Sunday, July 29, 2012

"I think this means we're pretty tough."

That is what Suzanne said to me as we were heading home on the final stretch of our long ride today:  51.4 miles.  At 5 am. In the rain.  When she said it, we were totally soaked down to our squooshy socks, rain dripping off of our helmets, and covered in road grime.  I said:  "I think you're right."

We covered some serious ground (and hills) on this ride.  Not only did we talk about every possible topic as we rode side by side, we went from Hampden to Bangor to Brewer to Orrington to Bucksport to Stockton Springs to Prospect to Frankfort to Winterport to Hampden.   And in Bucksport, we rode over the Penobscot Narrows Bridge.  Even in the rain, it was so pretty.

 This giant bridge makes Suzanne look so tiny. 

Really bummed that this photo doesn't show how soaked and filthy I was.

I came back from my ride just in time for a hot shower, coffee, and the women's cycling on the Olympics.  Damn, those women.  So tough and strong.

Half Ironman training is going well.  After my 50 miler I felt awesome and am sore, but only in that really good way.  I'm super lucky to have so many great people in my life to train with.  This week I did both my swims with the masters group, two 6 mile runs with my friend Casey, an 8 miler with my friend Jess, and my long ride with Suzanne.  Training partners make all the difference. 

5 weeks until the race.  I have a ways to go, but watching the Olympics is helping keep me inspired.   I can't get enough, especially of the swimming, and extra especially of Ryan Lochte.

It's the Olympics' fault that I'm up to almost 11 and my alarm is set for 4:30 to swim.  Yikes.

Good night!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

happy place

Lying on a dock on a fresh water lake in Maine:  single favorite place for me to be.

And with my two loves, eating lunch after a swim, even better.

When did my 7 year old's legs get to be as long as mine?

Thursday, July 26, 2012


My friends Matt and Ange invited us out to their awesome camp on Moxie Lake.  This is in a part of Maine I hadn't ventured in before, about 2 hours southwest of where I live, and Suzanne drove us all there.

I swear to you it is not by design that I have these amazing friends who also happen to have houses on lakes.  

What I needed in my life was a day with my best friends, cool breezes, happy kids, wholesome food, fresh water, a dock to do some yoga on, a fire to warm up by, and a friend to drive me all the way there and back, all the while belting out Brandi Carlile songs with me.  I got it all. 

And, as if that wasn't enough, a hike into Moxie falls, the biggest waterfall in Maine. 

 So pretty.

Suzanne had to drag me away from Moxie Lake.  I didn't want to go, and neither did the kids.  The air was so crisp out there and everything smelled good. 

Love these girls.  Love them.  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

taming the beast

Skyler wanted to grow her hair long.  She always does.  But when it starts to grow, especially in the summer, I can't get a comb through it.  She spends so much time in chlorine, that even a freshly conditioned head does not cooperate with the brush.  Suddenly, without me really realizing it, Skyler was walking around town looking like medusa because she did not see the point of enduring pain and torture to brush her hair.  She was suddenly one of those kids I would have looked at before I was a mom and thought:  "good grief... I would never let a child of mine out of the house looking like that."

Even though I've said:  "If you don't let me brush your hair, we're going to have to cut it" 1,000 times, yesterday when I said it, Skyler said:  "Okay fine.  Let's cut it today."  Done and done. 

When all that tangled hair fell to the floor, I shouted:  "THERE SHE IS!!!"

Monday, July 23, 2012

a fine Maine day.

Monday morning.  It's 7:45 am, I've been back from my run for over an hour, had 2 cups of coffee, and my kids are still asleep.  This is a good way to start a week.

Last week, Suzanne invited us out to Schoodic Lake for the day.    This is summer in Maine at its finest, and here is a glimpse in photos:

Reed and Skyler out on a cruise.

7 kids.  1 fish.

Sandi's dad took all of us out in the boat to catch turtles  (of course, we released them later).

And off we go, over the blueberry barrens.  So beautiful.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Triple threat: caught on tape.

Here is Reed dock-jumping, diving, and dancing. All I have to say is I'm proud to be related to this boy:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

if at first you don't succeed, try, try (and then try) again.

At the local pool that we frequent, kids can't go off the diving board until they pass the deep water test. Skyler spends hours going off the diving board. ALL REED WANTED TO DO WAS GO OFF THE DIVING BOARD. That's all. That's all he wanted.

 For the swim test, you must swim two lengths freestyle, one length back stroke and then tread water for 2 minutes. Reed is a great little swimmer, but the rules for the swim test are tough!

