Wednesday, September 30, 2009

High on the Bridge

I am starting to feel like a regular person again. I get up early, work a bit, run (RUN!), work and play with the kids all day, help coach soccer or swimming many evenings, and then sleep. I did not sleep well when I wasn't running (not that I'm such a great sleeper most of the time). But for the moment, thank the nocturnal fairies, I am sleeping.

It's early on a Sunday morning as I write this. I'm planning to meet Bob at 6 to run trails for three hours in the drizzly rain. All is well in my little world.

Since I missed out on the VT 50 this year (which, from the looks of some of the blogs I've read, was quite a slippery mud fest), I have no fun race report to share. Instead, here is a bit of Non-Running Material: My neighbor and I have started a small literary magazine for kids at the local library called Lowercase Magazine. We are in the midst of putting out our second issue, and have decided add a new and exciting feature: The Interview. The idea is to let the Lowercase kids decide who to interview, but to get the ball rolling, we made an Executive Decision to interview one of the operators on the Mystic River Drawbridge.

This drawbridge is an icon here in Southeastern Connecticut. It stops traffic every hour on the :40 to let the boats go through. It is a beautiful bridge and quite a tourist draw. In summertime, tourists are constantly running out of their cars to video and photograph the bridge going up.

Last Wednesday afternoon, right after Storytime at the library, a bunch of our homeschooling friends joined us on the bridge to interview Rod, the friendliest bridge operator you ever want to meet. Here we are walking up to the front door of the bridge house.

I have lived here in Mystic for years and years; I have seen the bridge go up and down hundreds of times. All through the spring and summer I plan my driving life around that bridge. But I have never been up in the control tower. I think this may have been more exciting for me and the other moms than it was for the kids!

Here we are, the intrepid interview team, up in the control room looking down on the water and street traffic below.

(photo by Denise Davies)

And here is the control panel where all of the magic happens. We learned that this control panel is going to be replaced, along with the bridge motors and the operator's house itself, in a three-year project starting November 2010.

We were lucky enough to be up in the control room during a bridge opening. (No boats were waiting to go through, actually, but the operator did a "test opening" for us, much to the chagrin, I'm sure, of the people stopped in cars down below. Sorry people!) You can kind of see the bridge starting to go up through the window in the picture up there.

And here it is all the way up.

Damn near knocked my socks off! What a cool day........

Monday, September 28, 2009

Running in the rain

I had been planning to ride my bike Sunday, but the day dawned dark and wet. If I can avoid it I prefer not to bike in the rain. Especially not in an all-day, soaking storm like this one turned out to be. Water pelting me in the face and kicking up my butt off the back tire on slippery roads: Na na na na. Even I, lover of all things meteorologically gloomy, do have my limits.

I ran Saturday: (almost) two glorious hours of slow running/walking on a crystal blue morning at Rocky Neck with Susan. We had not run together since our 100-Mile Adventure in Vermont back in July. We both felt so amazingly grateful and happy to be together again. Susan, bless her, was very willing to stay at my glacial pace and she insisted that I walk down every hill (it will be a while yet before I'm pounding down the hills). We laughed, we got lost, we talked out heads off. All so very good.

We ran mostly on trails, but there were a few unavoidable stretches of road to get through. I have always understood that running on trails is much easier on the old bones and joints than running on roads (no brainer right?), but I have never felt that so acutely as I did Saturday morning. Running on the roads made my ankle a little unhappy, but as soon as I stepped back on a trail all traces on symptoms disappeared. I must be right on that line in my healing: long trail runs, yes, long road runs, no.

Since my ankle felt fine Sunday morning, and as I said, it was raining, I left the children in the care of their father, popped Eddie into the car and headed over to our local trail system at Haley Farm and Bluff Point. Eddie (Coon hound of recent neglect) could not believe his good fortune. It has been literally months since I put on running shoes and snapped on his collar. He quivered and moaned with excitement for the entire ten minutes of the trip in the car.

