Monday, January 28, 2013

Frostbite Series

Every year the St. Louis Track Club holds a Frostbite Series of races from late December to early February.  All the races are held in Forest Park, which is where I do most of my long runs anyway, so I decided to join in for 3 of them this year.

10 mile

The first race I did was the 10 miler, which ended up being round about 15 for me because I ran over there and back.  It was the longest run I'd managed since Farmdale in mid-October, on account of a lingering dodgy knee.  For 2-1/2 months, I'd tried everything-- ice, stretching, enough ibuprofen to kill a horse, even long periods (i.e., one whole week) of no running whatsoever.  But it always got stiff and swollen if I attempted to go farther than about 8 miles.  What finally worked was to abandon my "minimalist" 4mm drop New Balance trail racing flats and go back to my tried and true Mizunos.  So much for barefoot running.  

The night before the Frostbite 10-miler, we got a snow storm.  By morning there was an inch (or two?) of snow on the ground, but the roads and sidewalks were not slick.  I ran over to the start line, feeling pretty good except for the fact that I'd overdressed and was way too warm.  After I registered for the race, I did a quick wardrobe rearrangement in the bathroom and then headed back outside to hide my cast-off under layer in some bushes by the playground at the visitor's center.  This was one drawback to running over there and not having my car-- no place to store your stuff for either before or after the race.

Everybody filed over to the start line and we were off.  Holy shit, it was icy.  Where did all this ice come from?  There had been no ice on my 2.5 mile run to the park, and to my knowledge, no ice anywhere else in St. Louis.  It was all completely localized to the roads where the race was taking place within Forest Park.  

I saw several people go down or wobble and flail precariously.  I dropped back and went at a snail's pace.  It was awful.  It was like trying to run in the ice world on Mario Kart.  With every step, I had no idea if I was going to fall flat on my face or manage to stay upright, and it didn't help that I was packed so tightly in a claustrophobic jam of other runners that I couldn't even see where each of my footfalls would land.  

As the course veered up over a small bridge, a guy up ahead shouted, "Look out, this is as icy as shit!" and boy was he ever right.  A woman ahead of me slipped as she began her ascent.  I took a deep breath and managed to stay upright, but this sucked.  I thought back to when Rob encouraged me to go out for the last 10-mile loop of Farmdale, in calf-high mud and a torrential thunderstorm.  "This is as bad as it gets," he had told me.  "If you can do this, you can do anything."  

He was wrong.  Ice is 10 million times worse.

I kept going.  I tried to get in a grove.  The race was 2 laps on a 5-mile course, and by the second loop, the sun had come out enough to melt some of the ice, although the bridges (I think there were 4 on each lap?) remained treacherous.  There were enough ice-free corridors of asphalt on the second lap that I could actually run without fear of dying.  I took advantage of the iceless safe zones and ran like a bat out of hell whenever I could.  So much that I averaged something like 10:30 pace on the first lap, and 7:30 pace on the second lap.  How's that for a negative split.

I crossed the finish line at 1:30:02.  Feeling more than a little bit angry at all that ice.  I went to go find the shirt I'd abandoned earlier; then I tucked it under my arm and ran home, with freezing fingers.

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Two weeks later, it was time for the 20K.  The weather was completely different this time.  It was near 48 and gloomy but not quite raining.  During my run over to the park, I again realized that I had overdressed, so I stashed my long sleeve shirt in a hidden location outside the visitor's center and decided to run in short sleeves and capris.  Still, it was cold at the start line-- my teeth chattered so hard I thought they might break.  When the gun finally went off, I shot out of there, jockeying for a position in what seemed to be the most congested race start I'd ever seen. 

Less than a quarter mile in, I felt someone step on my heel, then barrel into me.  I went flying through the air.  I landed very hard on my right (i.e., good) knee, left hip, and left elbow.  I'm not sure how I landed on all three of those places, but I did.  It just happened so fast.  I desperately tried to scramble to my feet, and two other runners-- a man and a woman-- stopped to help me up.  It was really nice of them to stop and help, but I just felt bad that they were taking time out of their race to make sure I was okay, when really I was fine, except that I couldn't put weight on either my right or left legs because I had somehow injured both sides of my body in the fall.

I didn't think, I just kept going, and I got to the first mile marker at exactly 7:40.  Oh, a little faster than I'd been expecting, especially considering that time I'd lost while lying face down on the ground.  Adrenaline.