Try #1: Reed swam the two lengths no problem, but he didn't get his arms out of the water enough. He failed. He cried and cried. We gave him a popsicle.

The rule is you must wait one week between testing. Let me remind you how long a week is when you are 5.

Try #2: Reed swam the two lengths and the backstroke, but when the lifeguard asked him how he was feeling he said: "Tired. So tired." He failed. He cried. We gave him a popsicle.

 Try #3: Reed swam the two lengths freestyle and the backstroke! This looked promising! The lifeguard asked him to start treading water. He sank. I don't think anyone remembered to teach him how to tread, because we were so anxious about the swimming part.  We gave him a popsicle.

Try #4: He swam the freestyle:

And the backstroke: ( a little crooked. Okay, diagonal.)

And he treaded. Suzanne and the girls were there, plus Skyler, so by the time he got to the treading part, there were five of us screaming: "GO REED! TREAD! DON'T TOUCH THE WALL!!"

When the lifeguard said, "Okay Reed, you passed!" we were all so excited that we hooted and hollered and I picked him out of the water by his hands. He was so tired! His little heart was pounding, and he said over and over: "I passed? I passed?" There was a group of other parents looking at us quizzically. I said: "He failed it 3 times! And then he passed!" And they were like, "oh... okay, Hooray!  WOO HOOO!!!!!"

And he spent the next 2 hours (after a victory Popsicle, of course) going off the diving board. This was his first time, and a jump. After that, he dove! I have a video montage coming, but of course.

Later, an older woman who had been watching him for the whole afternoon said: "You have a young olympian in the making."

(shhhh.... I know.)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

lost iphone, lady gaga, and zen dragonfly catching

Of all my workouts this week, there are three that deserve mention.  Wednesday morning, I had to leave my house at 8:00 am for my course at the university.  How do you get two workouts in before 7:15?  Ride your bike to masters swim and then ride home.  16 miles and 2000 yards and still time to shower.  I was proud of that one.

Saturday's bike ride:  I waited until the evening because it was so hot, rode my 20 miles, made it home just seconds before the sky opened up with a thunderstorm, and then once in my garage, realized the zipper was undone on the pack that sits under my seat.  My iPhone was gone.

I grabbed the keys and hopped in the car and drove the 20 mile route.  No luck.  I was sure it fell off in such a way that it got run over by a truck and was a goner.  I spent the entire drive assuring myself that I actually did buy insurance for that thing when I bought it.  I did, right?

When I got home, I grabbed Sam's cell phone and set off on foot thinking if I kept calling it, I would hear it ring and eventually find it.  Lo and behold, before I made it to the end of my street, a kind old man answered my phone!  He said:  "I found your phone!  I was riding my bike and picked it up on the road!"  (about a mile from my house).  He gave me his address and I drove right over.  God bless people.  He said he was going to bring it to the police station if he didn't hear from me. All's well that ends well.

This morning, I went to City Forest with Jackson for a trail run.  I cannot overstate how bad the bugs were.  There were dive-bombing deer flies, if that's what they are, I don't know.  They bite.  They suck.  Of course, I was running in shorts and a sports bra, just for, you know, maximum sweaty flesh exposure for those skin-loving fuckers.  I got so many bites on my neck and back.  It was hellish.  I imagined that to those hungry bugs, I looked  Lady Gaga in a meat dress running through the woods. 

When I made it back to the parking lot, I saw another woman heading out for a run.  I said:  "Oh my god, you need some bug spray."  She said:  "I know.  And Oh my god, you have so many bites on your neck."  And then... "Oh my god, you have a ton of those flies in your hair."

At that point, I doused myself in bug spray, and I didn't care; it was the strong stuff.  If you are going to run City Forest in the next little while, deet is your best friend.    I put it all over my body and went 2 more miles before I called it a day.  I'm still itching just thinking about it.

You're itching too, aren't you.  In that spot on your back that you can't quite reach.  I know.

This afternoon we went swimming at Fields Pond, and Skyler got all zen-like and sat still long enough for a dragonfly to land on her hand.
Then she got so good at it that all the other kids on the beach wanted to know her secret.  She was saying:  "Shhh.  You have to be very still and very quiet. Now, just hold out your hand and wait."

Soon, all the kids were doing this...

And even Reed sat still and quiet enough to hold one for a while.  He said it was the "awesomest thing of his life."

This week's lessons:  zip your bike pack, pack your deet, and encourage bug-catching mediation for a relaxing day at the beach.

