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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Roller Derby... a blessing!

My older daughter is in roller derby. Yes: my sparkly-loving, skirt-wearing, pink-EVERYTHING, tender-hearted, gentle-natured, sweet baby is now a derby girl.

Well, she's been one for several months now. Honestly, I thought it would last a few months and she'd get over it. I thought that the first time she fell down, she'd want to sit on the sidelines and not feel like getting back out there.

So she fell... then she smiled, and got right back up. When she fell for the tenth time, she grimaced and got right back up. When she wobbled, slipped, and bumped into everything in her path, she gritted her teeth and sharpened her focus more so she could get better. And that was before she was able to hit or get hit.

I'll never forget the first practice when she "got to" practice with the big girls during a scrimmage. She came over after a few rounds with a twinkle in her eyes, glowing from top to bottom, and absolute excitement in her voice as she exclaimed, "MOMMY! Did you see that?! Coach let me scrimmage with the girls. She told them to not hit me. And that's okay. I'm still learning. But I got to scrimmage with the big girls!"

I was so excited for her. But I'll be honest. I was still thinking it was going to be a phase. I thought that the first time she was hit, her tender heart would take it personally and she'd want to quit. The first time she fell as a result of another person causing the fall, surely she'd want to go back to a more "tender" sport like dancing, or triathlons, or synchronized swimming. (Please note: I fully understand exactly how hard core these "tender" sports are. But nowhere in synchronized swimming is there another swimmer at the bottom of the pool, trying to pull you under to throw you off your game.)

The next practice... the very next practice... they scrimmaged again. I looked up from my homework assignment to see a glowing 8 year old coming over for a water break. There was no skating happening at that time. Sure, her skates were on her feet, and she was moving toward me... but she was so elated that it wasn't possible for her to be skating in my direction. "MOMMY! Coach didn't tell the girls to not hit me this time! She told them to not hit the crap out of me! Am I allowed to say 'crap'? I'm so sorry I just said a bad word!"

How in the world can I continue to think this child's love for derby would be a phase? In a scrimmage where the big girls were allowed to hit her, but not hit "the crap out of her", she was more worried about saying a "bad word" because she was repeating her coach's instructions. They hit her in that scrimmage. Many times. And she fell. Many times. But never once did her ego get hurt. Not one time did she cry, or let her tender heart get in the way of having fun.

Oh, her body has had some bruises on it! There was a span of three weeks where she couldn't sit down properly. She was avoiding the large round bruise that was exactly the same shape as a roller skate wheel. And it was a beauty! The girls on the team (with encouragement from the coaches) call those their battle scars. They're proud of them! Don't be shocked if you show up to practice and clothes get lifted/lowered/shifted to show the most recent patch of blue/green/purple flesh that was a result of a "good bout".

Yesterday was my baby's 9th birthday. When she showed up to practice, every girl on the team came over to high-five, hug, dance with, or sing Happy Birthday to her. When she started derby, she was the youngest person on the team. There has been a new wave of Fresh Meat to come on the team, and I'm not sure if any of them are younger than my baby girl. But know this: her team ranges from 8-18 year olds. When she hits the wood on her skates, she'll be getting knocked around by (and trying to knock around) girls more than twice her age. And she loves it.

Just because she went outside of her normal behavior to join a sport doesn't mean she has completely abandoned her "sparkly-loving, skirt-wearing, pink-EVERYTHING, tender-hearted, gentle-natured, sweet baby" attitude. Her derby name? The Glitterator. With her purple and pink skates, and her hot pink helmet, she takes to the rink with giggles and hugs for every girl out there. On bout day, she high-fives the other team just as enthusiastically as she does her own team. And when somebody falls down and is slow to get back up, that child stops for a second to send a quick prayer up to God, asking that He heal her quickly so she can join the fun again.

Roller Derby... the coaches, the teammates, the referees, the other teams... they have all been a very big blessing for our family. One that I'm ashamed to admit that I was hoping would be just a phase. Now that I see it for what it is, I'm excited for the coming year!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Alabama A&M Cross Country 5K

Peer pressure. We are taught to not succumb to it. But what if the peer pressure is to make you a better person?

Meet LC:

She is generally the reason I sign up for many races. You can say she actually pressures me into registering for them. Krista is still a meanie-face, telling me that I'm not good enough to race, and that I should just stay in bed. LC has been louder than Krista these days. She isn't my training partner (she's way too fast for  my pace); she is just a friend who is wonderfully awesome at cheering me on when I start listening to Krista and doubt myself. When she finishes her race, she has time to grab a beer for each of us, walk backward on the course until she finds me, hand me my beer, and walk me in. This always tickles me because I don't drink beer (but you can bet your britches that the second race directors start offering wine at the finish line, I'll be happy to re-carb with that!) but I do so love the sentiment!