Have I mentioned that I adore running in the rain? Especially at Haley/Bluff early on a Sunday morning. Eddie and I had the trails to ourselves. It was wonderfully dark green and gloomy. At some points the trail runs along the coast of Long Island Sound. Grey water with little whitecaps, grey sky. Lovely. The bride wore grey. I run here so often I tend to take its beauty for granted. But this morning, my first time back since July, I was all grateful appreciation.

I ran for about an hour and a half. I am so far out of running shape that 90 minutes was more than enough. The kids and I had two birthday parties to go to Sunday ('tis the season once again). One needs one's strength for these things. Happy birthday, little ones. Happy, happy, happy.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Inching back to glory

Hooray! I can run again.

Well. If you consider four extremely cautious miles on a flat dirt track at an 11-minute pace running, then I am running again. Some do, some don't. Right now, I do!

I called the PT's office Monday morning and was shocked to discover that he had an appointment available at 11. If you read my last post you will know that his wife had gone into labor the previous Thursday morning. I figured it would be a week or two before he returned to work.

The kids and I and all of our books and pencils and games greeted him with a big CONGRATULATIONS, only to hear that there is still no baby. False alarm. His wife was having contractions every fifteen minutes all day, and then they went away. Her frustration puts mine to shame, I'm sure. By the last bloated, weary, supremely uncomfortable days of pregnancy, there is nothing you would not do to get that baby out of you and into the world. Nothing.

So he looked at my ankle, did the ultrasound, the electricity, the ACT, the ice (actually the kids did the ice) and pronounced me fit to run. The swelling is gone, the tendon looks good and the joint is ready to move.

My first run was the aforementioned four mile adventure around the half-mile dirt track near my house. I felt like the cat that ate the canary. Everyone passed me and I didn't care. The college studs doing interval work lapped me repeatedly. The fat lady with the iPod belting out Journey and Barry Manilow waddled around me. Old people passed me. Grannies and Grandpas. I didn't care. I was running! Hot damn, I was running!

I have gone out every day since, very slowly, very cautiously. I run around the block or around the track. My ankle feels okay. It doesn't hurt, but it doesn't feel 100% either. It feels kind of squishy, like it's holding together, but just barely. But there is no pain after the run or the next day. So I think I am well on the road to recovery.

I just don't want to mess it up. It's like I've been reunited with an old friend after a falling out. You don't want too much exposure too soon. We are moving slowly. We are getting used to each other again, because we have both changed.

I am not taking any run for granted these days. Every run is a gift freely given and freely received. As I trot along I can feel the happiness blooming up inside me. Of course I look forward to the day when I can blast out the door at a blistering pace without giving my ankle a second thought. But right now, this tippy-toe pace is good. It is enough.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Not Your Av-er-age PT Visit

During my PT appointment Monday, my physical therapist, Bill, rather casually dropped the news that I may be able to start running again soon. He said something like this: "Go ahead and make an appointment for later in the week. We'll see how everything looks and start to talk about getting you running again."

Reader, I got tears in my eyes. Despite the various upsides of Not Running For A Month (i.e., finding my way to the pool and the weight room, feeling all of the various aches and twinges in my knees and shoulders subside and then clear up, redirecting all that energy into cleaning the house now and again) I still miss running with a visceral ache that sometimes overwhelms me, especially on Saturday mornings, typically my long run time.

I made the appointment for Thursday afternoon. And then, heaven help me, Thursday afternoon could not come fast enough. Nell had her first violin lesson Thursday morning, so we both woke Thursday with a pressing sense of fantastic possibility for the day. Her lesson went beautifully. She has a lovely teacher who looks and talks like Emma Thompson from the English Theatre. Perfect.

The kids and I had lunch in Wilcox Park near the PT's office in Westerly, RI. After lunch they climbed all over the trees and the big metal statue of the Runaway Bunny (Margaret Wise Brown has some connection to Westerly, RI).

I was sitting on a bench nearby as Ben started to slide backwards off the bunny's bum. I got up quickly to catch him and RRRRIIIIIPPPP, there went every tendon and ligament in my shin and ankle. Damn. I just hate being injured. You never know when some little everyday movement is going to come along and screw you all up. There is simply no way, given my current lifestyle, to prevent constant, minor re-injuries.