I know you all knew I was training for the Pumpkinman Half Iron Triathlon, right? But I was secretly waiting to do some of the training before I totally committed.  This week, I REGISTERED!  I'm really going to do it.  AND, I'm going to finish smiling.  You watch.

Have a good week.  xo

Friday, July 13, 2012

MWP and OMIM on the radio.

Over the past 2 weeks, I spent seven days in a classroom full of other teachers, writing, reading, talking, laughing, and getting a lot of work done.   The Maine Writing Project, which started as an online course for the spring semester, is an incredible opportunity to talk about teaching and writing and to work with some inspiring folks.  I got so much out of this week that I haven't even had time to let it all sink in.  I have visions of writing prompts and mentor texts dancing in my head.

This is my friend Emily, with whom I have taken several classes throughout this degree program.  Besides sharing the same name, we also are both mothers, runners, high school English teachers, and overall kindred spirits.  Also, Emily is hilarious, extremely sarcastic and witty and it is a joy to sit beside her in class. 

We worked from 8:30 to 4:00 each day, which you may think would be tiring, but the time flew by.  The requirements for the course were many, but there was such a great variety between work for teaching and writing for self that I was never bored for a second.

Plus, every day I made one of these incredible power salads over at the student union's salad bar:  spinach, beets, feta, broccoli, carrots, garbanzos and sunflower seeds.  YUM.  I will miss that salad bar.

The fruits of my labor are all inside this binder.  I assign my students to create writing portfolios, and I have to say, I hope they experience the same sense of satisfaction that I have by putting all of this work into one place. It's got heft.  I love it.

Another piece of this week that was kind of cool:

I was asked by my friend and professor and advisor Rich Kent to participate in a radio interview with him on the National Writing Project Radio (NWP) program.  Rich was being interviewed about a book he wrote about using writing as a coaching tool:  Writing on the Bus.  This spring, I  wrote a review of his book for the National Writing Project.  Rich asked me to speak as a reader, as well as a blogger, teacher and a runner.

So, last night, the interview took place at 7pm, and was broadcast live (on the NWP website).

Here is how it was advertised:

And here is my funny story:

I knew I needed some quiet space to call in to the interview, which was being hosted from the California NWP office, so my mom agreed to take the kids at her house while I sat in the car in her driveway so as not to be interrupted.   I also needed to have my laptop, and be online, so that I could follow along with the order or questions (that we had ahead of time) on a google doc.  So, I loaded the document, went out to my car, and called into the show.   I was a little nervous, but ready.

Then I mistakenly hit refresh on the google doc, but I had lost internet connection by being outside my mom's house, and couldn't get it back.  As the minutes were ticking down until we went live (there was an automated voice on the line saying "8 minutes until showtime.")  I walked back into my mom's house and tried to get the google doc up.  It wouldn't load.  I balanced my phone and laptop while walking around my mom's house, while listening to Tanya, the show's host, explain how the show was going to work.  "5 minutes until showtime."  I couldn't get online.  I considered just flying blind and letting myself be totally spontaneous without the order of questions in front of me.  Then that thought made me even more nervous.

I took my laptop into the car and started driving away.  The first place that I thought of where I need I could get online was at a Tim Horton's with free wi-fi about 10 miles away.  So, now I'm driving 60 miles an hour on the interstate when the automated voice says:  "You are live in 5. 4. 3. 2. 1...."

Luckily, I was the 4th person interviewed during the 1-hour program, so I really had to just listen as I drove.  As the interview was already underway, I pulled into a parking spot at Tim Horton's, got myself connected to the google doc, and was able to find where we were in the question line-up.

Phew!  (I will add here that when Rich read this story, he said to me:  "you are such a loser.")  I know.

When it was getting closer to my turn, I did feel nervous, but Tanya, the host, made me feel relaxed, and I think I forgot I was on the radio at all, but rather was just talking to a friend.  Her questions got me talking about writing, teaching, blogging about running, connecting with other athletes and my students.

I know, I know.  You are dying to hear the interview.

It's right here.  I start talking at 37:00.  LIVE FROM THE TIM HORTON'S PARKING LOT!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Inspiration to run: my mom's story.

The following was written by my mom, Beth.

For some time, Emilie had been blogging about the exhilaration of running.  I was skeptical.  Exhilaration?  But my curiosity was piqued and I made a mental note that maybe I should give it a try.  Someday.

Then the next chapter of my life intervened, a chapter that put everything else on hold.  In December, 2010, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.   