Meet Kim:

She's going to hate me for using this picture, but I'm okay with that. ;) She is always very supportive of my endeavors, and  is generally right next to LC when it's time to come find me on the course. She is actually the reason SJ is also known as "The Glitterator" (but that's another post for another day). 

Together, these two ladies are amazing at keeping me excited about doing races. They help me find venues that give you swag for finishing (we got a rock at this race...and yes, that makes me gloriously happy!) and they're so very registration-happy that I can't help but to join in.

Yesterday, Krista was loudly telling me that today would be the only day in a couple of weeks that we will be able to sleep in. She reminded me of how much we LOVE to sleep in. And she tried to let me forget that the Alabama A&M XC 5K is a very inexpensive race (my *late* registration cost was $10). She even did her best to get me to ignore the swag we get for finishing (hello painted rocks, how would you like to come home with us???). But LC waited until Krista was sleeping (or harassing other newbie runners) and peer-pressured me into registering. Totally worth it!

Here we are, just before the race started. I just know I'm ruining the girls' lives, but at least I'm doing it in style! How about all of that pink?!?! I can honestly say that it was unintentional. Boy, did we stand out! But, when does the Pierson Family ever blend in?

 There always comes a time when your children realize how not-awesome you are, and choose to hang out with the cool kids in town. I wasn't prepared for my baby girl to decide that the handsome gent on the course was cooler than me! "Okay, mom. I'll see you at the finish line. Bye!" Didn't even get a high-five out of the abandonment. ~sniff~

Here we are, post race, rocking our... well, rocks. It doesn't take much to get us excited. I cannot WAIT to put these rocks under the Christmas tree this year! I FINALLY HAVE SOME SWAG TO PUT ON (or under, whatever) OUR RACING TREE! I was the last man standing in this effort, and I'm totally okay with that (and somewhat proud of it... I mean, c'mon -- the 4 year old got her first swag before I got mine!). *Photo credit goes to the 4 year old Christina.

Christina decided that she wanted a rock as well. But SJ and I told her that she can get one when she does the race (muahahaha). Braggin' rights, kid! So she grabbed a piece of broken up asphalt from the parking lot and decided that it would be her spectator swag. Can't blame a kid for her creativity!

I had to grab a shot with the cutest sideliner there was!

Why do we have so many photographs of us here? We had time to kill. You see, I asked a friend's daughter to come watch Christina while SJ and I "ran". She was also kind enough to watch our keys, and when she left she took the keys with her. Haha. The spare key is in our van, which took Josh to the Cherohala Challenge for his Father's Day 115 mile bike ride up a mountain. So we had to wait until Rachel got our calls/texts and bring the key back to us. See how I swear I'm ruining their lives? I can't even have an uneventful race!

But we eventually did get the keys back and decided that it was the very best way we could have spent our morning. Sleeping is for old people, and the girls keep telling me that I'm not old yet.

Besides all of the amazing things above, the most wonderful thing about today was that Krista didn't show up. In fact Caroline introduced herself. She's kind of a badass, and during the entire race she was telling me about all of the amazing things my friends see in me. I like Caroline, and I want her to come around more often. So, all in all, peer pressure can be bad. But with peers like mine, why not succumb to their crazy antics?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Durham isn't Redstone Arsenal!

My sweet husband. He has another 70.3 race this weekend, so we are in Durham, NC. In wanting to keep Krista at bay, I decided to go for my scheduled "run" (even though I was a day behind in my training schedule). Josh offered to go with me, which is a very big deal in my world because I'm so much slower than he is that I always feel like he is going to get bored with my pace. It's not that he makes me feel bad, it's just that I know his pace and I will never be able to go for a run with him that actually challenges him the way I get challenged. So when his offer was genuine, I was excited.

We are at his aunt's house, and outside of our smartphone apps, I have no idea where anything is around here. So why not get adventurous? When we would get to an intersection, we would decide if we wanted to continue on the road we were "running", or if we would turn. At one point in the "run" I asked him if he was tracking our turns because I sure wasn't. I always carry my iPhone with me so I can look at a map and find my way back (thank goodness I'm good at reading maps), but I'm also pretty meticulous about having the app that I use for my "runs" track my movements (speed, location, etc.) so I can look back at it.

We eventually did have to stop and look at a map. And it didn't kill me to have to pause the running app so I could do so. I guess right now, "running" is teaching me to lighten up on a lot of things.

One thing we did do was take Lucy, Aunt Kim's chocolate lab with us on the "run". We probably took her about a block or so too far because at one point she laid down in the shade and just looked at us. Now that we're back home, she won't even come to me for snuggles. Of course, she happily goes to Josh (even though he was the one holding the leash), so I guess it isn't a complete loss.

