Monday, November 15, 2010

Confessions of a Late Bloomer

I remember having a conversation with my brother, at the beginning of this arduous educational journey as a single mother.  He pointed out to me, that we come from a family of late-bloomers.  After all, our father, (a retired chemical engineer) didn't speak a word until he was 4 years old and he turned out to be a smarty pants.  I've carried this simple statement with me and pondered on it often. 

I married young, had children young, and grew up in the middle of raising a child who taught me that strength comes in many packages.  I did my first ever race at age 33, am now a single mother, college student, triathlete, and most recently started taking voice lessons because when I grow up, I want to know how to sing.  So ya, I'd say I fall in the late-bloomer category.

Chem Lab.  That's my lab partner Josh who is a phenomenal athlete and in no way, suffers from late-bloomerism.
 So what is it that constitutes the order in which you're supposed to progress through life?  What is the purpose of this order, and who and what does it serve?  Is it worse or less efficient if you do things out of order? What affect, ultimately, does the order in which you progress through life have on your overall experience?

One side effect is that you end up dressing like this and having friends like these who don't see anything wrong with it.
 There seems to be an acceptable manner in which people play out adulthood.  Go to college, get married, launch a successful career while simultaneously having 2 1/2 perfectly healthy children, retire and go live out your days with your spouse in some warm place.  The thing is, decision making is hard.  Making decisions not only about your own life, but those included and affected by your life, is difficult.  Who doesn't want an outline?  So, many follow the provided outline because it's safe, it's a great recipe for success, and let's face it, it's the fairy tale.  And everyone loves a good fairy tale.  However, in all reality, many a folk discover themselves in their 40's, acquire their dream job on the cusp of retirement, have sex before love, marriage before maturity, and career before knowledge.  So,why is there this pressing need to do things in order?  What I think, is that when we do things in order, life unfolds like a delicate silk scarf.  And when one decides to do things out of order, life unfolds like an old cardboard box with all kinds of trinkets and crap wedged in the crevices of the box.  It's not neat, it's not pretty, and you never know what's going to come flying out at you next.  I know this, because I am clearly not following the standard life outline. I made a one-winged oragami bird out of that perfectly crafted outline, and just lit it on fire!

This little one provides me with matches, and regular reminders that life is fun, and funny.   And let me tell you, there's a lot to laugh at in my little world.  Especially with friends like these.
 I'll admit: it's tough being a single mom and going to school full-time.  It's scary sometimes knowing that I'm the only one responsible for my triumph or failure, that there's no one to catch me if I fall. But the fun in this is, I am charting my own course, and making my own outline while learning along the way.  There are all kinds of scribbles and arrows all over my paper, and it doesn't even resemble an outline.  It's got coffee spilled on it, a few post-it-notes, and of course, lots of random doodling.  But it's mine, and I can write whatever I want on it.  The thing is, no matter how hard one tries, your plan is never going to be perfect. No matter how meticulously stacked our papers are, the wind is gonna blow.  And really, do you want it to be perfect?  Who wants to watch a movie in which they can always predict what happens in the next scene? I've learned not only to "go with it", but to slow down, stop, and take a look around.  There are times when I do this and feel completely overwhelmed by the greatness of life, and wanna cry.  And other times, when I just get a mischievous smirk and shake my head.  Not many dull moments on this course I'm charting. I am settling in, and learning that it's not all about finishing what I've started, but taking in as much as I can along the way. I've learned that 'difficult' is a relative term, and that you can catch up on sleep, homework, and housework, but you can't catch up on being a mother.  And of course, if something scares the shit out of you, stop...ask yourself why, and then do it.  I have found that the things in life that scare me the most, are the ones that I reap the greatest reward from overcoming.

I race because I like how it feels on the other side of the finish line, much more than I like the comfort and safety of the sidelines.
 So, if there's something you want to do, but you're not doing it because you think you're too old, it'll be too hard, or people will make fun of you...I'm here to tell you: you're not, it won't be, and they will!  This is to all those late bloomers out there.  Get your arm in the air, and let that freak flag fly!

He forgot to put his game face on.  Good thing I had mine.
A little plug:  Our elite women's running team put together a running calendar to raise money for Active4Youth which supplies under-privileged children with the opportunity to be coached and run.  Please buy one!  Who doesn't need a calendar??