Despite my various wounds, I managed to hover around 8-minute miles for the first half of the race, but then my pace began to creep steadily upward.  I just couldn't hang on.  Even though I'd been cold at the start line, I was way too hot now that I was running.  And my waist pack wouldn't stay in place-- it somehow kept rubbing the impact-point on my hip, which hurt a whole lot more than I would have liked.  Plus, blood was dripping down my left elbow, as well my right thumb.  This was one ugly race.

Rob and Will surprised me with a drive-by cheer along the course, and that got me to the finish in 1:42:31.  I'd take it.  I went to go find my shirt, and then I began a very slow run home.  It was an approximately 17-mile day for me, with over 14 of it being after my crash.

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That's not a weird patch of arm hair above my wound.  It's a tree in the background.  I promise.

Half marathon 

THe final Frostbite Race I plan on running was just this past weekend-- the half marathon.  

If the truth be known, I actually was a little nervous about getting trampled again at the start of the race, but I tried not to dwell on it.  I mean, I've been running road races for almost half my life, and that was the first time something like that had ever happened.  So what are the odds.

It was bitterly cold on the morning of the race (low 20's), but as I ran to the park, I discovered again, that I had overdressed.  At least by this point, I have a favorite hiding placefor my extra clothes in the bushes surrounding the visitor's center.

I lined up for the start at the very back.  I mean, the very, very back.  Way behind all the women wearing mascara, even behind the elderly.  I may have been the very last person to cross the start line.  There was no way I was going to get trampled this time.

As a result, it took me forever to really get on my pace.  Like 6 miles maybe.  Well, not quite.  But my first mile was 8:45, and I was still actively struggling to weave my way through slower runners.  

I kept it around 8-minute miles for most of the race, but it was a huge struggle.  I had a couple 8:20's/8:30's near the middle, but I managed to bring it back down closer to 8 by the end again.  The hills really got to me, and I had a lot of trouble breathing.  With the cold temperatures, my nose didn't seem to be working right, and I could only take in oxygen through my mouth.  I felt like I just couldn't get enough air.  I even had stomach cramps, which really slowed me down.  Plus I felt hungry.  In addition to cramping, my stomach was growling.  I knew I would make it, but I was really light headed and super close to bonking from about mile 10 on.  

If only I would have remembered that I had an emergency Z-Bar in my pocket!

Oh well.  I made it to the end.  I have no idea what my 1/2 marathon PR is, but this was at least several minutes slower at 1:48:19.

As soon as I crossed the finish line, I began guzzling water and inhaling peanut butter pretzels.  Rob and Will were in the parking lot, and I went over to see them.  Will smiled and fed me some chocolate teddy grahams.  It was very tempting to ride home with them in the car, especially considering that my gloves were soaking wet and my fingers were beginning to freeze, but I toughed it out and ran/walked home.  It ended up being an 18 mile day and a 40 mile week for me.

That last 2 miles (uphill!) to our house made me keenly aware that I'd left everything out on the course-- I'd given it all I had-- so even though I'm not breaking any records, I really did do the best I could.  Can't be disappointed with that.


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In all, the Frostbite Series was great.  The races were low key (a plus in my book) and super well organized-- mile markers were (mostly) correctly placed, the course was clearly marked, cheerful volunteers did an excellent job controlling park traffic, and the scoring officials even emailed you your finishing time within an hour after the race was over.  Seriously, most of the big-name marathons I've run haven't been nearly so well organized.  But for me, one of the best parts was that I could just run over there from my house on the morning of the race and have company and course support during what would otherwise have been a boring and solitary long run.  While I won't be doing any of the other Frostbite races this year, I definitely plan on joining in again next year!  

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 18, 2013

New glasses

I got a new pair of glasses last week.  What do you think?


"I'd rather be writing a novel."

I went for my first eye exam in 3.5 years and found that my eyes had actually improved since the last time.  Either that or the idiot doctor I saw back then got my prescription wrong, which I think is the more likely scenario.  Seriously, the guy was a jerk. He yelled at me for filling out the insurance form wrong, and then he went out of the exam room and yelled at the staff for not having properly explained to me how to fill out the form.  I had no problems with the contacts he prescribed, but when my new glasses were finally ready and I went in to pick them up, I could hardly bear to look through them.  I insisted that there must have been a mistake, this prescription was far too strong.  He counter-insisted that prescription was correct, and I needed to get out of his way.  I waited a week and went back again, ever more sure that the prescription was too strong.  They told me to "tough it out" and "my eyes would get used to it."

Well, they did.  And it's hard to say, really.  At the time, I was 8 months pregnant and hyperemetic.  Merely looking at a dish that had once contained  a food I'd eaten and later thrown up would make me feel dizzy and/or puke.  It wasn't inconceivable that my difficulty with the glasses was somehow related to my general, all-encompassing, nausea.  Within a couple of weeks, my eyes did in fact adjust, and I could wear the glasses while feeling nothing more than baseline, hyperemetic malaise.

