Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Helen cooks! Fall Flavors - Krusteaz Yumminess!

Finally, it is fall. I can tell it's fall because I have worn pants for three consecutive days and I haven't had to turn the upstairs AC on in order for the kids to be able to sleep. That's good news, in my book. Fall is not only great for running (assuming my back pain leaves!), it's great for eating things that are pumkin-y and cranberry-ish and warm - all of which, I love.

Helen came home from school, inspired to make a mess bake. Now that she is 9, and looking for a little independence, the kitchen seems to be a go-to spot. I was hoping to capture her making pancakes with Ed one morning, but I got home from running too late. But alas, I did watch her make cranberry-orange bread. It was tasty!

She started with a box of Krusteaz muffin mix, that I had left on the counter. I convinced her that making bread was even easier than muffins, because she wouldn't need to spill mix all over fitting it into muffin wrappers take so much time with individual wrappers.

She read the directions on the box, and set to it. She replaced the water that was called for in the recipe with milk, something I always do.

Note - during this exercise, I learned that Helen is freakishly good at doubling and halving recipes when I would ask her things like "what if we only wanted to make half" or "what if we wanted twice as much". Not bad for the start of third grade from a girl who claims to not like math.

I also noticed, that now that Helen is 9, if I tell her "please don't make a mess" before she starts her kitchen exploits, she's pretty good at not making a mix. (Pro-tip - I have this large bowl with a spout from Tupperware. It's easy to pour from, reducing the mess of transferring the batter to a pan.)

She folded in the cranberries and while doing so said "maybe we could put these in a drink sometime". I like how that girl thinks.

The only part of the baking I did was transferring the bread into the oven and onto the cooling rack. It turned out great. Toasted with butter, it made for an excellent morning meal for me.

Next up? I'll capture the pancake making.


Disclaimer: I received these mixes from Krusteaz to test. Our experience was good - and we'll use them again. Krusteaz makes several different mixes - I'm planning on trying the cinnamon-swirl mix, next!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Getting to the start line

Helen and I have had our ups and downs, particularly lately. She argues all the time, and it's wearing on me - for sure. I've been mid-text with my sister and mother to commiserate and while I have been texting to complain, Helen has been picking a fight. It's that bad, sometimes. (Most egregious argument? Whether melon was sweet or not sweet, which is when I finally had to tell her that we were going to have a lot of really great and interesting things to argue about over the next few years, so this was just one we could not engage in.)

To be clear, I understand a little of what Helen is going through. I was once the under-sized little sister to a big sister who did a lot of things right. Just like Helen wants to not be "little" all the time, I wanted to be thought of as independent and a big girl. I don't blame Helen. It's part of life.

But just when I'm about to throw my hands up in the air, I am reminded that she also always knows just what to say when she knows things are not going well.

On Saturday, I woke up in so much pain that I was unable to walk, turn my head, or really do anything without wanting to tear up. We were at the beach. The pain had started on Thursday morning and was intermittently better. It became clear to me that my goal race - the Marine Corps Marathon - wasn't going to be in the cards for me if things didn't turn around quickly. (Race day was just 8 days away.)

I booked an appointment for a massage. Ed lifted pretty much anything that needed to be lifted. Miraculously, no child jumped on me, asked to be carried, or played too roughly with me.

Helen did follow me into the bathroom and tell me "I just know you're going to be able to run, Mommy. I just know you're going to feel better soon." And she didn't just tell me this once. She would find private moments  over the course of the weekend, ask me how I was doing, and then assure me it was going to be fine. I was going to be able to run.

And after my massage, I was feeling a lot better. I am treading lightly now, hoping that nothing tightens back up. I  have abandoned carrying things up or down stairs. I make sure I sit properly, take walk breaks, and stand while working when I can. I stretch every half hour and I keep hearing that little girl assuring me that I will be able to run.

Helen - you have made a thousand stars shine for me.


Monday, October 3, 2016

Ragnar 1.0

Two weekends ago, I ran a Ragnar race. For those not familiar, this is a 200ish mile relay race. Ultra teams have 6 people, regular teams have 12 people. Runners run legs of defined lengths and then pass a wrist band off to the next runner at defined exchange points. In my case, we were an 11ish person team because people who normally would've been teammates were participating in other events or injured. On the up side, two of the injured people drove our vans and planned the whole thing - which was supremely nice for the rest of us - especially a newbie like me who rather enjoyed receiving a list of things to pack which included "plastic bags to store your clothing in". Yes, that was necessary.

Our team was full-on "team" and it was wonderful to experience 14 women coming together to eat, sleep, debate, support, and even run together. How did we get from 11 to 14, you ask? Well, we had 11 runners signed up. We had two drivers, bringing us to 13, and one of our volunteers - a mother of two of the women running - actually donned a pair of kicks and took on a 2 mile leg for us. Thankfully.

