Saturday, August 31, 2013

The race I haven't been talking about

I haven't been writing or talking about it much, but I am indeed doing the Pumpkinman Half Ironman triathlon next weekend.  My training has felt differently than it has in the past.  In previous years, training has taken a lot more space in my life and in my mind.  My life feels really different now in a lot of ways, and one of those ways is that I am training and enjoying it, but I'm not obsessing over it.

This is good and bad:  Good because I have some good perspective about this part of my life as a hobby, something I do to stay fit and active, to be able to keep up with my kids, bad because I could definitely have trained harder.  I don't know any marathoner or triathlete who doesn't say that the week before the race, but still:  "I could have gotten in more long runs."  "I could have ridden more miles."  "I could have worked harder."

I followed a training plan, but didn't get in all the workouts.  When I have my kids for 5 days straight, workouts get pushed aside.  Summer days never seem as long as you think they'll be.  Vacations aren't really a good time to train.  Moving and redoing several rooms in our house ate up a ton of time.  And these are all just excuses that I've told myself when I think about the upcoming race.

This morning, I planned to run 10 miles starting at 6:00 am. This would have been the longest run I've done all summer.   I got up at 5:00 and it was dark and I sat at the table drinking coffee.  It was silent in the house, and raining outside.  I started to talk myself out of it.  I said, "I don't really need to do this, because I haven't really trained hard enough anyway.  Why start now?" I wanted to crawl back into bed.  I wasn't in the mood to run at all.

So, I had a firm talk with myself.  I said:   "Do you want to be the kind of person who goes out early in the rain and does what she says she's going to do, or do you want to be the person who goes back to bed?"

"Do you want to be the kind of person that does hard and challenging things, or do you not?"

I rolled my eyes at myself.  "Geez, why do you have be like that?"

I strapped on my Garmin and ran 10 miles.  I ran 4 by myself and Susan ran the last 6 with me. The rain slowed down until the last mile when it poured and soaked me to the bone.  It was hard.

But when I came home, Tim was cooking bacon, Skyler was cooking eggs, and Reed was eating bacon.  I wrapped up in a towel.  There was hot coffee and a hot shower and I felt so good.

I don't really know what to expect about the upcoming race.  I am excited for it and also worried that I'm not ready.  When I actually look at my training log, I did pretty well.  I got up early for masters swimming several days a week.  I had some good, hard rides.  I didn't do as many long runs as I should have, but I did run some quality miles.

 I'm using my old standby for my race goal:  I want to finish, and I want to finish smiling.  That's all.

I had such a great race when I did this distance for the first time last year, and I lucked out completely with the weather.  I'm hoping for another great day.  I'm hoping I haven't let myself become too comfortable with the thought that I've done it before, so how hard can it be?

It's hard, and part of me is afraid.

Next weekend, I will swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles, and run 13.1 miles.  Because, do I want to be the kind of person that does what she says she's going to do, or don't I?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Race Report: Color Me Rad 5K

Saturday, Hillary and Skyler and I had a girls' day and drove south to Brunswick for the Color Me Rad 5K.  That's one of those races where they spray you with color and throw color bombs at you while you run.  The whole scene was funny and very spirited and perfect for Skyler's first 5K. 

 We let Skyler set the pace, and used her very own original method of sprint-then-walk and leap-then-walk. 

And at some points, we carried her.   She thought this whole concept was just ridiculously fun. 

Here is Skyler holding the color bombs they give you.  If you squeeze them, the color explodes all over you.  (It's colored corn starch, by the way).

Then she threw it at Hillary:

At the finish line, everyone explodes their color bomb at once and it looks like this:

 There was a lot of loud music and dancing and screaming.  It was a weird scene, and runners are already a pretty weird breed.  But at least this race didn't let anyone take themselves seriously. 

I was so happy to have this rare chance to let Skyler be the star of the show.

I had a wonderful time with these two girls.  As you can tell, they are pretty good company. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

the truth about shared custody

"Your absence has gone through me like thread through a needle.  Everything I do is stitched with its color."  W.S. Merwyn

I feel totally complete and whole when my kids are with me.  That means that when my kids are not with me, I feel less than whole.  No matter how happy I feel about everything else, there is a part of me that is mismatched, fragmented, partial.  And it hasn't gotten easier with time.  On days that I don't have my kids, I'm walking around all busy and purposeful, doing all kinds of things, and with every breath I'm missing them.  I'm actually carrying a physical weight of missing them.  If you see me walking around town, I'm carrying it.  I don't think you can see it.  I can feel happy, fulfilled, and even carefree, and during each of these moments,  I'm carrying it. 

I have had a sense since I moved out on my own that some of my friends who are together with their families are a tiny bit jealous that I get so much time to myself.  Some friends even said that my situation sounded "sort of ideal" to them.  I totally get what they mean, because when you are with little kids 24/7, it's exhausting and you feel like you can't get everything done or catch your breath.  I remember it.  You crave "just a day!" to get a few things done around the house without little "helpers," and to read a magazine over a cup of coffee in a silent house.