When we got to the PT's office we were greeted by the news that Bill's wife had gone into labor that morning and no one was sure when he would be back.


Of course this was wonderful news. Of course we were happy for him and his wife (who teaches the kids' class at the Nature Center). But, man! Why today? My Big Day?? I had been soooooo looking forward to seeing him and talking about "maybe getting me running again."

I know what you're thinking: You, Pam, are a terrible person for even considering such blaspheme. Unadulterated happiness is what was called for. New baby. New life. Just get over yourself and forget about Running for a teeny second. You yourself have children. You know what a momentous occasion this is for that wonderful family. You know how lovely and difficult it is to give birth, and even more difficult, to have a caterwauling newborn in the house. Get a freaking grip.

And you're right. I'm over it.

Bill's assistant Elaine worked on me. She said that Bill had not mentioned anything to her about me Starting to Run before he dashed out the door to assist his laboring wife. Imagine!

I was sort of devastated, but I did my best to put on a brave face when she told me it would be best to talk to Bill directly before I started running again. Especially since I had wrenched my ankle just moments before. And then she and the kids got to work.

My homeschooled children are getting quite an education in the treatment of Anterior Tibialis Tendonitis. This office has been wonderfully welcoming to the kids. They know all about ultrasound and the beneficial effects of heat on healing soft tissue. They know how to hook up the electrodes for my anti-inflammatory treatment.

(Notice the lovely black toenail. My final remnant (aside from this pesky tendonitis) from Vermont.)

They know how to push the start button on the little electricity maker.

And they each have their own method for icing my leg post-massage. Ben is good for about 45 seconds, and then he gets "tired."

Simon, the budding engineer, is carefully methodical.

And Nell, understanding how cold this must feel on my poor leg, looks impish, perhaps borderline sadistic.

The Saturday after this was especially bad. I guess had let my guard down all week, figuring I would probably be running this weekend. So Not Running hit me especially hard. Brian, who woke Saturday morning to find me downstairs with my head on the kitchen table, was wonderfully supportive. He is so good at putting things in perspective.

Yes, I will get better. Yes, I will run again. No, I am not getting any younger.

I went off to coach Nell's soccer game mid-morning in a somewhat better state of mind. This is Nell's first season and she loves it. I help coach both soccer and swimteam this fall, which is a bit much, but almost always rewarding and fun. Her team scored their first goal of the season (third game), which went a long way to restoring my spirits. The kids were so thrilled, you'd think they'd won the World Cup.

I went for a medium-length bike ride in the afternoon to take the edge off. I had not biked in about month either. It felt so good to be moving through the streets on the pristine blue early-autumn afternoon. And my ankle felt fine. No ill effects from the ride. Baby steps. Moving in the right direction......

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

4 Again?

This is my monthly column in the New London Day. I think the link is only good for a couple of days so I'm including the text here.

If you had the opportunity to be four years old again, would you take it???

It's bedtime. Simon, Ben and I are lounging on the bedroom floor browsing through picture books and chitchatting, postponing the inevitable lights-out. Ben rolls across the floor to his wooden alphabet puzzle.

"How do you spell die?" he asks.

Die like dead or dye like color?"

"Dye like color," he says.

I give him the letters and he lays them on the rug: D Y E.

Next he spells his name, stealing the E from dye: B E N.

"How do you spell tag?" he asks.

"You tell me."

He thinks a minute and slowly plucks out T, A and G.


He then pushes all these letters into a long word, and Simon sounds it out.

"Dy....ben.....tag. Dybentag!"

"Hmmmm," I say. "Sounds like an antidepressant."

I tuck the boys into bed, kiss them goodnight and wander downstairs. Brian and I have a little chuckle about Ben's new wonder drug: Dybentag! Makes you feel like you're four years old again!

"You will experience frequent elation, fits of giggles, sudden running and the unbridled urge to spin in circles," I announce.

Brian takes a darker view. "Side effects may include crazy mood swings, screaming and stubborn intractability."

"And don't be surprised to find yourself trying to hit your sister over and over with a rope."

