Sunday, February 21, 2010

7.45 Miles in a Flash

Some people see a series of 6's and think "evil"; at the "Flash" races yesterday, what mattered more to me was the color (red), signifying I was a 12K runner (6K runners had black numbers).
When I started blogging weekly, I focused on the topic that was prominent in my head (and my weekends) at the time:  running a 5K in less than 30 minutes.  Along the way to that goal (which I still am working toward), I have wandered into a critique of convenience store bathroom decor (and gained a couple of friends out of it), swept up auto glass off of a major highway (and felt better for it), and confronted the reality of parenting a teenager head-on (or maybe it was keyboard to keyboard).  This week brings me back to running.

When I ran the "Flash" 6K last February, I was about two months into my return to running.  It was great to have an unusual distance -- 6K (3.73 miles) -- to run on a weekend when my training program had me progressing to a 4 mile distance anyway.  Although last year's event was the 21st annual, it was my first time participating, and I quickly grew to understand why this somewhat low key race with its unique quirks lures people back year after year.  One "draw" of the race is that it is run in memory of  Tim Simpkins.  Having been around in Tallahassee in the mid 80's when it was not unusual to see "Superman" (aka Tim) flying down Tennessee Street in front of Jerry's Restaurant, it is nice to keep the memories alive of someone who always made running interesting (while doing it very, very well). 

When 2010 came around, I found myself in a different place running-wise compared to 2009.  I may not be running my 5K's in a sub-30 time yet, but I have gotten faster (34:27) thanks to my nighttime Hawk's Landing runs in all kinds of weather, the speed-inducing influence of Gulf Winds' Tuesday night "tortuvals" sessions, the slow and steady weight loss that has come with consistent running, and increasing my weekend run mileage.  I have read that there is a positive relationship between running longer than the distance at which you are trying to excel and running that distance faster, which is why it took about ten seconds to say "yes" when my sister-in-law Laurie asked me to run the Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, SC, on March 27 to celebrate her 40th birthday with her.  I figure training for a longer race will positively influence my 5K goal, so longer runs on the weekends it is. 

Which gets me back to the Flash 12K/6K.  I could have run the 6K again this year, but my training plan called for me to run 6 miles.  If I had run 6K, I would have had to tack on a few more miles after the race.  If I ran the 12K, I was risking returning to the absolute tail end of the pack of runners, where I have not been in a while, as well as the old "last banana status" (although in the case of the Flash the post-race snack is black beans and rice (yum!). 

I went out on President's Day and ran the 12K course, to get some idea of how long it would take.  I pored over previous years' results to see what the longest time had been each year.  I sent the director one too many emails asking if I could switch to the 6K distance on race day if I lost my nerve. 

With my slow but "completed" President's Day run checked off the list, I proceeded to run the 12K, and I am so glad I did.  Thanks to the cold, race day adrenaline, and the sight of venerable Robert Morris a minute ahead of me throughout most of the last half of the race, I finished in 1:32:00, which is about 11 minutes faster than my practice run.  This will break no records (except on my own PR list), but the sense of completion and accomplishment I took home with me were reward enough. 

The other thing that strikes me about the Flash race and makes it one of my favorites is how its "out and back" design, and the fact that the 12K'ers interface with the 6K'ers at the middle of the race, facilitates the encouraging words that are shared between all different paces of runners.  When this picture was posted last year, I thought it was hysterical that Tony Guillen (2010's Gulf Winds Track Club Male Runer of the Year) was "behind" me.  He was actually almost done with the 12K while I was still working on my 6K. 
This year, like last year, I was reminded how one key to overcoming my horrible memory of faces and names is working directly with people, getting to know them, and sharing experiences.  So many people who have made this past year of running such a great experience, both from a running perspective and from a "life lessons" perspective, passed me on the trail yesterday (or helped manage the race).  It sounds so minor, but not having to say, "what is your name again" less and less often is as energizing to me as a good run (well, almost!).

The opportunity to share a beautiful day honoring Tallahassee's running "super hero" while participating in a sport we all love so much made 7.45 miles go by in a "flash."

I'll "run" into everyone next week.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Molten Mom Moments

When Tenley was in kindergarten, her school held a "Christmas store" where items were sold at prices very friendly to children.  The kids created lists of who they wanted to buy for and when they went to the store, they could cover several family members with $10 (including gift wrapping).  When I picked Tenley up from after school the day of her "shopping" trip, she couldn't wait to share the gift she had bought me.  (When my husband is anywhere around, we get lectures about how gift opening should be saved for the actual holiday, yada yada yada.)  He's the only family member who feels that way.  Even he would have been won over by her enthusiasm that day.  She was so proud to introduce the bluebird of happiness into my life, and was anxious to know whether or not I loved it (I did and I do).  He lit on my desk and has been there for nine years: 

I rarely write directly about my teenager, because I think she would equate being written about with the feeling she had when I was at the Springtime Tallahassee post-race party a few years ago and started doing the electric slide in public.  Ugh.  That incident was a few years ago but I guess it was just a little taste of what was to come. 

