Saying Goodbye to a Dear Friend

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Olive doing her best “mommy” impression

Today we sold our triple jogging stroller on Craigslist.

I had just finished my 15 mile long run when the future owner sent me a text to let me know she was on her way. And then it hit me…this was it. I wouldn’t even have a chance to take it for one final spin. I got a little upset.

When had we last taken the triple for a run?? Had it been weeks? Months??

This whole thing started just last week when my husband took an hour out of his day to rearrange the way I haphazardly toss kids’ bikes, scooters, battery powered jeeps, strollers, etc. into the garage at the end of each day. Our garage doubles as a storage space for our outdoor play items, as well as a pretty well stocked gym. (Everyone knows garages aren’t really reaching their full potential if you actually use them to park your cars.)

When he was finished he asked me to come out and see the sparkling new organized space.

“Ohhhhh…great job! There is so much extra space to do activities!!!” I said enthusiastically twirling around like Brennan and Dale from the movie Step Brothers.

Then as I reached for the automatic garage door button, I noticed a stroller sitting out in the driveway all by itself.

Me: “Oh, you forgot the triple, I’ll help you bring it in.”

Husband: “Nope. It’s going to stay out there”.

Me: “Pssshhhh…that’s ridiculous it will get rained on.  Here, I’ll fold it up. Where should we put it?”

“No, BethAnn, ” he said. And as he stopped me, he literally put his hands on my shoulders, as if he was bracing me for an emotional blow to the gut, “Listen…”

I knew what he was about to say. His lips started moving but I couldn’t focus on his words, or even hear him for that matter, because I was staring at the stroller as if he was suggesting we sell one of our children…

I quickly interrupted him and politely brushed off his words with a slight flick of my hand. “No, no no…that’s ridiculous it’s not time to get rid of it yet. I still have so many more runs I can do with this thing!”

“BethAnn,” he said in a sweet, soft, empathetic voice, “it’s time.”

The way he was speaking to me was so different than all the other times he joked that we should sell the stroller. I always just laughed and brushed it off, and he would say “Ok…but one day the kids are really going to outgrow it”.

So here I was, standing in the entryway of our garage, staring at my husband in utter disbelief as he was seriously telling me that our triple stroller was not coming back in.

Then it started.

I couldn’t control it.

Tears.

Even in the moment, I knew how ridiculous it was that I had no control over the slow trickle of tears that started falling from my eyes. I even tried to play it off as if a piece of dust from that very stroller had made it’s way into my eye…which was rather plausible considering it had been awhile since I packed the kids in it for a joyride.

Lucy, our oldest, is going into 2nd grade and she rides her bike faster than I can run. She’s already asked if she can run our annual family Turkey Trot this year in lieu of hitching a ride.

Olive, the next in line, will be starting kindergarten. She would probably have no problem allowing someone to push her in a stroller for the rest of her life, simply because she doesn’t like to sweat. However, I’m not an enabler. She can ride her bike too.

Alice (3 years) and Gus (22 months) are still young enough to justify being companions during a stroller run. But considering we also have a double stroller in the garage…I see my husband’s point.

But I was overwhelmed with nostalgia when I stared at that lonely little stroller sitting in the driveway. We affectionately called her the “Smart Car”, mostly because they are about the same size. She didn’t quite fit on regular side walks so we always had to run in middle of the road.

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Evening family runs with the “smart car”. Photo courtesy of my husband on his bike.

All the memories started to hit me. Family evening runs and bike rides. Early morning runs after waving goodbye to Lucy as the school bus pulled away. Family friendly races with enough seating for everyone. Pushing three kids through the streets while also sporting a very visible pregnant belly.

That stroller had been good to us.

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Running for two, while pushing three.

But the truth is, these memories don’t live inside an object. We don’t lose these memories when the stroller goes away. Whether it’s sitting in our garage collecting dust, or being used by another family, the memories are ours to keep. They live within us, not within the red fabric of the stroller.

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Our well loved stroller in all of her faded glory!

It’s selfish of me to want to hold onto an object when I don’t use it anymore simply because looking at it brings back a rush of memories. Especially when there is another family out there who will find value in it and make similar memories of their own over the next several years.

It’s selfish of me to want to push children in a stroller who are beyond stroller age simply to get a little ego boost as I run through the neighborhood, or through a local race, and listen for people to say “Holy Sh*t! You are a badass!”

Does it feel good to be a badass? Yes.

Am I less of a badass without my stroller? I suppose not.