This whole exercise gets me thinking: What is it like, really, to be four years old? I look at my kids sometimes and try to remember myself at their ages, what motivated me, what I loved, what I hated. But this is difficult because my memory stinks. Nell is eight and I can kind of remember being eight, but before that it's nothing more than family folklore and snapshots stolen from my mother's picture albums.

What does it matter now anyway? I'm not sure that pinpointing myself at one particular age will help me understand my kids any better, though they, like all kids, love to hear stories about their parents when they were young.

But to actually BE four again. Would I want that? Would anybody?

I don't know. Four is a tough age. You have experienced enough to have strong opinions, but you're still a few years away from the Age of Reason. The world is just starting to make some sense, but it's still full of bewildering inconsistencies. Just about every day you're doing something for the very first time.

A couple of days later I ask Nell and Simon if they would like to be four again. Nell is non-committal. Sh can see advantages and disadvantages. Simon says no. He's six and intent on moving forward, not backward, in time. But when I ask Brian he does not hesitate. "Oh, God yeah," he says, as if the desire to return deep into childhood is a fixed reflex.

Ben tells me he wants to stay four forever. The idea of growing up makes him cry. And I totally understand. I can remember a time when it make me cry, too.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Another week....

This is starting to become a ritual: spending my early Saturdays writing about Not Running rather than Actually Running. It is dark and rainy out there right now (4:41 in the morning). Dare I say I'm glad to be in the warm house with the computer on my lap rather than slogging around out there in the wet and gloom? Am I getting soft?

I used some of my free time to change the layout of this blog. Add some blue. Shake things up a bit. Change is good.

Aside from the whole Not Running thing, life is good, too. The kids and I started our homeschooling routine, such as it is, this month and it's going surprisingly well. Basically, we are unschoolers, which is a catchall term for homeschoolers who do not follow a prescribed curriculum.

We didn't start this way. Last year at this time, our first year homeschooling, I spent quite a bit of time forcing the kids to do workbook assignments: math, grammar, spelling, history, etc. The workbooks were mostly (I thought) for Nell's benefit. She had gone to public school for kindergarten and first grade and always seemed to enjoy her workbook assignments. Her teachers never gave any indication otherwise. So it came as a shock to me when she so vehemently opposed all of my assignments. We were both miserable. This power struggle lasted about a week. In order to preserve our good relationship I gave up.

I am forever grateful to Nell for holding her ground and showing me that she and her brothers are fully capable of learning everything they need to know without the assistance of workbooks, thank you very much.

Though I must admit that I insist on a page of math per day. This is a bit of a departure from the Radical Unschooling Terms of Contract, but I do need some structure in my life. And I think the kids need the math. We use an offbeat, highly visual book and we do it together. Sometimes it's even FUN.

I am amazed at how motivated these kids are to learn stuff, despite their relative freedom. Last week I pulled out a geography game about the Fifty States that my mother picked up at a garage sale a couple of years ago.

They must have played that game fifty times by now, first with me, then with each other. Simon likes it so much he plays by himself against his stuffed animals. They have made books about the United States and they jabber constantly about their Favorite States. (Simon: California, Nell: Connecticut, Ben: Mississippi).

We raided the library yesterday for books about the states. This "phase" will probably last a couple more weeks (last month it was musical instruments), and then they'll be on to something else. My job is to constantly supply them with the books and materials they need to keep the fires stoked. You just never know what will catch their fancy. That states game has been sitting around here for a year. Why now? Who knows.....

Homeschooling is actually kind of a misnomer. As anyone who homeschools knows, you don't spend all that much time at home. We take lots of weekly or monthly classes out in the community: piano, violin, horse, two different nature centers, art, yoga, farm, karate, gymnastics. Nell plays on a soccer team and swims on the swimteam, both of which I help coach.

We have been very lucky this year to meet up with a group of unschooling families on Mondays. This group has been together for years and we are thrilled to be a part of it. The kids get regular contact with other kids and the parents with other adults. All much needed (homeschooling downside: it can be isolating) and all good.

Anyway.......why all this talk about homeschooling on a running blog?