 "You will turn over many a futile new leaf till you learn we must all write on scratched-out pages."  ~Mignon McLaughlin

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I've got a new lawnmower!

Well, actually, not a brand new lawnmower. It's a hand-me-down of sorts. So, I no longer have an excuse to hire the neighbor kid to mow my lawn. Sigh. I haven't actually "used" my new lawnmower though. It's sitting outside the patio door like a dog who rolled in poop and is in exile. It's taunting me to just start it up and take it for a spin. And the idea kind of makes me giggle, considering I've never used a lawnmower before. Never. I understand some of the basic lawn mowing rules, such as: always wear tennis shoes, avoid the pine cones (although I'm *really* curious to see what would happen if I accidentally ran over one), and of course be methodical about your lawn mowing pattern. A "wandering" pattern is the true mark of a rookie.

So, what have I been doing in place of yard work this Summer? I've raced a little and finally feel like myself after taking over a year off. If that's something you're interested in, 2010 results are at bottom of blog but I won't bore you with the details.  Email if you'd like me to bore you with race details.  I've been playing with my boys (water parks are really fun, not just for kids) and reveling in the freedom of having Summer off of school and working at Fitness Fanatics part time.  And of course, a few pictures are always worth more than my 1000+ words. what? I'm wordy.

Jodi and her parallel-parking job.  This is after numerous attempts.  Notice the wheels on the curb. Jodi, Adrianne and I headed over to Whidbey Island for the half marathon in April.  This is in front of my brother's condo in Seattle.  Out of 1500 participants, Jodi got 2nd overall, Adrianne 8th overall and I was 10th overall.  We all placed in our AG.  Good times.  Gatorade bottles work for more than just carrying gatorade.  Ask Jodi.

Jodi and I at the 12k trail run.  She took 1st overall, I took 2nd.  We even beat all the boys.  There may have been only one boy racing but we beat him. Sorry dude.

Spokane Moving Crew.  And Wolfpack.  Long story. From left to right: me, Eve Nelson, Jodi Suter and Adrianne Campbell.

"Family Portrait" This delightful photo is a real gem. This is my Spokane Family.  Starting at back left: Jason & Adrianne Campbell, Troy and Eve Nelson, Paul Suter, Aaron Scott. Bottom row left to right: Annie Warner , me (that's ginger ale ;), lil' Brooke, Jodi Suter & Haley Cooper-Scott.  Leave it to Aaron to find a yard gnome.  Make note of the grass.  Yes, this is in my backyard.

The girls.  Thanks to my dad for all of these photos

Me and the loves of my life.  My little men.

Jodi's other half, Paul.  Between the two of them, I get my rear handed to me at least once a week.

 Haley and I practicing our cyclo-cross skills.  Bri was nice enough to snap this photo of our adventure.

Off for an open water swim in Coeur D'Alene and then I'd better get to that lawn.  Up next: Trail Running Nationals (7/31) and then Lake Stevens (August 15th). Carry on!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Why do you run?

Late last night, when I was supposed to be on my way to bed, I saw a friend had posted a youtube video on Facebook (link is at bottom of post)  This video was poor quality but the message was rich.  I awoke this morning, thinking of it again.  And it inspired me to write about it.

I'm sure many of you who participate in triathlon, running or some other crazy endurance sport have been asked the question "why?".  Why do you get up before it is light in the dead of winter to pedal away on a trainer that takes you nowhere?  Why do you decide to spend hours in a pool every week, swimming back and forth as you stare at the unchanging line at the bottom? Why do you choose to run out on the streets, fending your way through traffic and pain of climbing hills and challenging terrain, to end up in the same place you started? Why do you give up your relaxing weekends to throw yourself into a race where the first leg is bound to give you a kick in the head (literally), and the rest is most certainly a promise of pain in one form or another? 

I know I have been asked before, why I race; why I train.  My answer is usually a simple "because it's a challenge that I like to overcome again and again.  It never gets old".  But upon deeper dissection, this is what I came up with:

Running gives me freedom, cycling gives me strength and swimming gives me humility.