So after wiping some tears, my husband did allow me to bring the triple stroller back into the garage that night, but only after he had physical proof that I had posted it on Craigslist. After that, it was only a matter of time. She was a beautiful beast. She would sell quickly. Triple jogging strollers are rare and hard to find…a unicorn, if you will, to a large running family.

Within 4 days she was gone.

But you know what? The best part of letting go wasn’t the extra 4 x 3 foot space we gained in our garage. The best part was watching this other family pull into our driveway in their white minivan. A mom stepped out of the car with her arms in the air and said “Yesssss!!! I’ve been searching so long for one of these, thank you!” Then a side door opened and three excited little kids hopped out. Without missing a beat, each one claimed a seat and tested out their overhead canopy.

As they packed the stroller securely into the back of their van, she smiled and assured me that they’d make great memories in it.

Of course they will. And best of all, they would breathe new life into her.

The running community is my favorite. 🙂

Farewell to our big red lady, and thanks for the memories…

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Our annual family fun run on Thanksgiving.

 

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Four Kids, Three Jogging Strollers: Confessions of a Strollerholic

 

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My stroller collection. Photo courtesy of my 3 year old.

As a runner who is also a self-proclaimed minimalist, people are often surprised when they hear that I own three jogging strollers.

Yes, you read that right.

I own THREE jogging strollers. A single, a double, and a triple.

I know it seems excessive. In fact, my husband has been saying that for years.

I also know it seems rather anti-minimalist. But that’s ok too.

We originally purchased our single BOB stroller after the birth of our first child. I used it strictly as a piece of exercise equipment and I LOVED it. It gave me the freedom to run with a newborn so that I had one less excuse holding me back from running postpartum, and it also helped me get stronger by adding some resistance to my training. Stroller moms (and dads) know…running with a stroller definitely makes you STRONGER!

Fast forward a year later and we were already expecting our second baby. We contemplated selling our single BOB and putting the money towards the purchase of their double model, but to be completely honest…we knew we wanted to have four kids. I had a hard time parting with the single knowing that our kids would eventually outgrow the larger strollers and we would find ourselves needing to downgrade again. It wasn’t like we were keeping our first stroller “just in case” we needed it again. We would definitely need it again! We were keeping it just for when that time came.

So we became a two stroller family.

Fast forward another year…we became a three stroller family.

After having four kids over the course of five years, it’s safe to say we outgrew strollers fairly quickly. If they made a quadruple stroller, I’m pretty sure we’d have one of those too.

But each time we upgraded, I refused to part with the smaller strollers. In fact, I still found myself utilizing each them on a regular basis. There were moments when my husband and I would run races together with the kids, and we would each push a stroller since all four of them (clearly) couldn’t fit into just one. There were many times when my husband would take one or more of our kids to the store while I went for a run, so I would choose to run with our single or double stroller out of convenience. Who wants to lug around the weight of a larger stroller just to push one kid around? And once our oldest could ride a bike as quickly as I could run (pregnant) during a stroller run…you better believe I utilized the smaller strollers every chance I got!

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And the truth is, to this day I still use each of them on a regular basis. Being a stroller running mama for about 7 years, I know my kids pretty well and can gauge which ones are going to be able to last the duration of my workout buckled into a seat. Sometimes it’s faster to throw them into the triple while the oldest rides her bike. Other times I can take them all to the track where I can usually get away with pushing the single stroller while the others run, or ride bikes…or quite often just run up and down the bleachers or play in the dirt. A win-win either way! I’m always glad when I don’t have to push unnecessary stroller weight, especially when accompanied by uneven weight distribution.

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Bottom line…even as a minimalist, I’ve never regretted the decision to hold onto all of my strollers. I find value in each of them and they each serve a purpose regularly as I make memories running with my family.

So if you’re a growing running family being faced with the decision to upgrade your child carrying equipment, I highly suggest keeping the smaller model(s) if you have the extra storage space. Sell or donate them once your older children start outgrowing a stroller seat altogether.

Accompanied by a puddle of your very own tears. *sigh*

Rock on fellow stroller pushing moms and dads!

-BethAnn

Motherhood and Running: Re-Centering After a Marathon

Mom and Kids

The marathon is sought after by many runners as the ultimate distance goal. It’s not the longest race we can run, but it’s definitely one that comes with major bragging rights.

I remember joking with a friend after completing my first marathon that I would never do it again simply because I felt like the training took over my life. Clearly I didn’t stop at one, but this is a common complaint among marathon runners. We run anywhere from 20-50 miles per week, and our long runs can take hours out of our day. It’s no wonder people think we’re crazy. It is crazy! But also totally worth it.