I tried running in the deep water on Wednesday, but it hurt my foot. It didn't hurt while I was doing it, but it did hurt later. That is the extent of my running news. Boring and unproductive.

Here's hoping I'll be out there again in a week!

Thursday, September 10, 2009


A few weeks ago my running partner and most excellent friend, Susan, announced that her father's friend was planning to drive to Raleigh, NC the weekend of the Umstead race and that he would be happy to drive the two of us there and back if we wanted to run.

So the idea of running Umstead entered my consciousness. Umstead is a relatively easy 100 mile race. It is run on a wide trail with little rolling hills dotted here and there. It is a loop course: eight 12.5 mile loops. The race actually advertises itself as a mild 100. In the words of the RD: "(Umstead) will allow those runners who have difficulty finishing 100 miles in 24 hours or just finishing 100 miles the opportunity to do so when severe topography, heat, and getting lost are removed as major obstacles."


The race is in March. Running an easy 100 in March would be a great way to start off next year's season, and a wonderful kick in the ass for winter training.

The only glitch: the race filled in 18 minutes last year. What were the odds that Susan and I would both get in? Not good, obviously.

We were on the phone yesterday (Registration DAY) at 11:50 a.m., both nervous, both a little freaked.
Umstead registration opened at noon. I had just whizzed the kids home from Nell's horse riding lesson, which had run a little late. They were all clamoring for lunch. While I talked to Susan, planning our registration strategy, I slapped together two peanut-butter-jellies and a grilled cheese. I sat down at the computer at 11:59 and logged onto

To my great surprise, I got right onto the Umstead sign-up page. I filled it out and pushed REGISTER NOW. Damn! I forgot to say whether I wanted a shirt or a hat. Filled that in. Damn! Forgot to give my shirt size. Damn! Damn! Time's a wastin'!

Finally the darn prompter asked me for my credit card information. I hit all the correct numbers (small miracle) and bing-bang-boom, I was in!

I called Susan: "I'm in!"

She yelled into the phone: "I'm in!"


My confirmation email arrived a few minutes later. Hell's bells! I could not believe my good fortune. I felt like I'd just won the lottery.

I learned today that the race filled in 5 minutes, 25 seconds.

But Susan's email confirmation from never came. Nervous time. I wasn't going to North Carolina without her. Was she in the race or wasn't she? Susan spent a tense afternoon emailing and the RD. Back and forth, back and forth it went. Late in the day, RD Blake Norwood emailed Susan to say she was in. Hooray! Hooray!

So we have our winter work cut our for us. Can't wait to get started!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A little perspective

I saw the Bill the PT today. Things are looking better. The swelling is almost gone and my tendon barely hurts when Bill twists my ankle as I try resist him. Baby steps. He says I can start running in the pool (Woo Hoo?) and kicking with the kickboard. This is good news because my I feel like my legs are atrophying by the second. I'm looking forward to working them out in the pool tomorrow.

Aside from my third pregnancy (couldn't run: dangerously low placenta), this is by far the longest I have gone without running. Thankfully, most of my worst fears have not come to light.

I have always looked upon running as a sanity preserver. Without the daily run I thought I would quickly spiral straight out of my mind.

Not a big jump, really, but still.

I am pleased and somewhat proud to say that I have kept myself together pretty well. I miss running, sure. I miss it terribly. It feels like my best friend has packed her bags and moved away. But, like anything, it gets easier with time. The ache is not as acute as it was. I am through the woods, so to speak. And I am just beginning to feel the first bright glimmers of hope that my friend may be coming back. I hope she comes back soon.

A lesser fear: that without running I would blow up to the size of a typical Wal-Mart shopper.

(Sorry, but I have lately been appalled by the number of hugely obese people I have seen out in the community. And I don't even go to Wal-Mart. Big fat parents with big fat kids. Makes me endlessly sad and frankly grossed out. What is the deal with all the hugeness out there??)

I have not ballooned. I think I am eating quite a bit less since I stopped running. Swimming and lifting have taken up the rest of the slack. There has been no marked difference in size. I remain right in the meat of the BMI. Not falling behind; not showing off.

So far....