Unlike my "runs" in Arizona I came back drenched from head to toe in sweat. It was glorious! I love the feeling of sitting down on the floor of an air conditioned room, cooling off with the salty sweat dripping down my brow. It makes me feel like I actually did something. And to make things sweeter, I "ran" with my sweet baboo. All the better!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memories of the Meet Me Downtown 5K

Let me set the scene for you:

We had just moved back to the States from Guam four months prior. I was 14 months postpartum with child #2. The kids were visiting grandparents, and I was visiting my husband in an Army school. On a whim, we decided to sign up for a 5K that was happening in Tuscon. Had I done any training? Nope. Had I ever ever run 3.1 miles in one stint before? No. Did I think it was a good idea to do it? Absolutely!

I'm a Florida girl, through and through. I love everything about the weather in Florida: 80* on Christmas day... 30* a week later. 90% humidity for 87% of the year is simply bliss for me. Give me hot and humid and you have yourself a happy girl! So when we went to the desert (of which I am not a stranger, I just love my tropical weather oh so much), I got nervous. Suddenly 100* felt like 73*. I would sweat, and it would almost immediately evaporate off of my body. When I finished a "run", I would feel exhausted but never had the sweaty thrill of accomplishing anything. So to start off, I was doing something completely new in an area my body wasn't used to. But such is how things go.

Here are the memories I have (3 years later) for my first ever 5K:

How big of a dork was I? The hydration pack should start you on the right path to figuring that out!
I put on my brand new hydration pack, slapped my Vibram 5 Fingers on my feet, and "ran" through downtown Tuscon thinking to myself the whole time "Good gracious! Don't these people know how wonderful humidity is?!" I kept snorting (yep, I said snorting) water from the aid station and my hydration pack. My sinuses felt like they were shriveling in my face and my skin was begging to be slathered in Vaseline. No, not the lotion... the jelly.

The whole reason I even signed up to be there. Peer pressure at it's greatest!
Josh finished the race and ran backward on the course to pick me up and bring me in. I felt fine... if you consider "fine" to be the thought that comfort would come from chopping off both feet and hobbling for the rest of my life. For the record: I now "run" in Hokas. 

He had this very same smile on his face when he came back for me. It really cheered me up!
I did most everything in this race wrong except for one thing: I never quit. I never stopped on the course, and never once did my brain say, "Wait. You know you can sit down here and Josh will be more than happy to drive the car over to pick you up." Though I was hurting, most of it was in a good way. None of it was in a "you're permanently damaging your body" kind of way. And that last point was what kept me going forward. 

Some of the crazies who were in school with Josh at the time. 
The after party looked fabulous. They had live music, lots of beer and food, and plenty of downtown venues to visit who were happy to cater to all racers. 

If I had it in me at the time, I'm sure we would have had a wonderful time at the after party. But I hobbled myself across the finish line, and over to the car. When we got back to the hotel room, Josh grabbed as much ice from the ice machine as he could and dumped it into the bathtub for me. I plunged my feet into the icy goodness and waited until I gained feelings in my feet again... only to numb those feelings with ice. 

Glorious... simply glorious!

No selfie for this race, but I did take a moment to photograph my view from the back of the pack!
Color me a sucker for sunsets. I may love the tropics, but I so adore desert sunsets!

It Is Time...

I just signed up for the Army 10 Miler. What in the heck did I just get myself into?! Between homeschooling my children, going to college at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division (majoring in Photography), supporting my husband in his endeavors of finishing Grad School while at the same time training for Ironman Chattanooga, and being an Active Duty Army Wife (all while trying to kick-start my photography business) I just can't commit to one of Fleet Feet's awesome training programs right now. We have to change our schedule every week to accommodate all of the craziness!

But I'm committed to not only finishing the Army Ten Miler this year, but to feel good after finishing it. You see, I'm a Disabled Veteran from the Army. My VA rating is 50%, and most of the issues are for my ankles, hips, and back. Not a great recipe for being a runner, right? But I like to call myself a "runner". "Running" is a term that I like to use quite loosely. Whether I'm out for a 18:00 mile stroll, or interval work, I say that I went for a "run" that day. The quotation marks are very important, right?

I've never enjoyed running. Not one single day of my life have I ever woken up and said, "Oh goodness. Before I do anything today, I need to get a quick run in." In fact, I've been known to say things like "Yeah, sure... I'll go for a run. But first, let me organize my closet, wash 5 loads and laundry (and put them away), and vacuum and mop my entire house." I have loved the effects of running... after I put on the proper attire and get my butt out that front door. But before the run? My husband basically has to kick me out of the house and tell me to not come back for at least 30 minutes.

So how did I go from "I'd rather drive 10 miles" to hitting refresh no less than a 80,000 times in 2 hours so I could register for a 10 mile race? Peer pressure, I suppose. When most of your friends are training for the next big race, the excitement can be quite addicting. But it hasn't always been that way.