I can put on my running shoes anywhere and take myself on an adventure that costs nothing but sweat and time.  No one has their thumb on me when I'm running.  I'm like a little girl with ribbons undone and I can't help but smile.  It is a gift.  I think the more appropriate question is "why wouldn't I run?"

Cycling.  It is the next best thing to skydiving.  If I had to boil it down to one thing, I'd have to say, my favorite part is the speed.  The best part of a ride is always the descent coupled with the effort it took to get to the top of the hill.  Flying down a hill, hearing nothing but the wind in my ears is something I will never get tired of. I feel like a dog with my head out the window of a car.  It is my reward.  The experience of riding in a pack of people, the buzz of combined energy and effort all moving in the same direction is a close second.  Directed chaos.

Swimming is a soothing yet frustrating experience.  There are days when the pool spits me out like a sour grape, leaving me shriveled and defeated.  And there are days when I have a glimpse of something greater, a better swimmer inside myself, struggling to get out.  So, I continue to immerse myself in that chlorinated bath, week after week, in the hopes that I'll have less bad days and more good.  And when I stand at the shore , waiting for the gun to go off, I feel confident that although I'm not the fastest swimmer (far from it), I am far from the weakest.  I am six feet tall, and 200lbs, in that water and I can hold my own.

Although it takes help from my coach to know what to do, understanding from my children that my time is divided as well as the willingness of friends/training partners to lend an ear to talk over a bad race or training day...ultimately, it is me, and me alone who delivers myself safely to that finish line.  And that is why I do it.  The opportunity to prove to myself, over and over again that I am strong, independent and gutsy.  Not to mention, to prove to the people who at one time or another, who have told me "you can't".  Watch me.

Watch this video, think about it and ask yourself "why?" and maybe for some of you, you need to ask yourself "why not"?  Find the reason why, white knuckle it and enjoy the ride.  I promise, you won't regret it.  Empower yourself.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Another quarter flew by and the boys and I are now officially on Spring break.  My life has felt like a grand parade on fast foward, these past few months. In the middle of the mach 10 parade, I took a jaunt over to New Jersey for Timex camp.  I know this post is a little delayed, considering camp was in mid-February but gimme a break.  I moved on February 1st (I do not recommend this to any single mothers in the middle of a quarter with nightclass on top of it-UGH).  I think there is an entire collection of items (including the propane tank for my grill?) that are lost.  I wouldn't be surprised if somewhere along the 9 blocks between the old house and the new house, these things fell out the back of my Subaru and are clustered on the side of the road, like kids waiting at a bus stop.  If you find a propane tank (and it's in good shape) it's mine :)

So, Timex camp.  I had a perma-grin lacquered across my face, the entire weekend.  It was held at the New York Giants Training Facility in NJ and the whole weekend was a jaw dropping, delightful experience.

I felt like the lady on a game show who wins but is completely oblivious that her boobs are flying everywhere while she jumps up and down, screaming and cheering for herself.  Ya, that was me, all weekend long (sans the boobs).  Below is a picture of our entire team.  I'm up front with the perma-grin.  Told you.  I sat there, waiting for the shutter to click before someone said "who's the girl in the front? can we get the groupie out of the shot?".  To be amongst these athletes, and to call them my team mates is such an honor.  I feel like I accidentally wandered into a board meeting at a gazillion dollar corporation and they slid a big ol' leather chair under my ass, handed me a name plate (with my name spelled correctly on it) and a gold pen worth more than my car. YA!!
The weekend was action packed...filled with the making our own "commercials" (to be aired sometime soon on youtube), meeting some of the Giants Players, "playing" football in the Giants indoor stadium (I didn't catch one ball but was knocked to the ground, in a chest-bump-gone-wrong), taking on Medieval Times as an entire team as well as hitting the streets of NY city together.  Oh, and I had to include the below photo of my locker with my name above it, in the Giants Locker room.  It's blurry not because of my Blackberry camera but because I was shaking, I was so excited.  That backpack had my name tag on it as well and was filled to the brim with a plethora of beautiful red, black and white TIMEX gear.  Mine is in the middle.

