough.

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I stuck with it for almost 4 miles, thinking to myself that it was good training for the trail half-marathon that I signed up for in November (more on that later) but it quickly became evident that on that terrain, I wasn’t going to get in my miles. So on the next crossing, I diverted onto the road and did 5 on hard-packed dirt. It was late in the morning and the sun was getting hot. I stopped to refill my water bottle at the campground, with all the little old ladies waiting in line for the showers while their hubbies loaded up the RV’s (it really just sort of looked like a big parking lot with fire pits). I checked the map, and headed back. Unfortunately, in order to get back my car, I had to plunge back into the woods, and I finished up my last 3 running / walking on narrow, winding trails, some with exposed rocks and tree roots, switchbacks and boggy areas, some areas where the trail narrowed so much that I could barely see it.

All in all, 12.2 miles, all done more slowly than I’d like, but I got the miles in. Nothing went quite the way I wanted it to this weekend. My house still needs to be cleaned, no pizza dough, I didn’t get nearly enough lazy reclusive time to be a hermit, and all for kind of a shitty and disappointing long run. Life is all about choices. I know this is where a pro blogger would switch into chirping about how great it felt to finish and how worth it is always is, but this feeling always comes for me at the end of a training cycle – I get sick of getting miles in, having to run when I don’t want to, having to hit paces and block off hours of time for it when there are so many other things that I could be doing.

 

why i run

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this picture doesn’t have much to do with the substance of this post except that in about three weeks I will be running past these lakes and no doubt wishing i was dead.

I’m a little over three weeks out from my half and have a 10-miler under my belt. At this point in my training, I am sick of running and my 10-miler did not improve my outlook much. At mile 7, it was a struggle even to keep to an easy pace and Jax, who hasn’t run more than five miles in the last two years, finally got tired of my pace and glided ahead to smoke me by over a minute per mile.

While up north over Labor Day, we drove my race route and I remembered / noted the fact that the entire first half is uphill.  I will likely miss my long run this week, and will finish up my training with a 12-miler, followed by a 10-miler, then a taper. My paces are slower, my endurance is less, and it’s certain that this race will not be a PR. In fact, I honestly don’t know if I can ever come close to that magic number again. Every year, it gets harder to hit those marks.

Regardless, I am keeping a positive outlook. Coming back from my stress fracture has forced me to reframe my reasons for running and to try to focus on the silver linings rather than my deficiencies. Why do I run? I love being outside; I would never get out and see as much of the world if I didn’t run. I like the warm afterglow of accomplishment. I love events, the running community; I love strong legs and having time to myself, alone. I love the little victories where I improve. I will no doubt be incredibly disappointed in October if I can’t break 2 hours, but I am also trying to tell myself that it’s better to run and have room for improvement than not to run at all.

loose ends

The house has been empty and quiet this week with Miss L spending time with her dad & his fam, so I’ve been a bit at loose ends. Weeks like this can be tough for me as it’s easy to fall into a morass of missing her / hoping I’m a good mum / feeling guilty for having alone time / feeling guilty about spending time with Jax & his kids without her / hoping she’s having a good time with people she really loves and who really love her but also hoping with a small selfish part of me that she misses ME too = a lot of conflicting feelings that I’m sure single mums will relate to. Suffice it to say, although I really couldn’t be luckier / happier / more blessed about our blended family situation – in which all adults are incredibly mature and genuinely kind and loving – I still have a LOT of personal issues of my own to work through. No surprise, as I know I am still a work in progress, but I am committed to trying to put my own feelings to one side to do the best I can for Miss L in every stage of her life. Roots and wings, as my own mom told me, roots and wings.

So, as I mentioned, I spent some time at Jax’s house, made dinner for his crew and got some major loving from Izzy.

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I did some running and have some more to do this weekend. I’m at the point in my training where I am seeing and feeling results – both good and bad. My times and endurance are better, but my legs feel crummy – “sprung”, as I call it. My calves, ankles, and shins are full of tight, red-hot wires that pull and twitch. Everything south of my knees aches. 8 miles tomorrow.

I finished “Wolf Lake”, a gloomy wintery mystery by John Verdon, and just started “Ink and Bone” by Lisa Unger. I have so many books going that I don’t know where I am at any given moment. “Ink and Bone” is my actual physical library book – for bedtime and “serious” reading. I’m listing to “Her Fearful Symmetry” on an audio disc borrowed from our paralegal, and “The Likeness” by Tana French on Audible while I run. In between – for cross training on the elliptical or sitting around unexpectedly waiting for someone – I have “The Forgotten Garden” by Kate Morton on my old Kindle.

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At work, there is a kerfuffle over whether the town hall doors (where we keep the office supplies, refrigerators, microwaves, trash, etc) should remain open or closed. I actually heard a heated meeting about this in a conference room on the other side of my office wall. “We’ve been doing it this way for FOURTEEN YEARS!!!” “It’s a black and white issue to me.” “WHAT IF SOMEONE IS CARRYING HOT SOUP AND CAN’T OPEN THE DOOR?!”

I’m starting to get heirloom tomatoes and I’m watching “I Am Not Your Guru” about Tony Robbins. Tomorrow I get to pick up Miss L and we head directly to my brother’s house for our annual trip to the carnival. I love the creepy small town carnival. I always think I might see a ghost.