Since 2011, I have done three 5K races,  two duathlons that had at least one 5K in each race (one of the dus had a 5K to start and another 5K to finish the race), two triathlons that finished with a 5K, and one 10K race. The one thing I have figured out in all of these races that I have done is that I am not a fan of the 5K distance. It's not long enough for me to enjoy the run. And when you don't like 5K, why in the world would any normal person say to themselves, "Golly... let's run farther to see if that is better!" My body is usually telling me that I could be doing half a million other things in the first mile or so (think: hand scrubbing ever dish in my cabinets). The next two miles are great as I have found my rhythm, and then it's over. My body wants more, but at the same time it doesn't.

I have also realized (by watching many of my friends in their running endeavors) that at a certain distance, all finishers get a medal to take home. Look at most 5K races; only the overall and age-group winners bring home the bling. The same generally goes for 10K races. But step from the just over 6 miles to the 10 mile races and usually everybody gets a finisher's medal. Here's where the peer pressure sets in. When the twentieth person says "Oh, I hated the 5K as well! It really does get easier when you further. And just look at this pretty piece of hardware I got to take home!"

Call me silly, but I want some bling! We have two Christmas trees in our house: one is for our traditional Christmas ornaments, the other is our "racing tree". In our house, I'm literally the only person who is not represented on that tree. At first, I was okay with it. "You're supporting them on the sidelines", "Your body can't handle the training", "You have absolutely no time to get in a run on a regular basis". My inner voice (I have named her Krista) was gently telling me that it was okay for me to not be on that tree.

But then, when I got comfortable with not regularly working out, Krista got ugly: "Oh good. You stopped trying. You don't deserve to be on that tree", "Do you really want to put on spandex and run... in public? Have you looked in the mirror lately?!", "You'll never be fast enough to even have a running partner. And if your friends volunteer to run with you, you know you'll just be ruining your friends' workout for the day." Man, Krista knows how to cut me deep. But she was right. Or was she?

It's a good thing I have such good friends! Some of them are Race Directors. And when they say that they don't sweep runners off their course so long as they are making progress, they mean it. Did I believe them at first? No. Krista is pretty convincing: "They say they won't sweep you off... but you know all they really want to do is break down the course and go home. But you'll still be out there, wasting their time."

Then came my first opportunity to put more than 3.1 miles on my feet. At the Team Rocket Triathlon Club's end of the season party last year, I won a door prize: one free entry to the Tick Ridge Trek 10K/25K trail race. Krista was quick to chime in: "Seriously??? You couldn't win an entry to the Paint the Streets 5K? Give your husband the entry and volunteer like you always do." So I did. We put the comp code away for the winter and went about our lives.

Then my darling husband came home one day and announced that he would be going out of town for his job, and the dates were during the Tick Ridge race. Being a penny pincher, and not wanting to waste a free entry, I sent a message to the race director and asked how serious he was about not sweeping the course. After several messages of my saying "...but seriously, are you sure? I mean, I'm not just not fast... I'm s l o w!" we decided that I would be coming in from the 10K before half of the runners in the 25K would be coming in. So I signed up. (I'll put in my own perspectives on races in separate blog entries, so keep an eye out for them).

Tick Ridge did three things for me:

1. It showed me how serious the local race directors are when they say to c'mon out and give it a try. Tony was genuinely excited to see my swallow my fears and give it a go. And that was very comforting to me!

2. It showed me that when my friends say that they'll pace me on the course, they are legitimately happy to do so. Sure, my buddy runs at a pace that is seriously 4-5 minutes per mile faster than myself, but never once did I feel like I was wasting her time when we were on the course.

3. It showed me that the running community is always happy to bring in new crazies. Races only succeed when enough people sign up for them; and if the demand is only coming from elite runners, supply will dwindle for everybody. Sure, there are snobby runners; but there are also snobby soccer players, snobby tennis players, snobby swimmers, and the list goes on.

Krista is loud in my mind right now. She's reminding me of every race I wanted to do last year but had to pass on because my hips weren't playing well with others. She's showing me how I look in neon spandex, and asking if I really want my neighbors to see me wearing that on training days. She's cruel, and when I do what I can to shut her up she gets louder and meaner.

But I have found that after 2 miles she's too damn tired to keep the chatter up. In fact, she doesn't come back for a few days after a 3 mile run. So perhaps if I were to find some sort of rhythm, some schedule that I can stick to that keeps Krista at bay... perhaps I can actually train for a 10 mile race. And if I'm really persistent, maybe I'll love running before I slip on my shoes. I could have overly high expectations of myself, but all I do know is that it is time for me to stop having low expectations for myself.

So here's my journey to Washington D.C. as I train to be successful in the Army Ten Miler. As Krista gets loud, I'll run her to silence. And I'll share my fun with previous races because I did oh-so-many things wrong with each of them. But in the end, I have never quit a race. So that's a win, right?