When I was trying to decide what graphic to use when I blogged about the mother/teenager dynamic, the bluebird came to mind.  The comparisons are obvious (to me):  I see it and her every day, both are beautiful and unique; I have sentimental feelings for the bird and the kid; the bluebird doesn't talk and the teenager doesn't talk much (to me -- peers are a different story!).  I am rapidly becoming accustomed to one-word answers (when I get them at all), and I am sad.  It is as if the bluebird of happiness has been jailed: 

Things came to a head this week when she "unfriended" me on Facebook.  For some reason, I started thinking, gee I haven't seen any status updates from Tenley for a while, so I typed her name into the search bar and got Tenley Studio, a hair salon in Tenleytown (Washington DC) that I am a "fan" of just because I like their name.  I wasn't thinking hair that day, though, I was thinking flesh and blood --- MINE. 

So instead of playing my cards close to my vest and letting things play out (which would have given me more options) I immedately sent a friend request with a sarcastic comment along the lines of "thanks for unfriending me."  And I proceeded to mope.  It felt like a breakup.  I felt sad, betrayed, and powerless.  Over the next few hours I was thinking "ultimatum," as in "make me your 'friend' again or lose your computer and phone."  I had told my husband about this but asked him to not bring it up to her when he saw her at pickup.  When she got home that night I proceeded to give her the silent treatment (very mature behavior for a 45 year old!) and while she was chattering away about the good things in her life I was doing the cold shoulder routine.  When she finally asked what was wrong, I told her, and she said, "remember I told you Facebook was acting funny?"  I said, "Oh so you didn't unfriend me?" and she said, "Yeah, actually I did.  It was weird having my mom as my friend." 

When Tenley and I attended the mother daughter luncheon at my mother in law's church today, Barb mentioned what a nice valentine one of my older nieces had sent her.  I remember about six years ago, when that same niece arrived at the mother daughter luncheon with a distinct "attitude" vibe.  I couldn't believe the change that had come over this young woman.  I smugly thought, "that'll never happen to me."  At the time, my standing in my daughter's life was still decent.  It's my turn now to be surprised by a girl who looks the same but acts teenager-y.  Here's a picture from this year's luncheon:

Right now, the bluebird is holding the paperwork down in my in basket. 
I am a first-time parent of a teenager grieving the loss of years of easy communication that brought me great joy and helped me let go of some old baggage from my childhood.  Through her actions (and my reactions), I am being reminded that Tenley has her own work to do now, work that I can't see her through. 

When I researched "the bluebird of happiness," I discovered a vendor that specializes in them, Terra Studios.  In describing the manufacturing process, Terra Studios describes the pure white Northwestern Arkansas sand that is used to make the glass for each bird, and how the blue color comes from adding black copper oxide to the molten glass.

The mother/daughter situation feels pretty "molten" lately.  I guess the process of raising another human being is going to be fraught with "fiery" moments.  I imagine once the craftsman finishes adding the copper oxide, the bird has to be left alone to take shape. 

Hopefully the takeaway for me is to know that all of this "heat" leads to a beautiful product in the long run.

In the meantime, it looks like there's a "friend" spot open on Facebook!

I'll "run" into you next week, readers. 

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Hooked on Hookless

My friend Rhett Devane said in a recent Facebook post that she "could write two pages about a trip to the mailbox."  When I sat down to write today's blog, I did not think I could expand on my Facebook conversation yesterday about hookless shower curtains enough to fill a typical-length blog, so I was prepared to do a blog with three "mini topics."  Once I got started on the shower curtain thing, I discovered it's not so mini (or maybe I'm not so concise). 

With credit to Rich Rasmussen for this week's title, I will explain my discovery (eureka!) yesterday of "hookless" shower curtains.  Five years ago, when we moved into this house, I put the coolest shower curtain hooks in the children's bathroom, which is also the main bathroom in the house.  They were so neat looking -- my favorite combination of matte and shiny metal (just like my silverware, maybe there's a pattern here):

The problem is that these hooks are a lot more attractive than they are functional.  Because they do not close, they rely on gravity and a gentle touch with the shower curtain open/close process.  I have a boy child --- gentle and boy child are not two characteristics that generally share time in this particular bathroom.  So I have endured five years of hearing the shower curtain come crashing down, putting it back up, and general annoyance.

When I went to buy a new shower curtain, I already had the box of "the usual" shower curtain rings in my hand and was trying to pick out a new shower curtain when magic words came into my line of vision:  installs in a minute!  no need for rings!  flexes right onto the shower rod!  I am usually pretty skeptical of this type of claim on a consumer product, but I kept envisioning all those teeny tiny little plastic dots that end up all over the floor when installing a traditional shower curtain, and how the end always gets ripped making the whole curtain droop until another one was purchased, and I decided to give it a shot.

I am happy to report that, amazingly enough, all three claims are true!  I think it took longer to get the shower curtain out of all the packaging than it did to install it.  I didn't need any rings, and it did flex right onto the shower curtain rod without me having to take the rod down.  I think it's highly likely these were invented by a mom (although my little bit of research traces back to hotels that need easy on/easy off shower curtains in their bathrooms). 

Once I became so enthralled with my new discovery, the decision was "to Facebook status or not to Facebook status."  Figuring that those who aren't interested can ignore, delete, remove, or unfriend (although I hope it would take more than a trivial post to drive people away), I went for it.

This post generated five "likes" and comments from an additional four people.  Besides the "thumbs ups," several of us shared resources for where to find this product affordably, and how silly it is that some internet vendors charge SO MUCH for them.  A group of diverse people who don't really know each other and aren't all that likely to meet in person shared some useful information that may make their lives easier in some small way. 

And if by sharing a bit of information I can remove a little hassle factor from a friend's life AND have a pleasant back-and-forth, I'm hooked.

I'll "run" into you next week!!