As a mother of 4 young kids, running isn’t one of those things that I take for granted. It’s almost a luxury that I get to take time out of my day and do something that I enjoy.

But let’s face it, I am not an Olympian. I am simply a middle-of-the-pack recreational runner. There’s a very high probability that I will never in my life break finisher’s tape during a race, and that’s ok. It’s also ok that running will always come second to my family. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t deserve to chase after my goals.

In order to balance marathons and motherhood, I often choose to run early in the morning before the house begins to stir, late at night after tucking my kids into bed, or during daylight hours while pushing a jogging stroller. If I’m not including my kids in my workout, I’m typically running during a time of day when my absence goes unnoticed. I’m not perfect, but I do put a lot of effort into planning my training so that it doesn’t put unnecessary stress on my family.

My husband is one of my biggest supporters and a crucial reason why I can run marathons while raising little kids. I’ll never hear him complain about having to fly solo at bath time once in awhile so that I can fit in a run before dark, or having to get up early with the kids on a weekend while I finish up a long morning run…even if he’s exhausted after working an evening shift the night before.

But my kids are less forgiving.

They do notice if I’m missing as they try to crawl into my side of the bed at 5am after having a nightmare. They can also tell if I’m wearing running clothes as I tuck them in at night…in fact they make sure to tell me that they don’t want me to go anywhere even while they’re asleep. And heaven forbid I try to slip out for a quick run when my husband gets home from work. Oh the drama! Cue the crocodile tears!

Then cue the mom guilt.

As parents, there is no doubt that we love our kids with every ounce of our soul. But we all deserve an outlet that allows us a little “me time”. It is noble to want to give ourselves fully to our family, but we have to balance that by giving ourselves a little something too so that what we give our family is truly our best. Running does that for me. It’s a hobby that keeps me active and alleviates stress. It introduces me to new people, gives me an excuse to try something different, and allows me to challenge myself. And as an added bonus, I can enjoy it with my family too.

But as much as I love running…sometimes after a long training plan, it’s nice to take a little break and slow down a bit.

After completing the Rock ‘n Roll DC marathon this month, I went through the usual motions to rest and recover. I made sure to stretch, foam roll, and eat a ton of carbs. I even went to bed a little earlier to mitigate fatigue. But most of all, I found it important to try to re-center my life at home. Not only do I notice that marathon training is extremely time consuming, but so do the people I share my life with.

So I smiled a little more as I took time to lay down on the floor and stack blocks with my kids. Evening walks were paced way slower than a typical workout. I snuggled a little closer to my husband as the sun came up in lieu of lacing up my running shoes. I enjoyed simple moments with my family and soaked up all the smiles and giggles without having to think about when I was going to break away for a run. My muscles ached and I was sleepy for a few days, but my heart was full and it was so nice to take a step back from running. Not that I don’t get to enjoy these things during my training, but it’s easier to notice the little things when we have a little less to focus on.

-BethAnn

Long Run Entertainment (Is That an Oxymoron?)

img_4747This weekend I ran my peak mileage long run (20 miles) as I train for the Rock n Roll DC Marathon. A lot of my non-runner friends give me a jaw-dropped look when they hear how far I run in one outing and they ask the usual million dollar question:

“How can you run that long without getting bored??”

From a runner’s perspective it’s easy to think that a long run is anything but boring. We love long runs because they allow us to clear our head or get lost in the rhythm of our feet pounding the pavement. But we’d be lying if we said it’s easy to just keep going for several hours without wanting to die, or worse…quit.

It’s true, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns! Even when we love running, running still sucks! Here are some things I use to help pass the time during long runs:

  1. Music. Duh. Listening to upbeat music can definitely help you keep pace and stay pumped throughout a long run. I have a few pandora stations I use because I prefer more of a shuffle, but other runners like to plan ahead with a set playlist.
  2. Podcasts. This is one of my favorite options. Podcasts are a great way to remind me to keep things slow and easy when aiming to keep my pace about 30-90 seconds slower than marathon pace (a typical weekly long run). Plus, podcasts are often of the feel-good variety, so they offer an extra dose of free therapy while you’re already running away from your problems. Amiright?? My two favorite podcasts for a run are The Minimalists (you can view their episodes here)  or Run, Selfie, Repeat (view episodes here). I use an app called Overcast, but there are tons of podcast apps out there. Go ahead and download one on your phone and try it out.
  3. Running buddies. Long runs go a lot faster and smoother with a partner. It’s important to choose someone that you not only enjoy spending time with, but preferably someone who runs (or is willing to run) about the same pace. Keeping the pace conversational is a lot easier to do when you’re actually having a conversation. Grab a buddy and go!
  4. Books on tape. This shows my age because I think kids these days actually call them “audio books”. *Eyeroll*…youths! But really, sometimes 3 hours on a long run is the only way to get through a novel without falling asleep. Why am I such an old lady??
  5. Scenic routes. Changing up the scenery for your long run isn’t a bad idea. Running the same routes can get boring from time to time and also may not give your body enough of a challenge. Going to a different location for a long run allows you to have something new to look at, and it can keep you on your toes since it may require a bit of extra navigation. Perhaps a course with a view of a lake, hillside, cityscape, or even somewhere more rural where you have the chance to see some (friendly) wildlife.