 But by far, the most exciting moment of the whole weekend, was the surprise arrival and distribution of the Timex Global Trainer (GPS) to each member of the team.  Since I have returned from camp, it has accompanied me on every run.  I'm in love.  How did I ever get along without this magical watch??  I've been able to tweak my training to now incorporate pace along with heart rate on the run which has been incredibly helpful, especially considering I'm coming off of an injury and my training zones are still a little wacky (wacky sounds better than slow).  The more information I have, the better.  And this baby has every bit of information a girl could ask for.  And it's extremely accurate! Not to mention, being the technically inept girl I am, it's very easy for even me, to operate.

Below is rare documentation of our team being very still.  I am at the bottom of the "I", notice I'm the only one who had to put my arms above my head to count for a whole "normal sized" person.

Timex also provided us with Vo2 max testing while at camp.  For those of you who haven't had this done on a treadmill, it's a treat :/  You want to allow yourself to get to that point that you just can't go anymore (I believe it's called "failure"), while on a treadmill without killing yourself--flying off the back.  Thankfully, someone (Keith?) shot this photo of me before I got to that point.

I was also recently notified that I made it onto PowerBar Team Elite.  This is extremely exciting, considering I have been a die-hard PowerBar consumer since I got into this crazy sport. I've been jumping up and down outside their window for years now.  I'm thrilled that they finally let me in!

As far as school, another quarter is in the books, as they say.  It went well, although it was hectic.  I'm moving forward, keeping my eye on the prize--the one that seems so far away, I'm squinting to see it.  At times, I feel so guilty as a mother; not being able to give to the boys the daily, undivided attention I once offered.  But they are so encouraging and understanding.  My little men.  I don't know who's holding who's hand, and from day to day, I think it changes. But I love the feeling of those little sweaty fingers intertwined with mine and I'm so grateful for their belief in me. 

Here's to all your Spring goals, whatever they may be.  Summer is upon us.  Get'er done!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Good ol' San Diego New Year

I don't even know how to begin this post. There are so many random, hilarious, tinkle-inducing moments that I'd like to share but fear they may be lost in translation. I'll do my best to provide photo documentation and be less wordy. Oh jeez, like that's possible. Just sit down and read.

After a whirlwind Christmas with my family and boys, I left the Christmas tree standing and barely made my flight for San Diego. Shelby and I have adopted a tradition of spending New Years together (usually Haley is in the mix as well) and so far, it happens in Spokane.  But this year, we decided to do New Years, San Diego style.  I do not regret this, or any part of it (although Haley, you really should have been there).  It will forever go in the memory books as an excellent adventure.

Shelby picked me up from the airport and somehow (I have no idea who suggested it), we ended up at the El Torito right across the street from the airport for a commemorative shot of Tequila.  Soon enough, we had a random stranger taking pictures with us.  Why does this happen?  That was our cue, it was time to head out.  We got home, stayed up late that night...and every other night after that, until I left.

The next morning, we hit the ground running, quite literally.  Case in point, below photo.  Shelby arranged a track workout so I could get my arse handed to me, like I do every other day of the week at home.  Don't let the others fool you who look like they're just screwing around.  I woulda vomited had I know them better, but I didn't want to be rude.

 That same day, we got to tour the Aqua Sphere grounds and wreak a little havoc while checking out the latest and greatest from them.  I'm looking forward to next years' wetsuit!

That evening, we were able to meet up with some of my high school friends who I haven't seen in 20 years.  The only photos we have, are very "smoky" but I included a couple anyway.  We just thought the restaurant was smoky from the BBQ.  It wasn't until I was sitting on the plane, heading back to Spokane, that I realized I hadn't taken the plastic covering off of my blackberry camera lens.  I got a good laugh out of that one.  Is anyone surprised?

 Ed, Me and Mike.  Good times.  I had to include the below photo of Shelby because she looks like she's 10 (if that) and because she has a ton of food in front of her, although she's the only one who just got a salad.

The downside of the above, spectacular evening was, we had planned on getting up early the next morning for a bike ride with Bill Holland (he built Shelby's ultra-light, Christmas ornament of a bike) and so we had to.  We showed up, smelling like recycling bins with a touch of BBQ.  However, we rallied for a beautiful tour with Bill and were better for it.  Here's Bill and I on the ride.