So this time I was at first surprised, then vindicated, when the (I might add, very nice and conscientious) optometrist told me, "It looks like your prescription has changed.  You're wearing lenses that are 3 steps too strong for you."  He repeated parts of the eye exam just to make sure, and came up with the same result.  Moreover, he did not yell at me for anything.  Not for waiting so long to see an eye doctor, not for wearing contact lenses that had been expired for more than a year.

I was so giddy at the thought that my eyes might actually be getting better (or at least not getting worse), that I decided to spend something like a week's salary on new contact lenses and glasses.  I went for the most dramatic frames they had.  It seems like everybody is wearing glasses these days.  They're in.  I can't help but think how differently my life might have turned out if glasses had been so popular when I was in junior high.

Afterwards, I did have a bit of buyer's remorse.  Gigantic black frames too large for my face--what was I thinking?  They looked good at the store (were my eyes slightly dilated then?), but not so much when I got home.

On the bright side, however, now that I've got the right prescription, I can see better than I've been able to see in, well… more than 3.5 years.

All week, I wore the glasses.  I haven't gone that long in glasses probably since the age of 12 or 13, when I first got contacts.  Glasses were always my back up--what I'd wear after I'd taken my contacts out in the evening and nobody was going to see me again.

I've got to say, these new glasses are finally starting to grow on me.  I think they give me a sort of stern, professorial look, which definitely helped me set the tone at the beginning of the new semester.  With these glasses, everything I say suddenly becomes brilliant.  The only thing that could make me seem any smarter would be if I also had a British accent.

Maybe I will write a publishable novel after all. With a genre and everything.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Dear William (41 months)

Dear William,

Today you are 41 months old!

This past month we had C H R I S T M A S.  



You got to see both sets of grandparents.  You got a ton of presents.  At first you would open a present and want to play with it.  Then you realized that pretty much all the presents under the tree were for you, so you'd open one and move right on to the next with barely half a glance.  When you were done, you said, "I want more presents."  New year's resolution:  work on gratitude.



Probably your favorite thing about Christmas was playing with the steam engine at Grama Nan and Paw Paw's house.  You went on and on about this steam engine.  You made us all spend hours down in the basement with you while you played with it.  You wore the poor steam engine out.  I hope it has a chance to recover by next Christmas, either that, or you somehow find yourself able to forget about it and move on.

Steam engine

We got to visit with some of Mama's old friends while we were in Peoria for Christmas.  It was the first time you met David.  Afterwards, you informed me, "Mommy, your name is David," and you have been calling me David off and on since then.  Hm.


Right after Christmas, we went to Gutzville to visit some friends.  You played with your BFF Ashlynn (and her Baby Alive doll), and Miss C (who is now 9 years old!) did such a great job helping take care of you.  I wish we all didn't live so far away.

Baby Alive


On New Years Eve, you and your dad went snow tubing at Hidden Valley.  Mommy had to work that day.  Nuts!



On New Years Day, we went skating at Steinberg Ice Rink.  Well, you and your dad skated.  I went running and met you there.  At first you didn't like it.  You were cross and asked for pretzels.  We bought you some at the concession stand and you ate them.  Refueled, you went back out to skate a few more laps with your dad.  When it was time to leave, you did not want to go home.


One of your Christmas gifts was a Buzz Lightyear costume.  You have enjoyed wearing it a few times in the last couple of weeks.  Mixing your languages, you say, "Buzz Lightyear, al rescate!"  You zoom around the house.  You climb onto the bed and jump into the air.  You say, "Come fly with me, Mommy!"  You leap onto my back and make me run down the hallway, pretending that we are flying.  You are adorable.


You still love baby donuts, and you like to help me make them too.

Mix master Will



You have started napping on the couch sometimes.

Napping on the couch

But your favorite place to sleep is still Mommy-Daddy Bed, taking up All The Space.

Totally on my side This month you also had a Science Fair at school, in which you and your classmates dressed up like bees, performed a bee dance, and then hugged your teacher.

Bee hug

William, you've had your fair share of fits this month, but you've also had your sweet moments.  Sometimes you take my hand and hold it to your cheek, just because you like me to be close to you.  You also showed your creativity by selecting a book (The President's Puppy) from your bookshelf and making up your own story to go along with the pictures.  To be honest, your story was much better than the one that was actually written.  I love your imagination!

There's a lot in store for us next month, William, so get ready for fun!