And of course there is the silver lining: The Weight Room. I love going there now! Nice people, fun exercises, good workout. I am working all the big muscle groups (squats, push-ups, rows, hammies and quads), as well as doing some bracing core exercises with the medicine ball. I even went out and bought a medicine ball at a used sporting goods store. Mercy!

When I start running again, I will definitely maintain a Tuesday/Thursday swim and weight routine. I want to stay off injured reserve for the rest of my life, and I'm not getting any younger. I've hit the post-40 slide. Time to fight back!

I found a series of good videos about core training for runners on the Running Times site. They give you a series of videos to follow. The first one is mostly about The Plank (most hated pose but oh, so good for you). So far I have only watched the video and cheered for the featured runner holding her well-muscled self off the ground by her elbows. But I hope to perhaps try some of the videos Very Soon.

Onward and upward. And thanks for all of the kind words during this ordeal, for putting up with my boring self-pity. You have no idea how much it all helps....

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Saturday morning again

....and I'm not running. My ankle doesn't hurt. Time to get out and run!


I'm still in the recovery phase, evidently. Need to wait at least until Tuesday. My PT says he sees the whole spectrum of people in his practice. He said "Here we have the people who will not do anything no matter what I tell them. And here (he takes a couple of steps to the right and reaches waaaayyy out there) we have you. We have to tie you down to make you stop."

He says he'd rather deal with my end of the spectrum. Good to know he doesn't think I'm a complete whack-o.

I just walked the dogs for an hour pain free. This is an excellent. I saw a snippet of an article about Erik Skaggs and his kidney failure following his victory at the Where's Waldo 1ooK. If I find the article I'll post it here. The writer asked him how he would cope with Not Running during his recovery. He didn't seem to think it was that big a deal. He said something like, "All that matters is being outside." And he's right. If Erik Skaggs can deal with a running lay-off, so can I.

The swimming/lifting regime is going well. I am getting more familiar with the weight room and starting to chat a little bit with the other people in there. And I keep bumping into people I actually know, which is fun. I am getting lots of double takes: "What are you doing in here?"

It's a whole nuther world in there.

On the non-running front, yesterday I moved donkeys to a new pasture and herded sheep at Terra Firma Farm. So you see I'm not completely useless, although some of the sheep DID break free from me and get into the cabbage patch. Alas.

Can't wait to run again. I can almost taste it!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Getting Happier, if nothing else...

My name is Pam and I have not run in 14 days.

Before that, 9 days.


I saw the PT yesterday and he thought I should wait another week. No biking, no running. (Which meant I had to cancel my biking date with Bob. Sorry, Bob.) I agreed with the wise PT because I really and truly want to heal this darn ankle and get on with my life. The upside: I can swim and do weights. So I am at the pool every morning at 5 and in the weight room right afterwards. This is enough. I can live like this for a couple more weeks.

But man am I itching to get outside and run. The weather this week is stellar. 70's, no humidity, bright sunshine. Custom late summer weather. Brian is out there running right now. As we speak! And I am missing it.

But there are bright spots. Yes indeed. The house (if you ignore the piles of stuff on every surface) is clean. The bathrooms do not smell like pee! This is huge, because we have 2 small boys with iffy aim. I am caught up on laundry. I am not exhuasted all the time from all that aimless running, so I bring the laundry up from the basement right away rather than letting it languish for weeks in piles next to the dryer. Progress, people! Progress.

I have started reading a huge, studious biography. I sat down the other evening and thought to myself: Who would I most like to get to know better? And the answer was....

Benjamin Franklin! So I am reading Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson. I'm taking bets on whether I finish it by Christmas.

Homeschooling got started this week and it's going very well. A little math, a little writing, a fun geography game and the rest of the day is free living and learning for all. Hooray! I love homeschooling. This is our second year and it feels solid. I no longer feel like a pretender. We are an unschooling family. And that's the way it's going to be.

Nell had her first outdoor, full regalia horse show last weekend. She loved it.

With the exception of a slice of pizza with Canadian bacon, I am still vegetarian. I have not had a serious meat craving in a month. Weird.

Speaking of's time to get dinner started. What, what, WHAT shall it be??