Sure, it's convenient to run errands without little stragglers or schedule a meeting without having to arrange for backup.  Yes, it's wonderful to be with your partner alone and to go out for dinner without watching the clock. Yes, it's amazing to be able to get away for a few days.  But just so you all know, the emotional toll of not tucking your kids into their beds every night is enormous.  It's enormous.  If you are reading this thinking, "Yeah, I just can't imagine not having my kids all the time."  Well that's what I'm thinking too.  Not having your children all the time?  Impossible.  Unfathomable.

And although I know anyone who has said this only means well, please don't say to a divorced parent:  "I just don't know how you do it."  Because while you might mean: "I empathize with you" and you might even mean: "I admire you" what the divorced parent hears you saying is:  "I love my kids way too much to ever be in a situation where I didn't have them full time, so you must be some kind of sub-par parent if you can tolerate it."  Seriously.  That is what we hear.

You may wonder (I do too) why I feel the need to write this, or what I have to prove to anyone about how fiercely I love my children.   But I do feel the need to write this.  My mom friends who don't have their kids every day?  We are kind of a tribe.  We understand each other deeply and loyally.  All of us know that not one hour goes by when we don't wish things could be different, and we all feel a little misunderstood. Having the sun rise and set on a day that does not include your children makes a mother ache. 

Obviously I had an amazing week in Montana.  When I dropped them off after we got home, you'd think that I would enjoy the break and the time to unpack and tidy and organize for school.  Yes, I got a lot done.  I also cried off and on all day.  I felt like I lost my arms or something.  I washed and folded all their little summer clothes and it felt like the saddest thing in the world. 

I can "look on the bright side" and "put on the happy face" and "make the most of it" like the best of 'em.  I'm also careful to tell you the rest.


NOTE:  The quote at the top is credited to a recent instagram post by my dear friend Meredith, who gets it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Montana, post 3: In love.

"I am in love with Montana.  For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection, but with Montana it is love, and it's difficult to analyze love when you're in it ... It seems to me that Montana is a great splash of grandeur. The scale is huge but not overpowering. The land is rich with grass and color, and the mountains are the kind I would create if mountains were ever put on my agenda."  -John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley

The road that led down to our lake house was magical,

and almost every time we drove it or walked it, we saw a deer or two.

Besides the grandeur of Montana, the week was filled with everything I love and need.  

Seeing my family together.

Time to make art with Skyler.

Amazing meals and a giant table for everyone to eat around.

Time to play.

And sit.  And read.  And talk.

I found the perfect spot to take the kids horseback riding with our cowboy Cecil.  Cecil?  I mean come on.  He was as genuine as they come.

feeding our horses before we left.
And on our last full day, Tim and I got up early and went back to Glacier National Park for a few hours.  We had to go drive on the famous "Going to the Sun Road" and oh my God. 

At the top of the pass.  Big Sky.

Montana, I want to make out with you.

After we got every last drop of goodness out of our week, we reluctantly said goodbye to our family.

 And flew home.
And if I haven't made you want to visit Montana, then I quit.

Thank you, mom, for the Most Amazing Vacation Ever.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Montana, post two: Glacier National Park

  This has been the Most Amazing Vacation Ever.  I have fallen in love with Montana, and I will be unapologetically gushing about it for the next week at least. 

One of the draws to the Flathead Lake area of Montana was its proximity to Glacier National Park. It was an easy one hour drive from our house in Bigfork.

Glacier is one of the National Parks I've always wanted to visit;  I've seen hundreds of amazing photos of the place and heard stories from friends who sing its praises.  STILL, I have to say, I had no idea what we were driving into.

We chose a 4 mile hike that we thought would be perfect for everyone. The trail was so pretty that I didn't really care where it was headed.  It was all filtered light and rushing waterfalls and tall trees.

The kids loved exploring all the nooks for climbing and found many opportunities to pose for photos.

My sister Liesel's kids, Grant and Cameron (11 and 12 years old) are total heroes to my kids.

It's funny when we all fall off the tree stump trying to pose for the photo.

Is this place for real?

the cleanest mountain water rushing by the trail.
my little tree worshiper

We were headed for Avalanche Lake, and we heard people coming down the trail mentioning waterfalls at the top, but when we turned the corner and saw the scene, I thought:


This is not a fake backdrop.
We marveled at the view and snapped a bunch of photos of all of us in different combinations.

I love that my mom still hikes with us.

That's my brother-in-law Craig, cancer-free and stronger than ever.

world's greatest nephews.

Skyler had some quiet time with her journal before we hiked down. 

The part of me that feels connected to the west was really humming. I formed a key piece of myself as a teenager backpacking in Colorado with Outward Bound, lived in California for 4 years, and have had some of my best vacations in Wyoming, Montana, and Utah.

To say I really like the "bigness" of the west really falls short, but it's true.  I love the way it smells and sounds and feels.  I feel at home on the trails and humbled by the massiveness of the sky and the mountains. 

I went to Montana about 15 years ago with my whole family, including my dad.  My dad was especially impressed with the landscape and said that "Montana should really be spelled with an exclamation point."  Montana!  True, and GLACIER NATIONAL PARK should be spelled in all caps.

Wait till you see pics and video from the day that Tim and I went back for more.

I'm not even half way done talking about Montana!, so stay tuned for more.  We are reluctantly heading home to Maine early tomorrow morning.