Love always,

Your mom

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Top 15 Moments of 2012

I decided to think back past some of the difficult times we've encountered this year to create a list of the Top 12 Moments of 2012.  At first I could only come up with 6.  That seemed kind of sad, so I thought some more until I came up with 15.  I guess I could have kept going, but I decided to cap it there.  Here goes.



15) My friend Yvette made me a new hat (November 2012).

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14)  Visiting Gutzville in July 2012 and again in December 2012.  Good times with friends we don't get to see very often anymore, good food, good wine.  Reliving, just a little bit, those happy years I like to think of as the Salad Days.

Out for a walk

13)  My BFF of the last 4.6 billion years posting this on her blog (September 2012).  Something I really needed to hear. 

12)  The Great De-Clutterization of December 2012.  I hate clutter so much, that's why this project earns its own place in the Top Moments List.  Right after Christmas, we went through nearly every nook and cranny of our house and sorted all of the junk we turned up into Throw Out, Recycle, Donate, or Save piles.  We filled up the station wagon and took a giant load to the Goodwill.  For about 2 brief, shining days (before clutter began to encroach again), every single remaining item in our house had its own place, and I knew exactly where everything was.  I could breathe for the first time in 15 years.  It was a wonderful feeling.  An additional result of this de-clutterization process is that we uncovered several items that had been missing since we moved to St. Louis.  These included:  my engagement ring, my college and PhD diplomas, and my knitting needles.

11) Bivy's release on December 21, 2012.  Maybe someday Rob will post about the incredible effort that writing this application required-- a superhuman effort might be a better way to describe it.  He slept only 3-4 hours per night during the many weeks he spent working on it, and he ended up being the first developer to release an iOS client for Tent, the distributed social network (something you will probably all be hearing more about in the future).  Unfortunately, Rob's push to develop Bivy also coincided with the final throes of my howler book chapter (see item #10 below), so the month of December was a very stressful month in our household indeed, as both of us were involved in full-time night jobs, in addition to our full-time day jobs, and William nearly became a feral child.  It was a huge relief to me, and I suspect to Rob too (though he doesn't say much about it) when Bivy became publicly available on December 21st.  Also, we had vegan tacos that night and the world didn't end.

10)  The howler book chapter I've been dealing with for over a year and a half was finally accepted for publication (December 2012).  Well, sort of, at least.  More on that later, maybe.

9)  Thanksgiving (November 2012).  We didn't travel and instead, we actually had time to spend with each other.  It was amazing-- about 3 whole days with less stress than I've had in the last 25 years of my life.

With The Boy

8) William's birthday (August 2012).  We didn't have a formal party per se, but we took a 3-day weekend and made it all about William.  Presents, special treats, a Slip 'N Slide, lots and lots of fun.

Birthday donuts

7) Meeting Gloria Steinem (May 2012).  I'm not sure what wave of feminism we're in now, but I'm still pretty damn inspired by the second one.


6) The Indigo Girls at The Pageant (July 2012).  If I could go to an Indigo Girls concert every night, I would be a much happier person.

Indigo girls copy


5) Meeting Amy Ray after seeing her show at the Old Rock House (May 2012).  Sobbing incoherently and possibly passing out.

Melissa with her idol

4)  Cuddling with William (throughout the year).  His major motive in life, for almost all of 2012, has been to Sleep In The Big Bed With Mommy.  I don't care how overcrowded the bed becomes or how his snoring and thrashing keep me awake.  I love it.  I love holding him all night long and how when his eyes flutter open in the morning, he smiles and whispers, "I love you, Mommy."


Good times

3) Running my very first ever Ultramarathon, Howl at the Moon (August 2012).  Ticking off the miles with old friends.  Hearing the Second Wind runners shout out "Buffalo!" as I crossed into Mile 30 and was officially in ultra marathon territory.

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2) Farmdale (October 2012).  All 7 hours and 19 minutes of it.  Every angry raindrop.  Every mudslide.  Every fall on jagged rocks.  Seeing Rob cross the finish line as the winner.  Wondering if I was capable of going back out and running another 10 miles.  Rob telling me that this was as hard as it got-- if I could do this, I could do anything.  Finishing.  Catharsis.


1) Fuego y Agua (February 2012).  Running out to Porvenir and meeting Rob just as he began to ascend Maderas.  The way he was so calm and serene as I climbed with him for a little while.  The look on his face when he crossed the finish line in Mérida.  Seeing Eduardo all grown up at age 16.  He has curly hair, and he stayed gold.  Finding out that Simeon went up the volcano to look for Rob and make sure he was okay.  I think about that, and it gets me every time.




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