 Moving on now.  At some point, early in the trip, we found ourselves talking in British accents (just to each other, no other victims involved).  Mine teetered between New Zealand and London and Shelby's was more of an interesting mix between some small British village and Texas.  We amused ourselves (as usual) for hours with this activity although it gave us both headaches, it just kept peppering our dialogue.  I had to include the below, random photo because it is evidence of Shelby's ongoing struggle with depth perception (and the fact that her booster seat doesn't boost-her enough).

The night before New Years Eve Day, we ended up rallying to put on our own performance at home.  We sang late into the night (yes, just the two of us).  And the day I left, rolling my bike box out of her place, her neighbor made a comment about the band equipment.  He seriously thought we had a band.  Takin' that show on the road in 2010, folks.

For New Years Eve day, I had talked Shelby (and she got TCSD to do the rest) into organizing a 5k/10k, so I could do a road race in the nice weather.  We had to stop at the grocery store to pick up snacks and drinks on the way.  We were not aware that you are not allowed to cross the yellow line (which we didn't even see!) with a shopping cart and if you do, it locks up until someone comes and reactivates in it stops and won't move in ANY direction.  I cannot even put into words the chaos we caused in that New Years Eve parking lot that day.  But the cart locked up and we could not seem to find a breath or a moment of logic to fix the problem.  We just crumpled into hysterics.  The below photo was taken after 2 separate/unrelated people had gotten out of their cars and lifted up the cart to move it out of the high traffic area.  In our defense, notice all of the water jugs.  That was one heavy cart!

After the cart debacle, we were off to the races!  It came together quite nicely.  And although an hour before the race, I still wasn't sure if I could get enough momentum going to move forward at a steady rate, I did it.  The good news is, I won my distance!  The bad news is, I was the only one running the '8k'.  I seemed to have missed the turn-around (and the big florescent, green cone that marked it) for the 5k.  And somewhere between the 5 and 10k turn around, it occurred to me.  I considered, for a moment, just going for it and running the 10k but I soon came to my senses and turned around.  Good times.  My friend Ed (from high school) and his beautiful, pregnant, Italian, wife came out and Ed rocked the 10k.


Here I am, finishing the '8k'.  My parents must be so proud of their baby girl.  LOL

And here are some of the other folks in their t-shirts generously donated by Timex.  They're all smiling because they saw the turn around and ran the correct distance.  Awwwlrighty then!

 New Years Eve, Shelby and I found ourselves at the Small Bar (in walking distance from her house).  Below photo, proof that it actually does exist.

 We couldn't think of a better place to spend together, ringing in the New Year.  This proved to be a stuuuuupendous idea (hear the accent?).  We met some nice friends and ended up getting the entire bar singing 'Piano man' by Billy Joel just before midnight struck.  Gloooorious times!

The day before I left, just Shelby and I went for a leisurely bike ride together.  I wish this picture better depicted what a gorgeous day it was.

 After we rode, we drove to Orange County to visit with our friend Kristi, who introduced Shelby and I.  It was a night filled with reminiscing about how we haven't all.  What?
The below photo, of an upside-down, un-frosted cupcake with a little bite taken out--says it all.  We're not sure who the culprit was but we walked by it and laughed for 2 days, rather than picking it up and throwing it away.  A photo, really is, worth a thousand words.


And that brings me to my next form of documentation.  But first, a little background: Shelby and I started our friendship by jumping out of airplanes together (she actually funded my first skydive).  It was so fitting that, during this trip, an old friend dug up and posted a video on youtube of the three of us on a disastrous, flailing, skydive.  For those of you who have done any skydiving, or still do, you'll understand what a train wreck this was.  For those of you who have never jumped out of an airplane, I'm here to tell you that there's nothing amazing or cool about this skydive but man, is it funny.  Please reserve your right to mute until we exit the plane.  We weren't of drinking age yet, and it's that's clearly apparent.  We had the maturity of 14 year olds and the presence of annoying, little sisters.  Oh well, I guess not much has changed.  And no, I hadn't discovered eyebrow shaping yet...obviously.  Watch below, if you dare.

Back to school, early morning training sessions and my sweet, lovable boys.  Carry on!