There is nothing exhilarating about cancer.  From the discovery of the first suspicious lump, through the biopsy, the myriad of tests, and the heart-wrenching wait for the results that brought the dreaded confirmation, it was all a nightmare.  The fact that my husband Klaus had died of cancer just added to the agonizing realization that life does not always go the way we  plan.  “When one parent dies of cancer, the other should be automatically immune” Emilie insisted.   She had sat with me through the four nail-biting hours as we waited for the call from the doctor about the biopsy results.

 When the call came, she dissolved into tears. I understood. She had been such a stalwart support through her Dad’s battle with lymphoma.  She knew all too well the pain and anguish of a cancer diagnosis.  From that moment on, she hardly let me out of her sight.  By virtue of geography she was the one of my kids close at hand to walk me through this journey. She was at my side for the first appointment with the surgeon, through subsequent tests and then she sat in the waiting room at the hospital on January 20th for six long hours while I had a bi-lateral mastectomy.  She nursed me round the clock once I was back home—she emptied the drains, changed the dressings, provided my meals, even encouraging me to have a glass of wine. Liesel and Chris each came for a week during my tedious convalescence and they too brought tons of encouragement and support.  I could not have made it without the support of my three childen.

As I slowly regained my strength, I begin to think of ways to return to a life full of purpose and good health. I remembered Emilie’s words about the power and mystery of running and decided that, as soon as I was able, I would return to the track at the university to start purposeful walking again, with the hope that I could gradually add a lap or two at a slow run. Once I was able to do that, with Emilie’s encouragement, I set a goal for myself of running the 5K Susan Komen Run for the Cure in Bangor in September.

I started walking in April, began to run a few laps in May, and continued training throughout the summer, including two months in Utah where I did my running at an altitude of 6000 feet.  That was hard but it helped, because when I returned to Maine in early September, I was very close to being able to run the 3 miles without stopping.

Finally the morning of September 17th arrived.  Emilie and Skyler picked me up early,  both wearing the white Run for the Cure T-shirts. I was decked out in the bright pink shirt with SURVIVOR in big letters down the front. I also was wearing brand new sleek running pants because both daughters insisted that one does not run in jeans.

 When we arrived at the starting line, I was astounded by the crowds milling about—around 5000 participants.  The best part was discovering a dozen of Emilie’s friends, and my friends Lois and Bill there, carrying signs that said TEAM BETH—my very own cheering squad. The sun was bright, the sky was blue and the air was crisp. I felt inspired. At 8:00 sharp, the gun went off and soon we were off.  With Emilie on one side of me and two friends Doug and Nancy on the other, I slowly fell into a comfortable pace and with the exception of one hill, I managed to run the entire 5K race. There were moments of struggle to be sure but to have an expert runner on each side of me gave me the confidence I needed.  I  understood that my running partners were running way below their normal pace.  I appreciated their sacrifice.

As we hit the third mile,  the excitement level began a long, slow crescendo.  A gentle downhill slope provided the momentum I needed and soon Emilie said, “Look Mom, there’s the finish line.” About two long blocks ahead I could see the huge arch of pink and white balloons that marked the end of the race.  Though I really felt tired at that point, I managed to increase my pace as we headed for those balloons and just as I approached the finish, I heard a voice from the loudspeakers shout out “Here comes Beth Brand.  You are beautiful, baby!  You did great! You made it.”  Emilie and I ran across the finish line, jubilant, hand in hand. She looked up at me with a broad smile on her face.  We knew we had finished more than just a race—we had won this battle with cancer. 
Finally, I got it.  I understood the exhilaration of running.

Emilie's note:  Keep in mind my mom was 73 years old when she started to run.  When are you going to start?

In case you missed it last September, here is the video that captures the day.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

surfing and dock jumping.

Last week at Schoodic Lake, Sandi and Suzanne's camp, and one of my favorite places in the world, Skyler mastered the skill of standing on this little wake board.  I see a mother-daughter surf trip in our future.

She also joined in on our now-annual tradition of dock jumping and frisbee catching.  The arch of her foot and the kick-back of her leg in this photo is about the cutest thing ever;  I'm sure you all agree.

But she needs to get a little more air, a little more sass.  Here, kid.  Let mommy and Suzanne (whom Skyler refers to as her "second mom") show you how it's done.

First you flex your muscles and trash talk and tell your best friend to move-out-the-way.  I'm not sure how this came about, but it's kind of a thing we do. 

 I would add that being able to dock-jump with flip-flops on is one of my finer talents.

I'm doing the opposite of dock-jumping today:  sitting in a classroom, which by the way, I'm very happy to do.  I'm having an awesome week as a fellow in the Maine Writing Project.