So whether your long run is 3 miles or 50, it’s always more fun when you have something to pass the time. Especially when your feet start to feel like lead!

What is your favorite long run entertainment?

-BethAnn

The Difference Between an Excuse and a Justification

img_0473I’ve noticed a “no excuses” theme when it comes to fitness motivation lately. Memes and quotes to remind us that skipping workouts are for lazy couch potatoes who aren’t serious enough to put in the hard work it takes to be successful.

I know this isn’t new and the message is typically valid; there are plenty of excuses we can make when it comes to fitting in our daily run, yet most of them are bullshit.

“I had a long day. I’m too tired. I have too much to do…”

“It’s raining. It’s windy. It’s too dark. It’s too cold. It’s too hot…”

“It’s too early. It’s too late. I don’t have enough time…”

I get it. We all know these feelings. Making the time to exercise can be a challenge, and some days it’s just enough to make us want to request a raincheck. When you feel a strong excuse coming on it’s time to find some motivation, dig deep, and get it done. After all, you’ll never regret a workout!

But what about the days when there’s a legitimate reason that you should sit one out and let your body recover?

The truth is, there’s a fine line between an excuse and a justification.  Sometimes we’re just not feeling it! It’s natural to try to talk ourselves out of a workout when the couch is calling, or when a workout seems a bit out of our comfort zone. These are usually the things that we can easily push through; if we balked at every minor problem we’d never get anything done. That being said, however, there comes a point where we should be able to tell the difference between our mind telling our body that we’re tired, and our body actually fighting back to try to convince our mind that we need to rest.

Part of being a seasoned runner is knowing who is talking…the mind or the body. It’s usually just an excuse when the mind is telling you to skip a run or to push off a workout until the following day. It’s often justified, however, if your body is feeling worn down from lack of sleep, overtraining, or even an illness or injury. We should not beat ourselves up if we decide to take a little bit of time off to rest and recover from an injury, illness, or severe fatigue. In fact, continuing to run through things like this could do more harm than good.

Mental toughness is important, and being able to push back against the doubt and fear inside your head is a necessary skill when it comes to building endurance and training for marathons. But make sure that you also know how to be honest with yourself, listen to your body, and be humble enough to rest and recover as needed. One or two missed runs will not setback our fitness level and is much more favorable to sub-par training, or worse, missing 6 weeks or so due to injury from overtraining. Your body (and sanity) will thank you.

And when it comes to race day…all bets are off. Both your body and mind will give you permission to push through just about anything. 🙂

Happy (and safe) Training!

BethAnn

New Year, New Goals

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Hello 2017!

I’ve been a bit absent from the blog lately, but I have no regrets. December was a fun month spent with family and friends and full of many things to celebrate.

And of course running…there’s always lots of running!

I meant to publish this post before the new year, but alas, life happened and here we are. Regardless, it’s still relevant since everyone is still buzzing about resolutions and how this year is sure to bring about the “new you” in all of us. I figured I’d touch a bit on resolutions and how they happen in our house.

For the past 4 years or so my husband and I have been very deliberate about our New Year’s Resolutions. We have our own little tradition where we set aside a date night in December specifically to have dinner sans children and talk about our hopes for the new year. We bring our list of resolutions from the previous year (which is not-so-coincidentally written on a restaurant or hotel napkin from last year), and reflect on how the year played out. We reminisce on the big moments and things we were able to celebrate, but we also discuss the low points too and how they helped us to grow.

Most importantly we take time to go over last year’s list of resolutions and recall what we managed to follow through with and do well on, or where we may have fallen short. It’s important to reflect on the previous year so that we are able to thoughtfully move forward. Some resolutions carry over into the new year either because we feel we can improve on them or because the outcome was so positive we want to keep thriving in that area.