The team was originally assigned a start time of around noon, which sounded nice, but would've meant we risked being out on the course as the course was closing. So our team captain asked for a new start and - ouch - we were awarded 7:45. That, in itself, is not so bad. But we needed to arrive an hour before that, and the race is a couple of hours away and so a 7:45 start meant leaving my house at a time that started with 4. That is just not right. But still,  better than being out on the course at the end!

We packed the vans quickly - including a couple of cases of Honest Tea Sport - which I didn't even know existed until a few days before the race. I was gifted a few of these gems, along with the products I'm more familiar with (kids fruit drink and flavored teas for me!) and I was so surprised, I emailed the company letting them know I'd take the drinks on a relay race with me. And, as it turns out, Honest Tea has a soft spot for crazy sports, and they dropped a couple of cases of their drinks off on my front porch for my whole team! We had the orange and lemon varieties, and my take on them is that they are not as sweet as some other products out there. And, since one of my teammates can no longer drink one of those other products because they are so sweet, it was nice having these along. THANK YOU! They were consumed with a lot of smiles and no complaints. I've been enjoying them post-run for the past week as well.

After the packing, and the driving to the start where we met teammates who had come from Texas and Pennsylvania, it was time to decorate the van. This is actually a thing, and my one regret is that it's also a thing to have team magnets made and stick them on other vans. I've put myself in charge of magnet procurement for the next relay event I'm involved in. Our van decorator was extraordinary. Our team is team is the "Capitol Bound Chicks".

Our first runner was running around a lake to start the race while the rest of us moved items to the correct van, checked the gear tent for items we wanted to buy, and then got ready to cheer on runner number 2. At that point, the vans split up and we would only see each other at every 6th exchange, where one van's runners would drive ahead and rest while the other van's runners would complete the next 6 legs of the course.

I was in van 2, runner 11, which meant everyone from van 1 and 4 runners from my van would run before I started. By the time I started, I could tell I was in a sweet position. There are strict rules about when reflective gear must be worn. I had a 5 mile run on a dirt path along a canal (which are just about the best running conditions I can imagine) and if I ran it quickly, I wouldn't need extra gear. I got super lucky because a woman passed me basically the moment I stepped onto the path. She then proceeded to run the most even 5 miles possible, so I planted myself about 10 feet behind her and followed. This took the pressure of worrying about missing a directional sign and I didn't have to think about my pace at all.

After my run, I handed off to runner 12, watched her take off in still decent light (but with reflective gear), headed to the next exchange where we would see our teammates from van 1 and have a driver change, and then wait for our runner to come in. After that, we drove ahead to pass the next six legs which our van 1 would be doing, and stopped for dinner.

We found this. Yes, Italian AND Mexican. No, I cannot explain it. But I will say, I was the only one who was in the clean plate club that night. BOOM!

Now, off to sleep (I chose to sleep in the van) and wait for our turn to run.

By the time it was our turn again, it was dark. I think I started running around 3:00 AM. It was a 10 mile leg and I was very alone. I passed a few people running (it's a staggered start, so it's not like a normal race where you and your 10,000 best friends are all plodding along together) but nobody running near my pace. There was one man walking who didn't look great, but he assured me he was fine. There was also one crazy old dude that was spectating. When my van drove ahead and passed him, they looked for a place to pull over to make sure the dude wasn't up to any mischief. But there wasn't a good spot. I noticed him from quite a ways back, decided even though I'd been running in dark for over an hour I could still take him, took comfort in his Nats cap, and passed without incident. The mind can do crazy things running in the middle of the night and I was very proud that mine didn't get out of control. I also was able to find and follow every turn - thank you race organizers for marking the course so well! I was on shoulderless back roads for the most part, and at one point, decided I need to run sort of quickly to make sure I wasn't on those roads when traffic started up. Safety provides good motivation!

Next, we went to a playground to get some sleep. Three of us headed out in sleeping bags while the other three stayed in the van. My previous van sleeping experience was not great. I was ready for something with a little more air flow. We intentionally chose spots away from the runner exchange point, so it would be quiet. What we did not count on were Ragnar volunteers deciding around 6:00 AM that playing the playground gongs would be a great idea. They did apologize profusely when my fellow runner let them know, politely, that we were trying to sleep. Around 7:00, kids came to the playground, and their parents were quite apologetic but of course, we were telling them we should apologize for sleeping next to their playground. Hopefully no children were scarred by seeing three moms rolled up in sleeping bags taking naps!

Starbucks was employed to jump start our final set of legs. We were in DC, and by the time I ran, it was hot - conditions I'm  just not good in. I did walk a bit of my last leg, though still came in at my predicted time. Thankfully, we did some creative runner exchanging which split the final leg up - because that piece of the course was beastly in distance and heat.

All in all, this was a wonderful weekend away. The timing didn't end up being great, because the following weekend I was at a bachelorette party, and the weekend that just passed I went to Boston for Friday night / Saturday morning.

Things have been topsy-turvy and the whole family is headed out on vacation soon - so for now, thank you, Honest Tea! I'll definitely be buying more of your product. Thank you friends, for the fun times, and hopefully - I'll be able to run with the team again.