Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Running with scissors. I mean kids!

First things first. A huge congratulations to my friend and training partner Susan who not only finished the Umstead 100 all herself (meaning without me), but buckled with a time of 23:18!!! I am so thrilled for her. Her dad ran the last lap with her and then they drove the 12 hours back to Connecticut the same day. That is some kind of ultra family!

For the non-ultrarunners out there, to "buckle" generally means to finish a 100 mile race in under 24 hours. It's a rare accomplishment.

I managed to eek out about seven hours of running over the weekend with no major aches and pains, for which I am appropriately grateful and satisfied.

I ran for an hour and a half Friday morning in the dark with Eddie on a hilly course. This is long for a weekday morning run, but I felt good and just kept going. I keep raising the bar higher and higher on these daily runs. Last year it was five miles. This year the morning runs have been closer to 7 miles. Friday's run was 9 or 10. I don't see myself running 10 miles every morning, but you never know.

Saturday afternoon I challenged my husband Brian to run for an hour and a half. He hasn't been running much this year. Most of his time is taken up during the school year with the robotics club. They prepare to build a robot in the fall, build it all winter (this is intense) and then take the robot to competitions in the spring. Next weekend is their first big event.

I sent Brian out on the hilliest run I know. This course generally takes me 1:45 to finish. I was curious how close to 90 minutes Brian would run it. He is faster than I am, but a bit out of shape and certainly not trained to run longer than 6 miles.

He ran it in 1:35. I went out when he got home and ran it in my same old 1:45. Or maybe even 1:50. Late afternoon running is really not my thing.

I started my long run Sunday morning at 4:30. I had checked the Umstead website before leaving the house and knew that Susan was on her last lap (she ran 8 12.5-mile laps). So I tried to send her energy as I loped through the dark and quiet streets. I ran the first bit of the run on roads because I was too chicken to run on trails by myself in the dark.

Susan called just before 6 to tell me she had finished. At the time, I was in the sleepy little hamlet of Noank, CT. I can only wonder who I woke up with my big WHOOP into the phone when she told me she buckled.

I didn't know how I was going to feel about Susan's Umstead finish until she called. Was I going to be jealous that she was down in North Carolina finishing a 100-miler while I was stuck up in CT doing my same old run? Was I going to be mad at myself for not going down and trying? As I have written here before, I had initially signed up to run this race, but I bailed out mid-winter because my lower shin was still giving me trouble. I do not want to be injured again, and running 100 miles on a newly healed tendon is not a good idea. I'd rather be able to run every day than to run 100 miles and be injured for months afterward.

I am thrilled to report that I felt only pure happiness for Susan and I remained resolute in my decision that Umstead was not a good idea for me this year.

I met my running friend Davnet at the Haley Farm trailhead at 7 and we ran for a lovely couple of hours through Bluff Point. We talked about Susan and about our racing plans for the spring (oh, and Russian novels, duh!). It's all about schedules and kids and families and balance.

Which brings me to the point of this post. All of the women I train for ultras with have kids. We meet early in the mornings to run and then to get home in time to spend our days with our kids. Susan and I homeschool, Davnet runs a nursery school and Grace works as a chemist. We are all busy, all committed to our children, and all more or less obsessed with running. When we run we talk about our kids. When we're with our kids, we think about running.

It seems that running and parenting go hand in hand. Raising children is difficult work. It's fun, rewarding, exciting, lovely work, but hands down it's the hardest job I've ever had. Children are loving and cute, but they're not rational. They're intelligent and creative, but they don't understand the adult world. They are fun to talk to, but farting jokes only get you so far. Intellectually. You see what I mean? Raising children, for all of its rewards, can get a bit isolating for a reasonably intelligent adult looking to discuss, say, Russian novels or the finer points of tapering for a 50-miler.

Which is why I so treasure my running friends. Why I so miss my old friends Nan and Karen who used to run with me a couple of times a week back when I was pushing babies in strollers. We are all trying to make our lives work, and running is an integral cog in the machine. It keeps us moving and engaged. It allows us quiet time to think as well as open time to talk. It's essential to our sanity.

I'm curious whether all of this running is fueled by the emotional demands of parenting. I mean, I often fantasize about all of the running and racing I will be able to do when the kids are older and need me around less. But will I even still be running then? I tend to think yes, but who really knows? I have two friends here in town, one an ultrarunner and the other an Ironman triathlete, both of whom trained and raced a lot during their kids growing up years, but now that their kids are off to college, not so much. It's like they don't need it anymore. They are happy to run a few miles a day with no immediate race goals.

Will I ever be that mellow? Does that come with the empty nest territory? I wonder.....

It's a tug of war I'm living. I don't want to miss any of the good stuff. I want to be there for all of the amazing things my kids are doing. But I also want and need to get out and clear my head on a regular basis on a long trail.

Had I gone to Umstead, I would have missed Nell get her Outstanding Achievement trophy at the swim team banquet (she broke the record in the 25 yard butterfly). I would have missed her win the Grand Champion (or something, I cannot follow this horse stuff) at her horse show. I would have missed Simon reading to Ben in the family room. I would have missed Ben's sick and sleepless night. These were pivotal moments in my kids lives. I want to be there. I want to be everywhere.

Come to think of it. Had I gone to Umstead, I also would have missed these immortal words screeching out of Ben: "If you don't give me another chocolate Z-bar RIGHT now, I am going to CUT ALL YOUR SKIN OFF!!!"

Maybe I should have gone after all.......


  1. I cannot stop laughing at Ben's comment!! So FUNNY! I'm super happy for Susan, that is fantastic :) I'm also happy that you are doing so well with your running; on on!

  2. Thanks, Paige! Yes, Ben is a bit of a character. He's the only extrovert in the family. Hope your back and running soon. Pittsfield Peaks this year??!!

  3. I have often thought about how when my kids were growing up, I was making the time to train and run the ultras that I did, but now that they are both essentially out of the house I do not have as much desire to do the same thing. I still enjoy running long and do run some ultras, but I have not have the drive to train for a hundred again (being injured does not help). Congrats Susan!!

  4. OMG Pam - this is awesome! It read like a novel I couldn't put down. I can only speak as a childless ultra runner, but I have a feeling you will keep running even after the kids have 'flown the nest'. Running for is sanity, freedom, joy, expression, life ...it is just such an awesome thing that I am SO lucky to be able to do. We seriously MUST run together one of these days!


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