Together we communicate goals we have for ourselves individually, some we have as a couple, and others we have for our family as a whole. Discussing them together not only helps keep each other accountable, but it also helps keep communication open as far as how we hope to embrace the upcoming year. When we are clear about each other’s intentions and expectations we are usually more successful in the long run.

We’re often surprised by the fact that we have similar hopes for our marriage and our family. It’s nice to brainstorm together as to how we can make them a reality. It may be something like vowing to have at least one spontaneous family trip this year, deciding on a new house project we want to embark on, or a new way to help us embrace a more simplified life.

My favorite part of the night is writing down a new list (usually on a napkin or the back of the check) and keeping it in a place where we can see it regularly throughout the new year. All of our intentions in one spot so that we are constantly reminded of the important things. I think this is what allows us to be fairly successful each year.

So call them what you wish: resolutions, goals, proposals, intentions, hopes and dreams…but whatever you call them, be thoughtful and choose ones that will improve not only yourself, but also the people you share your life with.

Happy New Year!

-BethAnn

Magic Number 8

img_3032One intriguing thing about running is the amount of time one spends in the “beginner” stage.

Years ago I started a new job where a coworker and I discovered that we were both runners. We used to talk about running all the time (because that’s what runners do!). We discussed our training woes, compared strategies, and talked about shoes and other running products for what seemed like hours.

She was a much more seasoned runner than I was, so I would always welcome her input and loved hearing her running stories.

One day I remember her asking how long I had been running. At the time I said something like “Oh I’ve been running awhile now, probably about 4 years”.

She smiled her usual thoughtful smile and replied, “Ohhh, you’re still new. Four years may seem like a lot right now, but it really takes awhile to get out of the newbie stage. I think the magic number is 8. Somewhere around 8 years things finally start to click. There’s just so much to learn. Even I am still learning!”

I was intrigued.

I never forgot her words. I tucked them away in my back pocket knowing that she had just given me useful advice.

Sure enough, here I am with about 8 years of running experience, and I pulled her words out in time for a little epiphany. I’m starting to understand what she was trying to tell me. It does take awhile! You really have to dig in and make mistakes and figure out who you are as a runner before you can start working on yourself as a runner.

In the beginning, I would just lace up my shoes and go. There wasn’t much strategy, I lacked a basic understanding of running fundamentals, and I was often concerned about stuff that didn’t matter. The goal was always just to run. To finish. To accomplish. Sometimes I would push myself harder and get a PR, but there was really no rhyme or reason to the madness. I didn’t understand anything about speedwork or nutrition, and I didn’t take the time to rest properly. But I didn’t care! I just kept running.

In 8 years I have logged thousands of training miles and even more just for the hell of it. I’ve completed a full marathon, 10 half marathons, and countless other 10ks, 8ks, 5ks, and 10 milers. I’ve suffered minor and major running injuries, and I’ve tackled pregnant running, postpartum running, and stroller running. But if I’m honest with myself, I still haven’t been running at my full potential. There’s so much to improve on, and so many ways to do it.

Something about this year though, this magical 8th year, has made me focus a bit more on being a balanced runner. I do more research to prepare the best training plans, and my mind is more open about different ways to improve. In order to do our best running, we need to be strong and well rounded. That basically means we have to do other things besides just running. Use all of the tools, keep your training diverse, and build a better body that can carry you through to your running goals. It seems like such a simple concept…but it took me quite awhile to truly grasp it.

So tonight I ran my weekly long run with my brother. He’s much faster than I am, but he dropped his pace and braved temperatures below freezing to run 10 miles with me in the dark.

What a sweetie.

He’s still new to running, but he’s been more ambitious in his first year than I ever was, and I love watching him improve and learn. Our conversations remind me of the ones I would have with that very same coworker. It doesn’t seem like that long ago when I was in his shoes, listening to her advice. And even though I have 8 times the running experience…in the grand scheme of things we’re not that far off.

Running truly is a lifetime activity. We learn as we go and we get better, but we still never stop learning and improving. Our “best” times can always get better, and our “best” effort may not have peaked yet. Whether we are rookies or elites, there will always be someone out there willing to share their insight and experience. Embrace new information and new challenges, and use each opportunity as a way to be a better version of yourself.  There will always be new PRs to chase, new goals to strive toward, and new things to experience. There is road running, trail running, ultra marathons, and triathlons. There are relays, destination races, and world marathons majors. The possibilities are endless, and there is a plethora of ways challenge yourself and fall deeper in love with the sport.

From my epiphany to yours. 🙂

Happy Running,

BethAnn